21/10/2009 Childhood vaccines at all-time high, but access not yet equitable
21 OCTOBER 2009 | WASHINGTON, DC | GENEVA -- Reversing a downward trend, immunization rates are now at their highest ever and vaccine development worldwide is booming, according to a new assessment released today by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and the World Bank.
The State of the world's vaccines and immunization reports that more infants are being immunized today than ever before - a record 106 million in 2008 - according to new data. At the same time, its authors are calling on donor nations to address a funding gap that leaves millions of children still at risk, particularly in the poorest nations and communities, where preventable diseases take their deadliest toll.
The release of new evidence of success in the overall global immunization effort takes place just as many nations are conducting pandemic influenza A (H1N1) immunization campaigns, underscoring the unparalleled role of vaccines in preventing communicable diseases and the challenges of reaching the most vulnerable communities.
"The influenza pandemic draws attention to the promise and dynamism of vaccine development today," said Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General, WHO. "Yet it reminds us once again of the obstacles to bringing the benefits of science to people in the poorest nations. We must overcome the divide that separates rich from poor - between those who get life-saving vaccines, and those who don't."
Leading officials from international agencies warn that life-saving vaccines, now common in wealthy countries, still do not reach an estimated 24 million children who are most at risk. At least an additional US$ 1 billion per year will be needed to ensure that new and existing vaccines will be delivered to all children in the 72 poorest countries.
"Worldwide measles deaths fell by 74% between 2000 and 2007, and vaccinations played an important part in that decline," said Ann M. Veneman, Executive Director, UNICEF. "Such progress must inspire new efforts to immunize children around the globe against life-threatening diseases."
The report states that the reversal of the downward trend was in great part due to the efforts of developing countries, who made good use of support from the GAVI Alliance - a vaccine-financing partnership that includes WHO, UNICEF, the World Bank and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Since 2000, this has increased the introduction of new and underused vaccines, which now reach more than 200 million children in developing countries.
Experts report that at least 120 vaccines - a record number - are now available against deadly diseases. Over the last few years, scientists in academia and at pharmaceutical companies, many in public-private partnerships created with support from governments and philanthropy, have developed new life-saving vaccines for meningococcal meningitis, rotavirus diarrhoea, pneumococcal disease, and human papillomavirus (HPV). In addition, over 80 new products are in late-stage clinical testing, including more than 30 that target diseases for which no vaccine currently exists. At the same time, a significant number of vaccine candidates, including ones targeting diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and dengue, are moving through the research pipeline.
The report also notes that the global vaccine market has tripled over the last eight years, reaching more than US$17 billion in revenue. Rising demand for vaccines via United Nations procuring agencies and a renaissance in vaccine discovery and development have fueled industry's renewed focus on vaccines. Significantly, manufacturers in developing countries are now meeting 86 % of the global demand for traditional vaccines, such as those protecting against measles, whooping cough (pertussis), tetanus and diphtheria.
"We have seen a dramatic turnaround in the availability of vaccines in even the poorest countries," said Graeme Wheeler, Managing Director, World Bank Group. "Yet the international community, together with the countries themselves must ensure that new and existing technologies actually reach the most vulnerable populations, especially children."
The cost of delivering vaccines to those that need them is increasingly an issue that is only partially solved by financing partnerships such as GAVI. Middle income countries are not eligible for GAVI assistance, yet they are home to 30 million children and 2 billion people, a large number of whom live on less than US $2 a day. Even at greatly reduced prices, the cost of new vaccines for pneumococcal disease, rotavirus diarrhoea and HPV are individually greater than the cost of all other traditional vaccines combined.
"Vaccines are an incredible tool to control disease in all countries and are still a very smart buy in health and economic terms," said Dr Fred Were, National Chairman of the Kenya Paediatric Association. "Practicing in my country, we still unfortunately see a lot of illness and death from vaccine-preventable diseases. If this can be reduced we will have more resources and time to focus on other health issues."
For more information, please contact:
Information Officer, WHO
Telephone: +41 22 791 2535
Mobile: +41 79 477 1738
Director, Media & Communications, GAVI Alliance
Telephone: +41 22 909 7165
Mobile: +41 79 240 4559
27/09/2009 World Heart Day
27 September 2009
Cardiovascular diseases are the world's largest killers, claiming 17.5 million lives a year. Risk factors for heart disease and stroke include raised blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels, smoking, inadequate intake of fruit and vegetables, overweight, obesity and physical inactivity.
In partnership with WHO, the World Heart Federation organizes awareness events in more than 100 countries - including health checks, organized walks, runs and fitness sessions, public talks, stage shows, scientific forums, exhibitions, concerts, carnivals and sports tournaments.
26/06/2009 Working relationship between the Russian Federation and WHO strengthened
26 JUNE 2009 | GENEVA -- Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO, today met Mr Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, during an official visit to the country.
The visit has seen the strengthening of the working relationship between the Russian Federation and WHO through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding for the period 2009-2013 for collaboration in public health at the national, regional and global levels. Dr Chan noted that solid progress had been made in health in the Russian Federation over the last 10 years, and commended the government's efforts towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals, promoting healthy life styles, tobacco control and road safety.
In the context of pandemic influenza, the Russian Federation government and WHO expressed interest in collaborating on research and development in pharmaceutical interventions including antivirals and vaccines, and disease surveillance.
For more information contact:
Mr Thomas Abraham
Department of Communications
Telephone: +41 22 791 3982
Mobile: +41 79 516 3136
19/05/2009 World Health Assembly opens amid concerns about flu pandemic
18 MAY 2009 | GENEVA -- The 62nd World Health Assembly opened today in Geneva, as officials from 193 member countries began their annual review of the activities of the WHO and set new priorities for the future.
