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Combining vaccines with nutrition: a gamechanger against COVID-19 and future pandemics say Gavi and SUN

Home / Combining vaccines with nutrition: a gamechanger against COVID-19 and future pandemics say Gavi and SUN

28 October 2021, Geneva – Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement have launched a new initiative aiming to bring immunisation and nutrition efforts together. 

Delivering immunisation and nutrition programmes together is necessary to maximise results and minimise costs of these critical health services, enabling more people to be reached, especially in vulnerable communities. This is the conclusion of a new policy brief launched today and co-authored by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement – global leaders in immunisation and nutrition respectively.

The policy brief, Equity from birth: an integrated approach to immunisation and nutrition, highlights that malnutrition and infectious diseases together cause millions of preventable child deaths every year and contribute to a vicious cycle of poor health, stunted growth, poverty and exclusion; while malnutrition – both undernourished and overweight – can severely decrease our COVID-19 survival rate.

  • Press release: English | Français | Español
  • Gavi news story: English Français | Español
  • Launch event: Recording
  • Statement at launch event by Dr. Ali Ahmed Al-Waleedi, Acting Minister of Public Health and Population, Yemen: English

POLICY BRIEF

Read policy brief: English | Français | Español

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Read executive summary: English | Français | Español

In advance of the 2021 Nutrition for Growth Summit (N4G), being held in Tokyo 7-8 December, Gavi and SUN are calling on global leaders and key decision-makers in all countries to take action and prioritise this two-pronged vaccine-nutrition approach, through clear commitment making.

They are also calling on relevant international health partners to take action to advance the integration of immunisation and nutrition, and to develop clear recommendations governments can use to roll out this urgently needed approach.

Delivering immunisation and nutrition services together will ensure that more people can be reached, especially the vulnerable, women and children – and contribute to building communities that are resilient to COVID-19 and future pandemics. Countries must be supported to advance this life-saving approach on the ground, where it matters the most,” said Gerda Verburg, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and SUN Movement Coordinator.

The policy brief highlights that by 2022 alone, the COVID-19 pandemic could result in an additional 2.6 million children suffering from stunting and 9.3 million suffering from wasting. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and associated disruptions on health systems resulted in 22.7 million children missing out on vaccinations – 3.7 million more than in 2019 and the highest number since 2009.

By integrating immunisation and nutrition efforts and allowing vaccines and good nutrition to be delivered together we can ensure we reach the most vulnerable populations – effectively and efficiently, to help enhance equity across the world,” said Anuradha Gupta, Gavi Deputy Chief Executive Officer.

The policy brief also recommends that national governments and international health partners are proactive about combining immunisation and nutrition interventions and other essential health services, including through sharing infrastructure and value chains.

It takes a lot of effort for health workers to reach the most vulnerable children during immunisation campaigns. If they could use this opportunity to also screen for malnutrition or provide vitamin A supplementation or therapeutic foods for example, they could make a big difference in these children’s lives,” – said Dr. Githinji Gitahi, Group CEO, Amref Health Africa.

The N4G Summit comes at a critical time, midway through the United Nations (UN) Decade of Action on Nutrition, with only five years left to achieve the World Health Assembly (WHA) targets on maternal, infant and young child nutrition, and with just  ten years left to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Given this, and the serious disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the policy brief underscores, now is the time to invest better and smarter, as countries gradually find ways to restore, maintain and strengthen immunisation, nutrition, and other essential services.

“If we are to live up to the SDG principle of ‘leaving no one behind’”, the policy brief’s executive summary concludes, “we must start by identifying and reaching disadvantaged and excluded groups with the most essential interventions”.

Gavi Deputy CEO and SUN Coordinator speak up and out for joint immunisation and nutrition actions

Gerda Verburg

SUN Movement Coordinator and UN Assistant Secretary-General

Anuradha Gupta

Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance

High-level joint statement: Bringing global immunisation and nutrition efforts together – to leave no child behind

As signed by Anuradha Gupta, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and Gerda Vergburg, SUN Movement Coordinator and UN Assistant Secretary-General

As leaders in immunisation and nutrition, we are coming together today to strengthen our efforts to identify and reach vulnerable communities – and especially “zero dose” children – with basic services by:

  • Promoting the integration of critical immunisation and nutrition services to find more efficient delivery mechanisms by leveraging every contact with the health system to deliver essential services.
  • Prioritising this integrated approach for building more responsive primary health care systems and universal health coverage to the benefit of communities.
  • Fostering new and diverse multi-stakeholder partnerships contributing to improved access to health and nutrition services, to help countries prioritize and deliver this integrated approach.

We are, therefore, committing today to work together to find innovative ways to advance the integrated delivery of immunisation and nutrition services, with a particular focus on reaching zero-dose children – and are calling on our partners, donors, and other stakeholders to join us in this action.

Collaboration plan: Gavi-SUN action for joint delivery of immunisation and good nutrition

This integrated approach to the delivery of immunisation and nutrition services is outlined in the October 2021 joint GAVI-SUN policy brief, Securing a more equitable start to life – towards an integrated approach to immunisation and nutrition.

As leaders, in the fields of immunisation and nutrition, Gavi and SUN have identified that they can harness their unique capabilities and networks to support countries to sustainably reach vulnerable communities – and especially “zero dose” children – through:

  • Agenda setting: Working together to identify opportunities and develop complementary advocacy and communications strategies to shape, inform and advance the equity agenda with a focus on those left furthest behind.
  • Improving data collection and use: Supporting national governments to identify missed communities and zero-dose children, especially contributing to triangulation of data on immunisation, nutrition, and other essential services.
  • Supporting in-country partners (particularly at the subnational level): Identify and support priority countries and partners wishing to implement an integrated approach to routine immunisation and nutrition services at national and subnational levels.

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