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NEW YORK -- Bill and Melinda Gates today announced the establishment of the Bill and Melinda Gates Children's Vaccine Program to accelerate access to new vaccines for children in developing nations. The goal of the $100 million program is to significantly reduce the time it currently takes for vaccines to reach children living in poor countries.
The program will begin immediately with a focus on several new vaccines that protect children against respiratory and diarrheal disease, including Hib, pneumococcus and rotavirus vaccines, and against liver cancer through increased use of hepatitis B vaccine. More than two million children die each year from diseases that these vaccines could prevent.
"New, life-saving vaccines quickly become available to children in the developed world, but recent history show us that children in the developing world can wait up to 15 years for the same drugs," said Bill Gates, trustee of the William H. Gates Foundation, "This is a complicated problem with a very simple goal: to make vaccines that you and I take for granted available to children regardless of where they live."
"As parents, Bill and I know there is nothing more important than having a healthy child," said Melinda Gates, the Foundation's co-founder. "We've been blessed to live in a country where vaccines are readily available, and we want parents all over the world to have the same options for their children as we do here."
"Children always bear the brunt of unequal access to health care," said UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy. "By partnering with respected international and national organizations, the Foundation has a fighting chance to remedy some fundamental, systemic issues in vaccine availability. We all have a stake in the results of this far-reaching program. "
Jacques-François Martin, a member of the Children's Vaccine Program Strategic Advisory Council (SAC) who works closely with vaccine manufacturers, noted that "the pharmaceutical community is eager to help in whatever way they can. By working together we can change the system to bring equity to everyone involved."
The Bill and Melinda Gates Children's Vaccine Program will be administered by PATH—Program for Appropriate Technology in Health. PATH will host the Program Secretariat at its headquarters in Seattle and will provide direct liaison to the Foundation. The International Vaccine Institute (IVI), headquartered in Seoul, Korea, will provide an Asian Secretariat office.
The SAC is currently developing a detailed work plan to support introductory efforts for the new vaccines in a number of carefully selected countries. Countries will be chosen which:
Demonstrate the capability to quickly attain high coverage with new target vaccines;
Are likely to achieve sustainability of vaccination through the establishment of long-term financing;
Demonstrate the ability to serve as catalysts and models for other countries.
The work plan will likely focus on:
Disease burden and cost effectiveness studies: Efforts will be made to quantify disease burden geographically and to conduct investigations of the cost effectiveness of vaccination. These data then will be widely disseminated at both national and international levels.
Evaluation of model vaccine introduction programs: These efforts will allow national health authorities to gain experience with a new vaccine before making a commitment to full incorporation in public-sector immunization activities.
Establishment of international consensus on recommendations for vaccine use: Efforts will be made to support international conferences and the development and dissemination of strong international consensus statements and recommendations for use of the new vaccines. This is critical to empowering ministries of health, multilateral agencies and bilateral donors who can help to finance vaccines for poorer countries.
Assurance of adequate and competitive vaccine supplies: The new vaccines will be more expensive, so it is imperative that conditions be encouraged that favor maintenance of adequate supplies at the lowest possible prices.
The Children's Vaccine Program web site can be found at (<www.childrensvaccine.org>).
PATH is an international, nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve health, especially the health of women and children. PATH works in partnership with host-country governments and local agencies to assess health problems and identify and implement creative and effective solutions. PATH previously hosted the Secretariat of the International Task Force on Hepatitis B Immunization, a global initiative aimed at making hepatitis B vaccine available to children worldwide. More information about PATH is available through its website (www.path.org).