New vaccine strategy prioritises deadly diseases

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Meningococcal A, Japanese encephalitis and Cervical Cancer among those identified

Geneva 25 June 2008 - An alliance of the world's top global health agencies, governments and private partners today approved a plan that will prioritise their support of new and underused vaccines to fight deadly disease in the developing world.

The strategy, approved today by the board of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, the GAVI Alliance, will consider future support against cervical cancer, cholera, typhoid, meningitis A, rabies, Japanese encephalitis and rubella.

"Since GAVI began in 2000, we have increased access to immunisation for 176 million children, resulting in an estimated 2.9 million lives saved. But other diseases continue to kill. Cervical cancer, for example, affects 500,000 women each year and leads to more than 250,000 deaths, the vast majority in poor countries," said Julian Lob-Levyt, Executive Secretary of the GAVI Alliance. "This strategy will attack some of the world's major killers and gives us a new challenge in our efforts to provide good health to the world's most vulnerable people."

Over the coming months, the GAVI Alliance, which already offers countries support for the delivery of vaccines against hepatitis B, Hib, yellow fever, rotavirus and pneumococcal disease, will assess the remaining priority vaccines relative to country demand as well as resource and vaccine availability. The Alliance board will meet later this year to take decisions on GAVI's financial commitment and implementation of the strategy.

Based on a list of priority diseases identified by the World Health Organization (WHO), the strategy is the result of a detailed review of candidate diseases and expected future vaccines, including one against malaria. It was devised based upon the input of an expert independent review committee and takes into account the unprecedented number of new vaccines that will become available to developing countries over the next decade.

"With the advent of new vaccine technologies, there is great promise for global immunisation efforts," said Dr. Robert E. Black, chair of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at the Johns Hopkins University, who was head of the review committee. "Delivery of these vaccines to the world's poorest countries will save millions of lives and prevent unnecessary illness."

GAVI board members noted that the Alliance will need to rely on increased donor support in order to implement the new strategy, but said they expected the high success of recent vaccination efforts will continue to make immunisation an attractive investment for development funds.

"This is one of the most important decisions this Board has made. It will have a hugely positive impact in my country," said Major Courage Quashigh, Minister of Health for Ghana and a GAVI Board member.

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