Press Release WHO/03
10 January, 1998
VACCINES CAN SAVE UP TO 12 MILLION LIVES YEARLY
MANY NEW VACCINES COULD BE DEPLOYED SOON
The development of new vaccines for diseases such as rotavirus diarrhoea and pneumococcal pneumonia in infants and the widespread deployment of under-used vaccines for diseases like measles can save up to 12 million lives a year, mostly from infections in childhood, says the new Strategic Plan of the Children's Vaccine Initiative (CVI). The Children's Vaccine Initiative is co-sponsored by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank and the Rockefeller Foundation. "Vaccination is our most powerful weapon in the war against infectious diseases," says J.W. Lee, M.D., Executive Secretary of the CVI. "We must use it to fully protect all of the world's children."Since the push to get at least 80 percent of the world's children immunised, which reached its goal around 1990, no new vaccines have been introduced widely, and the percentage of children vaccinated has not significantly increased."We recognise that there is no single fix to the challenges, but rather we need a whole mix of new approaches, all integrated at the same time," says John LaMontagne, Ph.D., Chairman of the CVI Task Force on Strategic Planning. "Two things in particular need to happen -- more governments must take full responsibility for expanding their own immunisation programs and we must work in broad collaboration with vaccine companies, which has never taken place before."
- Saving Millions of Lives
Up to four million lives can be saved by the full deployment of existing but under-used vaccines, with costs from pennies to a few dollars per dose. Target diseases for these vaccines include pertussis (whooping cough), 350,000 deaths per year; measles, 1.1 million; Hepatitis B (HBV), 800,000, Hib disease (causing meningitis and pneumonia), 500,000; tetanus, 500,000; rubella, 300,000; yellow fever, 30,000, and others.
In addition, more than 8 million children and adults die each year from diseases preventable by vaccines currently under development, which include: pneumococcal pneumonia in children, 1.2 million; rotavirus diarrhoea, 600,000; other diarrhoeal diseases, 2 million; acute respiratory virus infections, 400,000; malaria, 2 million; and HIV/AIDS, 2.3 million. Industrialised countries will see the first use of these vaccines, but the Plan contains strategies for accelerating their availability to all countries at "affordable" prices.
The development and testing of some of these new vaccines -- one of the most effective ways to prevent infectious disease -- are expected to be completed by the year 2005, says the report, Managing Opportunity and Change: A Vision of Vaccination for the 21st Century. The report finds that the new vaccination effort would be very cost effective. The report calculates global heath expenditures approaching some $2 trillion annually. Approximately, $10 billion is spent annually on vaccinations, and just $1 billion on vaccine research annually, or just 0.05 percent of total health expenditures.
The Plan builds on the success in delivering the six basic infant vaccines -- bringing low-cost vaccines to the developing world to prevent polio, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles and tuberculosis. Working together since the 1980s, national and international agencies, service organisations and private voluntary agencies around the world have provided immunisation to about 80 percent of children in the developing world. The lives of between two and three million children per year have been saved from the targeted preventable diseases.
The Director General of the World Health Organization, Dr Hiroshi Nakajima welcomes the CVI Strategic Plan as a follow-up to the 1996 WHO/UNICEF report, "State of the World's Vaccines and Immunization". Dr Nakajima says "WHO's Global Programme for Vaccines and Immunization is already actively working on many of the recommendations in the CVI Strategic Plan and hopes to expand efforts already underway."
- Setting Targets
"The CVI Strategic Plan deals with controlling infectious diseases in a very different way than has ever been attempted before," says Roy Widdus, Ph.D. Co-ordinator of CVI. "It sets targets for the development and the introduction of vaccines, calls for investments that bring the new vaccines rapidly into large scale, efficient production and effective use. It further recognises that in an interdependent world, the introduction of a vaccine in industrialised countries can affect the availability and price of that vaccine in developing countries."Besides new vaccines, the Plan calls for improvements in vaccines:
- making them easier to administer, e.g., with oral delivery or combination product;
- freer from side effects;
- effective against more diseases with fewer doses.
The Children's Vaccine Initiative Strategic Plan outlines strategies for ensuring supply, quality and delivery, as well as vaccine development. The Plan points out that the responsibility for vaccinating people in the developing world is up to the governments of those countries. It also recognises that the private sector must be a partner in the global effort to develop and supply vaccines, along with international humanitarian organisations and non-government organisations (NGOs).
- The "Banding Strategy"
A key component of the CVI Strategic Plan is the "banding strategy," which groups developing countries according to their economic development and size. It involves targeting which countries will, in the short term, need continued external support to purchase and deliver vaccines. Banding also identifies other, wealthier developing countries that should be self-reliant. The companies manufacturing the vaccines are likely to adopt pricing strategies that make vaccines affordable to the poorest countries.The most important of the changes now transforming the fight against infectious diseases is that the global investment in basic research, begun about 50 years ago, is now paying rich dividends in the availability of new vaccines. The pace of this innovation is expected to increase well into the next century and beyond. Additionally, increasing resistance to drugs is a major emerging problem that vaccines would avoid."We must take the advances to date and apply them to a series of specific goals in the prevention of infectious diseases that can best be achieved through the concerted, co-ordinated efforts of the many segments of the vaccine development and delivery 'infrastructure,'" says Dr. LaMontagne.
- Controlling Disease
The Strategic Plan recommends the following disease control goals:
- Effective global control of measles, HBV, Hib and rubella through broader implementation in all regions by no later than 2005;
- Accelerated development and introduction of priority new and improved vaccines that will reduce deaths due to infectious diseases and increase the number of diseases preventable through immunisation;
- Development of vaccines and vaccination techniques that simplify immunisation programs through such means as oral or other mucosal delivery, or reducing the number of injections.
For further information, please contact the Secretariat of the Children's Vaccine Initiative, M233, 20 Avenue Appia, CH-1211 Genève 27 Switzerland, tel.: +41 22 791 4799; fax: +41 22 791 4888; e-mail: email@example.com