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World Experts Unite in Urgent Effort to Fight Deadly Disease

*Up to One Million Child Deaths are Preventable*
*New Evidence Shows HIV-Infected Children & Infants are Particularly Vulnerable*

Helsinki, Finland, 10 May 2004- Leaders in the fight against disease today emphasized the importance of preventing unnecessary child deaths from Streptococcus pneumoniae - a disease currently responsible for killing between 800,000 and one million children every year, mostly in developing countries.1

The reaffirmed consensus on the need for new interventions to fight the disease came on the eve of the fourth International Symposium on Pneumococci and Pneumococcal Diseases (ISPPD-4) in Helsinki. The 2004 symposium is being organized by the National Public Health Institute of Finland and attended by 600 experts from around the world. The week-long symposium will review and discuss the consequences of Streptococcus pneumoniae -- A common, serious, yet preventable disease.

Dr. Tore Godal, Executive Secretary of the Global Alliance for Vaccines & Immunization (GAVI), Dr. Hanna Nohynek, member of the local ISPPD-4 Scientific Organizing Team, and Dr. Orin Levine, Executive Director of PneumoADIP, issued this statement: “The need to assure access to safe, effective and affordable pneumococcal vaccines for children in the world’s poorest countries has never been greater. However, the timely introduction and use of these vaccines in developing countries will require a coordinated effort by leading public health institutions and partnership with vaccine manufacturers to ensure a sustainable, affordable supply of vaccine for developing countries”.

The Streptococcus pneumoniae bacterium causes a variety of diseases, such as pneumonia, meningitis and ear infections. “Acute respiratory infections, especially pneumonia, are the leading infectious cause of mortality world wide”, stated Dr. Thomas Cherian, of the World Health Organization. “The increasing incidence of HIV makes the problem even more urgent as HIV-infected children and infants have a 20-40 fold increased risk of contracting pneumococcal disease”.

New vaccines to prevent deadly pneumococcal infections are now available and widely used in rich countries in North America and Europe. As Dr. Orin Levine, Executive Director of GAVI’s PneumoADIP explained, “These vaccines are both safe and highly effective. The routine use of these vaccines in developing countries could substantially reduce infant and child mortality from pneumonia and other serious infections”.

“Importantly, it is our collective belief that routine vaccination against pneumococcal disease in developing countries could contribute to achieving the United Nations’ ambitious goal of reducing child mortality by two-thirds by 2015”, commented Dr. Hanna Nohynek member of the local scientific organizing team of ISPPD-4.

Over the past four years GAVI's and The Vaccine Fund's efforts will have contributed to saving over 500 000 lives of children -- equivalent to saving the entire population of Helsinki -- and eight million children now have access to immunization for the first time. "GAVI’s future ambition is to save the lives of another one million children between 2004 and 2006 by providing the poorest countries with new vaccines and funding to strengthen infrastructure so that millions more children will be fully protected”, explained Dr. Tore Godal, Executive Secretary, GAVI.

GAVI recently selected and awarded a grant to the Department of International Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to serve as the host for its Pneumococcal Accelerated Development and Introduction Plan (PneumoADIP) team.

Notes to Editors

The International Symposium on Pneumococci and Pneumococcal Diseases (ISPPD-4)
ISPPD-4 is the forum that brings together leading experts from around the world to learn and exchange methods of combating this serious disease in children, but also in adults. Many of the delegates attending ISPPD-4 come from the developing countries where pneumococcal disease causes the most deaths and disability. These are the individuals who work on the front line and who will be instrumental in the fight against the disease.

The Global Alliance for Vaccines & Immunization (GAVI)
The GAVI alliance was launched in 2000 to increase immunization rates and reduce widening global disparities in access to vaccines among the world’s poorest countries. It is a unique public-private partnership between developing country health ministries, donor countries, vaccine manufacturers, NGOs, UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Bank.

Thanks to its rapid start-up and early achievements, and its working private and public partnership model, by the end of 2003 GAVI has committed about 95% of its available resources. Since 2000, GAVI and the Vaccine Fund have disbursed $236 million to 69 countries, with eight million more children reached with basic vaccines2 and 35.5 million more children reached with new vaccines.3 The Vaccine Fund’s goal is to raise $400 million annually from government and private sources to fully fund GAVI’s commitments to the poorest countries.

Pneumococcal Vaccines Accelerated Development and Introduction Plan (PneumoADIP)
PneumoADIP is proud to be a sponsor of ISPPD-4. The goal of PneumoADIP is to shorten the time between the use of a new vaccine in industrialized countries and its introduction in developing countries by reducing demand uncertainty and achieving an affordable, sustainable supply of vaccines. This novel approach is funded by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) through its partner the Vaccine Fund. PneumoADIP is located at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The mission of PneumoADIP is to improve child survival and health by accelerating the evaluation of and access to new life saving pneumococcal vaccines for the world’s children. For more information, please visit:

Pneumococcal Disease
Pneumococcal disease is an infection caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae. When these bacteria invade the lungs, they cause the most common kind of bacterial pneumonia and can then invade the bloodstream (bacteremia) and/or the tissues and fluids surrounding the brain and spinal cord (meningitis). According to WHO, pneumococcal pneumonia and meningitis are responsible for 800,000 to 1 million child deaths each year and more than 90 percent of pneumococcal pneumonia deaths in children occur in developing countries.

Please also visit the following websites for further information and to view press materials:

1 World Health Organization. Pneumococcal vaccines. Wkly Epidemiol Record 2003;14:110-9.
2 Including diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, BCG, measles and polio
3 Including hepatitis B, Hib and yellow fever

Additional resources:

PneumoADIP Backgrounder (PDF - 10K)

Pneumo Backgrounder (PDF - 19K)

Pneumo Quick Facts (PDF - 22K)

GAVI Backgrounder (PDF - 25K)

Press release: World Experts Unite in Urgent Effort to Fight Deadly Disease (PDF - 26K)


Dr. Hanna Nohynek, Local ISPPD-4 Scientific Organizing Team

Jean-Pierre Le Calvez, The Vaccine Fund

Ann Winter, GAVI

Hans Kvist, PneumoADIP

Selina Haylock, Ruder Finn

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