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Global health experts report childhood vaccines at all-time high, but access not yet equitable

$US 1 billion minimum required annually to reach children still at risk
 
WASHINGTON, D.C.—(21 October 2009) Reversing a downward trend, immunization rates are now at their highest ever and vaccine development worldwide is booming, according to a new assessment released today by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and the World Bank.

The State of the World’s Vaccines and Immunization reports that more infants are being immunized today than ever before—a record 106 million in 2008—according to new data. At the same time, its authors are calling on donor nations to address a funding gap that leaves millions of children still at risk, particularly in the poorest nations and communities, where preventable diseases take their deadliest toll.

The release of new evidence of success in the overall global immunization effort takes place just as many nations are conducting pandemic influenza A (H1N1) immunization campaigns, underscoring the unparalleled role of vaccines in preventing communicable diseases and the challenges of reaching the most vulnerable communities.

"The influenza pandemic draws attention to the promise and dynamism of vaccine development today,” said Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General, WHO. “Yet it reminds us once again of the obstacles to bringing the benefits of science to people in the poorest nations. We must overcome the divide that separates rich from poor—between those who get life-saving vaccines, and those who don’t."

Leading officials from international agencies warn that life-saving vaccines, now common in wealthy countries, still do not reach an estimated 24 million children who are most at risk.  At least an additional US$ 1 billion per year will be needed to ensure that new and existing vaccines will be delivered to all children in the 72 poorest countries.

“Worldwide measles deaths fell by 74% between 2000 and 2007, and vaccinations played an important part in that decline,” said Ann M. Veneman, Executive Director, UNICEF. “Such progress must inspire new efforts to immunize children around the globe against life-threatening diseases."
 
The report states that the reversal of the downward trend was in great part due to the efforts of developing countries, which made good use of support from the GAVI Alliance—a vaccine-financing partnership that includes WHO, UNICEF, the World Bank and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Since 2000, this has increased the introduction of new and underused vaccines, which now reach more than 200 million children in developing countries.

Experts report that at least 120 vaccines — a record number — are now available against deadly diseases. Over the last few years, scientists in academia and at pharmaceutical companies, many in public-private partnerships created with support from governments and philanthropy, have developed new life-saving vaccines for meningococcal meningitis, rotavirus diarrhoea, pneumococcal disease, and human papillomavirus (HPV). In addition, over 80 new products are in late-stage clinical testing, including more than 30 that target diseases for which no vaccine currently exists. At the same time, a significant number of vaccine candidates, including ones targeting diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and dengue, are moving through the research pipeline.

The report also notes significantly that, manufacturers in developing countries are now meeting 86 % of the global demand for traditional vaccines, such as those protecting against measles, whooping cough (pertussis), tetanus and diphtheria. 

“We have seen a dramatic turnaround in the availability of vaccines in even the poorest countries,” said Graeme Wheeler, Managing Director, World Bank Group. “Yet the international community, together with the countries themselves must ensure that new and existing technologies actually reach the most vulnerable populations, especially children.”

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:                                

Melinda Henry, Information Officer, World Health Organization, at +41 22 791 2535 (office) or +41 79 477 1738 (mobile); henrym@who.int;

Daniel Epstein, Information Officer, Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization, at +1 202 974 3459 (office) or +1 202 316 5679 (mobile); epsteind@paho.org.

Christian Moen, UNICEF, Communication Specialist, UNICEF at +1 212 326 7516 (office) or +1 917 299 1041(mobile).      

Carolyn Reynolds Mandell, Human Development Network, The World Bank at  +1 202 473-0049 (office) or +1 202 294-5542 (mobile);  creynolds@worldbank.org

Jeffrey Rowland, GAVI Alliance, Director, Media & Communications, +41 79 240 4559 (mobile) or +41 22 909 7165 (office);  jrowland@gavialliance.org.

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WHO, with a membership of 193 Member States, is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system. It is responsible for providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends. For more information, please visit www.who.int.

The World Bank is an international development organization whose mission is to help developing countries and their people alleviate poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The Bank is owned by 186 member countries and is made up of two unique development institutions—the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), which serves middle-income countries, and the International Development Association (IDA), which serves low-income countries. Working closely with partners in the public and private sectors, the Bank provides low-interest loans, interest-free credits, grants, technical and other assistance to developing countries for a wide array of purposes including investments in education, health, social safety nets, agriculture and food security, good governance and public administration, infrastructure, financial and private sector development, and environmental and natural resource management. For more information please visit www.worldbank.org.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. For more information visit www.unicef.org.

 

 
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