In her address to the Health Assembly, WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan noted that the world was facing multiple crises, including the current financial crisis and global economic downturn. In addition to this, it also faced the prospect of the first influenza pandemic of this century.
She said that the world today was more vulnerable to the adverse effects of an influenza pandemic than it was in 1968, when the last pandemic began. The increase in air travel meant that any city with an international airport was at risk of an imported case. Global economic interdependence amplified the potential for economic disruption.
Under these circumstances, it was vital to see that no part of the world suffered disproportionately. "We have to care about equity. We have to care about fair play," she said.
Dr Chan noted that 85% of the burden of chronic diseases was concentrated in low-income and middle-income countries, which meant that the developing world had by far the largest pool of people at risk for severe and fatal H1N1 infections.
She urged the international community to look at everything that could be done to collectively protect developing countries from bearing the brunt of an influenza pandemic.
The Director-General said she had reached out to manufacturers of antiviral drugs and vaccines, to Member States, donor countries and UN agencies, civil society organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and foundations to stress the need to extend preparation and mitigation measures to the developing world. The United Nations Secretary-General had joined her in these efforts.
With regard to the criteria for a move to Phase 6, Dr Chan said she had listened to the comments made by Member States during a high-level consultation earlier in the day. "As the chief technical officer of this Organization, I will follow your instructions closely, particularly concerning criteria for a move to Phase 6, in discharging my duties and responsibilities to Member States."
The Director-General said that concerns about a pandemic should not overshadow, or interrupt other vital health programmes. She said that an effective public health response to threats depended on strong health systems that were inclusive, and offered universal coverage down to the community level. Adequate numbers of trained, motivated and compensated staff, as well as fair access to affordable medical products and other interventions were all required for an effective public health response to the current situation.
She urged delegations in particular to complete work under the item on public health, innovation and intellectual property. The International Health Regulations and the need to finish the job of polio eradication were all important issues.
Dr Chan also referred to the proposed programme budget which will be discussed by the World Health Assembly, and said that "WHO is prepared to lead the response to a global public health emergency. Our services, in several areas, are strained, but we are coping. We need to be assured that we continue to function well, especially if the emergency escalates."
For more information please contact:
WHO Department of Communications, Geneva
Mobile: +41 79 516 3136
Mobile: +41 79 475 5556
Mobile: + 41 79 475 5563
Telephone: +41 22 791 2222
24/04/2009 UN agencies mark Chernobyl anniversary with launch of US$ 2.5 million project
24 APRIL 2009 | NEW YORK/GENEVA/VIENNA -- Four United Nations agencies marked today the 23rd anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear accident by launching a US$ 2.5 million programme designed to meet the priority information needs of affected communities in Belarus, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine. Funded by the UN Trust Fund for Human Security, this three-year initiative aims to translate the latest scientific information on the consequences of the accident into sound practical advice for residents of the affected territories. The project is a joint effort by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the World Health Organization (WHO).
"People need sound information to make good decisions," said Helen Clark, the UNDP Administrator and UN Coordinator of International Cooperation on Chernobyl. "Translating science into accurate, practical advice will help people live safely and productively in Chernobyl-affected areas, ease their fears, and contribute to bringing this region back to normal."
Providing scientifically sound information for Chernobyl-affected communities is a shared priority for UN work on Chernobyl. Supported by a 2007 UN General Assembly resolution, the project, known as the International Chernobyl Research and Information Network (ICRIN), is part of a larger effort to help local communities "return to normal" in the course of the decade that ends in 2016. The project will draw on the work of the UN Chernobyl Forum, a joint undertaking by eight UN agencies and the Governments of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine that in 2005 issued authoritative scientific findings on the accident's consequences for health and the environment. Dissemination of these findings in plain language accessible to non-specialists should help dispel widespread misconceptions and fight the stigma that still afflicts the region.
Activities planned under the ICRIN project include the dissemination of information, through education and training for teachers, medical professionals, community leaders, and the media; providing local residents with practical advice on health risks and healthy lifestyles; the creation of Internet-equipped information centers in rural areas; and small-scale community infrastructure projects aimed at improving living conditions and promoting self-reliance.
In a statement released to mark the Chernobyl anniversary, UNDP Goodwill Ambassador Maria Sharapova appealed to young people to seize their chance to shape the future. "Whatever obstacles you may have faced, you need to persevere in pursuing your dreams," Sharapova said.
The accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on 26 April 1986 was the worst in the history of the nuclear power industry. Explosions at the reactor released radioactive material that contaminated vast territories and prompted the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people. After two decades, however, as the findings of the UN Chernobyl Forum have shown, a return to normal life is a realistic prospect for people living in the affected region.
IAEA is the world?s center of cooperation in the nuclear field. The Agency works with its Member States and multiple partners worldwide to promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies.
UNICEF is the driving force that helps build a world where the rights of every child are realized. We work in 190 countries through country programmes and National Committees.
UNDP is the UN's global development network, advocating for change and connecting countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life. The organization is on the ground in 166 countries.
WHO is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system. It is responsible for providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends.
For more information please contact:
Mr. Peter Rickwood
Tel: +43 1 2600 22047
Mr. Stanislav Saling
Tel: +1 212 906 5296
Mr. Evgeny Stanislavov
Tel: +41 22 909 5436
Ms. Nada Osseiran
Tel: +41 22 791 4475