On April 30th, the Ministry of Health in Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) will roll out the 2014 campaign to immunize more than 760,000 people against seasonal influenza. Pregnant women are the primary focus of the effort. This represents the first activity of the Partnership for Influenza Vaccine Introduction (PIVI), which began as a 2012 collaboration between the Government of Lao PDR, Walgreens Company, UPS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the World Health Organization (WHO) to support introduction of seasonal influenza vaccination in low and middle income countries. Pregnant women are targeted because they have a high risk of severe complications of influenza if they get infected, and there is compelling evidence that influenza vaccination during pregnancy can have positive health effect both on the woman and her baby. As a direct result of the partners’ contributions, Lao PDR conducted its first-ever seasonal influenza vaccination campaign in the spring of 2012, administering 355,000 doses of influenza vaccine. The following year, Nicaragua joined the project and Walgreens, UPS, bioCSL, Becton Dickinson and Company, and the U.S. Air Force each donated resources.
In the Fall of 2013 the Task Force for Global Health and CDC formally launched the Partnership for Influenza Vaccine Introduction (PIVI). More than 70 attendees came to Atlanta to learn and to share about the Partnership, to explore what might be possible with the resources represented in the room. What was possible in Spring 2014 was that bioCSL donated 763,000 doses of influenza vaccine and Becton Dickinson donated needles. Vaccine and needles were shipped to Vientiane from bioCSL’s facility in Germany – via plane to Bangkok and overland from there.
In addition, financial contributions from Walgreens and ASD Healthcare enabled provision of more than 30,000 doses of influenza vaccine for pregnant women in Nicaragua. Unfortunately, donations were not sufficient to support El Salvador and Cote d’Ivoire this year (two additional new country partners), as had been planned. In early summer a strategic advisory group will meet to explore and define the Partnership’s future direction.
The enthusiasm and support of partners have made the first several months of PIVI exciting and we look forward to continuing and expanding the program, while gathering information on the impact of the program and assisting participating countries in developing plans for sustainability.