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Joint Press Release

Experts Say Urgent Action Needed to Ensure Stable Vaccine Supply

Sabin Vaccine Institute Taps Representatives of International and National Public Health Agencies, Regulators, and Manufacturers to Remedy Vaccine Shortages


• Carol Bellamy's speech

COLD SPRING HARBOR, NY, 23 October 2002-Public health experts today called for urgent action to address current shortages of key vaccines and to improve the stability of future supplies. The call was made at a scientific colloquium organized by the Sabin Vaccine Institute held in Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, New York from October 23 -25. The colloquium will examine the current shortages of vaccine supply affecting industrialized and developing nations, and propose long-term solutions to remedy vaccine shortages.

During the past year, the United States could not meet demand for five vaccines that prevent eight childhood diseases. For the past two years, there have been shortages of the flu vaccine and until recently there has been a shortage of the tetanus vaccine. In developing countries, the reduced number of qualified manufacturers has led to serious risks of vaccine shortages for four basic vaccines that prevent six childhood diseases including measles and whooping cough.

"Vaccines are a critical line of defence against infectious diseases," says H.R. Shepherd, chairman of the Sabin Vaccine Institute. "Such stops and starts in the supply of any vaccine can have dire consequences."

Two keynote addresses will set the stage at the colloquium, "Global Vaccine Shortage: The Threat to Children and What to Do About It." Kevin Reilly, past president of Wyeth Vaccines, will frame the domestic vaccine supply situation, while Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF and Chair of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), will provide remarks on vaccine shortages in the developing world.

"Vaccine security-the sustained, uninterrupted supply of affordable vaccines-is at risk," said Carol Bellamy. "While there is a growing divide between vaccines given to children in developing and developed countries, shortages affect both. A key factor is that there are fewer manufacturers, especially of basic vaccines where profitability is lower."

The colloquium will focus on four strategies to resolve the current vaccine supply problem in the U.S. and in developing countries. The strategies are:

  • Providing a fair rate of return on investment for manufacturers
  • Harmonizing worldwide standards for safety, efficacy and good manufacturing practices
  • Creating a set of policies to prevent shortages when a manufacturer does leave the field
  • Making vaccines truly a national and international priority.

"The world is a far safer place for us and our children because of the advent and advances made on the vaccine front," said Lance Gordon, CEO of VaxGen and colloquium co-chair. " It is imperative to achieve a steady and secure supply of existing vaccines as we press forward to achieve vaccine breakthroughs of the future."

The colloquium brings together 35 key representatives of public health agencies, manufacturing companies and policy-making entities, which play an important role in the production and supply of vaccines.

"Continuing shortages of vaccines in the U.S. and overseas must be addressed - and soon. We believe we are bringing the best minds together for this purpose," said Lewis Miller, chairman of Intermedica and also a co-chair for the colloquium. "The experts now need common ground to reach a consensus on how a delicate and politically charged balance can be achieved."

The Sabin Vaccine Institute received support for the colloquium from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The colloquium is also being supported by UNICEF, a major funding source for vaccination programs worldwide. Representation at the colloquium include pharmaceutical industries (Aventis Pasteur, GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals, Merck, Wyeth, VaxGen), international and national public health organizations (Sequella, UNICEF, USAID, World Health Organization, US Medicine Institute for Health Studies, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Kaiser Permanente Study Center, Institute of Medicine, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Immunization Action Coalition, and the Mexican National Immunization Council), regulatory agencies (Food and Drug Administration), government (General Accounting Office, US Senate representation) and leading academia.

The Albert B. Sabin Vaccine Institute's mission is to prevent disease by stimulating development of new vaccines and increasing immunization rates. Founded in 1993, the Institute is headquartered in New Canaan, Connecticut. The Institute pursues Albert Sabin's vision of a world protected from disease by vaccines. Sabin Institute colloquia bring together leaders of academia, industry, government and philanthropy in a shared quest to accelerate the development of vaccines to prevent infectious diseases and to prevent and treat cancer. As an immunization advocate, it helps policy makers shape sound public health policies and informs the public about the importance of vaccinations. The Sabin Institute's Hookworm Vaccine Initiative is working to develop a vaccine to prevent an infection that afflicts more than twenty percent of the world's population, a leading cause of malnutrition and stunted development.

For additional information, please contact:

Raymond MacDougall, Sabin Vaccine Institute,
301-793-4949, raymond.macdougall@sabin.org

Mohammad Jalloh, UNICEF Media, New York,
212 326 7516, mjalloh@unicef.org

Heidi Larson, UNICEF/GAVI, Cold Spring,
646-207-5179 (cell), hlarson@unicef.org