Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Michele J. Sison at the PCV-13 Launch Event

Minister of Health and Population Dr. Greta Roy Clement,

Director General of the Ministry of Health and Population Dr. Laure Adrien,

Representative for Pan American Health Organization PAHO Luis Cordina,

Representative from the World Bank Anabela Abreu,

Representative from Gavi the Vaccine Alliance Homero Hernandez,

Representative for UNICEF Maria Luisa Fornara,

Ladies and Gentelment representing our technical partners, donors, and other international organizations,

Distinguished guests,

We are pleased to be part of today’s official launch to introduce the pneumococcal vaccine, PCV-13, here in Haiti and we commend the Government of Haiti for this important step. This is the culmination of several years of collaboration between the MSPP, Gavi, PAHO, UNICEF and the USG, among other key partners. And this will represent a major step forward in protecting Haitians.

We want to especially commend the GOH for meeting the co-financing requirement for the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) this year. We encourage you to ensure that this co-financing continues in next year’s budget as it is being developed.

This domestic investment in vaccination is essential because we understand that the health and welfare of the people of Haiti is a top priority for the Government of Haiti. Today children can be protected against more diseases than ever before. Some diseases that once injured or killed thousands, have been eliminated completely and others are close to extinction– primarily due to safe and effective vaccines. Unfortunately, we have not seen progress in vaccinations throughout Haiti in the last five years, according to the most recent data from the Demographic Health Survey. We know this decline in vaccination coverage among children is a shared concern between the United States and the Ministry of Health.

Vaccination is also an important element component of the Global Heath Security Agenda, GHSA, which is a priority of the United States. In this context, immunization is a powerful tool for preventing and responding to infectious disease threats, and so we see our partnership to improve vaccination coverage as part of our broader efforts to improve global health security as well.

The U.S. government has made significant investments in increasing vaccine coverage, improving the surveillance systems necessary to track outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases and in supporting the introduction of new vaccines in country. Through USAID, the USG has invested over $1.6 billion globally through Gavi to promote the widespread use of vaccines in developing countries, including in Haiti. And with support from CDC, Haiti is conducting critical vaccine preventable disease research to guide vaccine introduction, support vaccine preventable disease surveillance, and ensure vaccine effectiveness. The USG is also a committed member of the Ministry of Health’s Vaccination Technical Committee, and we will continue to work with you to support the roll out of this new vaccine.

Vaccine coverage among children for the eight essential vaccines remains low in Haiti. Within this context, the introduction of PCV13 can present both a risk and an opportunity. We must ensure that we use the introduction of PCV to educate parents about the importance of vaccinating their children and encourage them to seek all routine vaccines. Decentralizing vaccine service delivery to integrated community health workers is also an important strategy to increase vaccine coverage, and we commend the Ministry of Health for the important work you are doing on the community health front.

I would like to close by re-iterating that realizing the potential of this new vaccine will require not only continued leadership by the Ministry of Health, but also increased domestic resources. The commitment of the GOH of $1.2 M this year for the GAVI co-financing requirement is a step in the right direction, but this must be sustained and must be part of an overall increase in domestic resources for the health sector, focused on ensuring access to the essential package of services defined by the Ministry of Public Health and Population at the primary level. We urge the GOH to ensure that their budget for this next fiscal year truly reflects our shared prioritization of the health sector.

Thank you.