Health Experts Call on Global Leaders to Ensure Access to Life-Saving Pneumococcal Vaccines

    REYKJAVIK, Iceland, June 10 /CNW/ - Nearly 1,000 of the world's leading
experts in infectious diseases and vaccines are meeting during the 6th
International Symposium on Pneumococci and Pneumococcal Diseases (ISPPD-6)
this week to call for renewed and urgent action by governments to protect
their citizens against pneumococcal disease, a leading killer of children and
adults worldwide.

    A bacterial infection that causes pneumonia, meningitis, sepsis and other
life-threatening ailments, pneumococcal disease kills 1.6 million people --
including more than 800,000 children under age five -- each year.  Estimates
indicate that if implemented globally, pneumococcal vaccines could save the
lives of 5.5 million by 2030.

    "Safe, effective vaccines exist to prevent pneumococcal disease, and
improved ones are expected in 2009," said Dr. Orin Levine, executive director
of GAVI's PneumoADIP and co-chairman of the Pneumococcal Awareness Council of
Experts (PACE).  "We have the scientific knowledge and financial resources.
What we need now is political will as the price of inaction will be measured
in lives lost unnecessarily."

    Leading health experts gathered for ISPPD-6, led by the Pneumococcal
Awareness Council of Experts (PACE), issued a global call to action urging
governments to take steps to make financing available to assure access to
pneumococcal vaccines.

    "By bringing NGOs, scientists, industry and health and financial decision
makers at the country level together to make pneumococcal disease prevention a
priority, our goal is to help save millions of lives," said Dr. Ciro de
Quadros, executive vice president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and
co-chairman of PACE. "We encourage all parties involved to make the global
commitments necessary to prevent this deadly disease."

    Kenya is one country represented at the Symposium that is currently
working toward universal coverage through its vaccination program.

    "In Kenya alone, we lose more than 20,000 children under age five each
year to pneumococcal disease," said Dr. Fred Were, chairman of the Kenya
Paediatric Association and member of PACE.  "Current and future vaccines could
potentially prevent 50 to 80 percent of these deaths. I'm proud that Kenya has
made the decision to introduce this vaccine and to protect the lives and
health of Kenyan children."

    Pneumococcal vaccines have been available since 2000 to safely and
effectively protect children and adults against pneumococcal infections.  The
7-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV-7) is currently in use in over 70
countries, and expanded protection pneumococcal conjugate vaccines currently
in the late stages of development are expected to be licensed by 2009.

For further information:

For further information: Traci Siegel (US),,, for The Organizing Committee of ISPPD-6

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