BEIJING / GENEVA / NEW YORK, 31 May 2002 - As part of its commitment to protect the lives of millions of children around the world, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) and The Vaccine Fund will sign an agreement on 1 June with the Chinese Government to vaccinate children in China against hepatitis B, with a special focus on the 12 poorest provinces.
The agreement involves funding of US $75 million, of which the Government of China provides 50 per cent and GAVI and the Vaccine Fund provide the other 50 per cent. Over the next five years, the Vaccine Fund resources will be used to assure that infants born in China are immunized against hepatitis B.
The official signing ceremony, to be held in The Great Hall of the People on Children's Day, illustrates the Chinese Government's commitment to promoting the health and development of its children. The Chinese Minister of Health, Dr. Zhang Wenkang, will sign for China while Ms Carol Bellamy, GAVI Chair and UNICEF Executive Director, will sign for the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI). Mr. Jim Jones, Executive Vice President of The Vaccine Fund, will sign on behalf of The Vaccine Fund.
"Childhood is a critical time in life. It is a time when we have an opportunity to protect a child's future. Vaccines are one of the most cost-effective and powerful tools to guarantee a child's future health," said Ms. Bellamy. "I applaud the Chinese Government in this effort."
Although China has a very good immunization programme, many poor children living in remote areas do not have access to hepatitis B vaccination. Through this partnership the Chinese Government will integrate hepatitis B vaccination into its routine childhood immunization programmes throughout the country. The hepatitis B vaccine is highly effective.
"We anticipate a dramatic decrease in liver cancer over the next two decades," said Dr. Mark Kane, GAVI Board member and Director of the Children's Vaccine Program at PATH. Dr. Kane worked closely with the Government of China and GAVI partners on the new agreement and noted that this was a "culmination of a deliberate and thoughtful process. Now, for the first time, all children are going to receive this lifesaving vaccine."
Hepatitis B is a global health problem causing the deaths of nearly one million people every year. Nearly one-third of these deaths occur in China. Children are at high risk of being infected, and many of those who are infected develop liver cancer in adulthood. Hepatitis B-related liver cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in Chinese men.
The resources provided under the agreement will be used to train health workers, provide logistics and support quality communication, supervision and monitoring activities. The funds will also be used to provide the vaccine and over 500 million auto-disable (AD) syringes and safety boxes to ensure safe injection practices and foster the development of a local AD syringe industry in China.
The auto-disable syringe includes a safety device that prevents its reuse. WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and the Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have adopted a global policy on injection safety, urging the use of auto-disable syringes for all immunization by the end of 2003.
The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) is a coalition of organizations launched in 1999 in response to stagnating global immunization rates and widening disparities in vaccine access among industrialized and developing countries. The GAVI partners include: national governments, the Gates Children's Vaccine Program at PATH, the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Associations (IFPMA), research and public health institutions, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, UNICEF, the World Bank Group and the World Health Organization (WHO).
For further information please contact:
Heidi Larson, UNICEF, Beijing on mobile Tel: +1 646 207 5179, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mohammad Jalloh, UNICEF, New York, +1 212 326 7516, email@example.com
Lisa Jacobs, GAVI Secretariat, +41 22 909 5042 , firstname.lastname@example.org