[ASC-media] Australia and PNG launch vaccine program to immunise against deadly bacteria

Niall Byrne niall at scienceinpublic.com.au
Thu Apr 10 05:32:36 CEST 2008


Australia and Papua New Guinea launch efforts to crush deadly Hib
disease in Pacific region

 New vaccine rollout through the GAVI Alliance 
expected to help extinguish childhood killer

Canberra, Australia, 10 April 2008 - Papua New Guinea will begin
immunising children this month with a vaccine that promises to rid the
nation of Haemophilus Influenzae type b, or Hib disease, one of the
deadliest causes of meningitis and pneumonia.

An Australian contribution of US$20 million through the Global Alliance
for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI Alliance) between 2006 and 2009 has
greatly increased the alliance's ability to accelerate and scale up
global efforts against Hib. 

The PNG campaign follows a highly successful movement in other parts of
the world to combat Hib. A recent WHO study shows that Uganda, one of
the first GAVI-eligible countries to implement a widespread Hib
vaccination programme, saw a nearly 100 percent drop in Hib Meningitis
as a result. Similar success has been achieved in Bangladesh, Kenya,
Chile, the Gambia, among others.  Studies show that Hib vaccine cuts the
incidence of disease by 88% or more within 3 to 5 years.

GAVI Executive Secretary Julian Lob-Levyt announced that GAVI and its
partners plan to help national governments in Australia's neighboring
Asia-Pacific region immunise hundreds of thousands of children.
Lob-Levyt will speak in Canberra today at the Sir Mark Oliphant
Conference on Vaccine and Immunotherapy Technologies. 

"Poor nations can't develop if their children don't survive to
adulthood," said Lob-Levyt. "PNG's effort to immunise its children
should serve as beacon to other nations in the region to follow."

Lob-Levyt said that Solomon Islands and the Republic of Kiribati have
been approved for Hib funding by the GAVI board and that Indonesia and
East Timor are expected to apply.

Hib is a leading cause of pneumonia and meningitis, an inflammation of
the lining covering the brain and spinal cord. Each year, Hib kills
approximately 400,000 children under five years of age, most of them in
the developing world. It is also responsible for approximately three
million cases of serious illnesses resulting in long-term consequences
such as deafness, paralysis, mental retardation and learning

Over the past 10 to 15 years, most developed nations, including
Australia, have introduced the Hib vaccine, virtually eliminating the
disease. Poor countries have not had the same opportunity, until now.

Among PNG's population of 898,000 children under the age of five, 86 per
1,000 die before their fifth birthday - 10 times higher than their
Australian neighbors. 

"We became convinced of the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of the Hib
vaccine after reviewing promising data from countries where the vaccine
had been introduced, as well as studies of Hib incidence in Indonesia
and within PNG," said Dr Bill Lagani, Acting Director Health Improvement
in PNG. "Vaccines such as this one are vital in helping us meet our
commitment to protect our nation's most important resource-our


#         #         #

The GAVI Alliance

The GAVI Alliance is a public-private partnership of major stakeholders
in vaccines and immunisation. It includes developing country and donor
governments, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the
vaccine industry in both industrialised and developing countries,
research and technical agencies, NGOs, the Bill & Melinda Gates
Foundation and other private philanthropists. WHO projections show that
GAVI support has prevented more than 2.9 million future deaths by the
end of 2007.

GAVI's efforts are critical to achieving the Millennium Development Goal
on child health, which calls for reducing childhood mortality by two
thirds by 2015. Of the 10 million children who die before reaching their
fifth birthday every year, 2.5 million die from diseases that could be
prevented with currently available or new vaccines. For more
information, please visit: www.gavialliance.org
<http://www.gavialliance.org/> . 

For more information, please contact:

Niall Byrne, GAVI, Sydney
+61 3 9398 1416 office
+61 417 131 977 mobile
niall at scienceinpublic.com.au 

Jeffrey Rowland, GAVI, Geneva
+41 22 909 7165 office
+ 41 79 240 45 59 mobile
jrowland at gavialliance.org  

Geoff Adlide, GAVI 

Head Advocacy and Public Policy

+41 79 240 4432 mobile



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