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Tuesday, March 16, 2010


The issue of pneumococcal vaccine for Uganda has continued to occupy my thoughts and heart.  It is a matter of justice (equal protection from easily preventable deaths for all infants whether they are born in Boston or Bundibugyo), good scientific sense (putting the vaccine resources into places where the impact will be highest), mercy (responding to the shockingly high rates of death here).  Over the last few days a UNICEF contact gave me the phone number for the doctor in charge of Uganda's national vaccine program. We had a great conversation in which I learned that he had just submitted a formal request for the addition of the pneumococcal vaccine to GAVI.  GAVI is the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizaitons, an international organization dedicated to facilitating the increased availability of vaccines in poor countries.  Perfect.  I simultaneously got a negative reply from the manufacturer about donating the vaccine directly, so that door is closed.  So the one organization that can possibly manage to scale up pneumococcal vaccines for all children in Uganda actually HAS A PROPOSAL sitting on a desk somewhere requesting just that.

I've written to GAVI, pointing out the extreme nature of the pneumococcal disease burden in Bundibugyo related to the highest prevalence of sickle cell disease in the world.  But my email is unlikely to make much of a difference.

Prayer, on the other hand, could.  Do we really believe that?  Is prayer just for individual spiritual issues . . . or is it for lobbying?  The heart of a king is movable through prayer .. . so the heart of an international scientific committee should also be fair game.  I don't want to take resources away from anyone else, but I do believe I can make a case for the fact that if there is one place in the world to offer the pneumococcal vaccine, it should be Bundibugyo.  After all, matters of justice, good sense, and mercy are all over the Bible.  Matters of child survival form themes of Bible stories from Moses floating the NIle to Herod slaughtering the innocents. Death from pneumococcal bacteria is part of the impact of the Fall on our world.  Fighting against that is legitimate Christian endeavor.  

So please pray that GAVI would fund and implement a program to bring this not-so-new vaccine to Uganda.  For those readers in more comfortable parts of the world, I'll just add that I saw a 6 month old today with a droopy, weak, sluggishly reflexive right leg, a sudden onset of paresis that could be polio (tests pending).  Vaccines here are not a school requirement or an inconvenience, they are the line between walking and being paralyzed, between living and dying.  Let us lobby on our knees.


Tricia said...

I will be praying, trusting that
God will move on behalf of the people in Bundibugyo.

Sandra's Latest... said...

Love this post.
It's been awhile since I read your blog, and I am enjoying it again as before. Thank you for being the voice of thousands.
I totally agree- and am all for justice and mercy being poured out on those in the developing world. I am overwhelmed by the amount of immunizations available in the West, and the relatively few available in so many African countries. (I was happy when Hep B and Haemoph were introduced into the EPI program in SL only a few years ago...)
Praying for a change. These immunizations can have a huge impact!
Keep hoping.