Governments urged to fight global child killer

October 15, 2008

London, U.K., 15 October 2008 - Pneumococcal disease, one of the world's leading causes of death and serious illness (1), must be recognised as an urgent global health issue together with HIV, malaria and TB, say the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Pneumococcal Disease Prevention in the Developing World in a report launching at the House of Lords today. Between 700,000 and one million children under the age of five die each year from pneumococcal disease, equivalent to malaria and more than AIDS and tuberculosis (2,3).

These child deaths are a largely preventable tragedy. A vaccine against pneumococcal disease exists and is being used in the UK. The impact of this vaccine has been seen in England and Wales where there has been a 59% reduction of cases of invasive pneumococcal disease among children under the age of two since it was introduced in September 2006 (4). But developing countries, who account for more than 90% of pneumococcal deaths, do not have access to these vaccines. The UK Parliamentarians urge donor and developing countries to continue their commitment to fighting this killer disease through vaccination, strengthening healthcare systems, sustained political will, funding for research and international coordination of efforts.

"We have a responsibility to help reduce the global health problem of pneumococcal disease, which is under-recognised and until recently, has had few dedicated efforts made to tackle it," said Chair of the Group Dr. Des Turner, MP. "The APPG developed this report in response to the urgent need to improve child survival and tackle the devastating impact of pneumococcal disease in the developing world. As we've highlighted, governments and international organisations have a crucial role to play in preventing pneumococcal disease in the developing world, and need to maintain and grow commitments to mobilise the resources needed to fight the disease."

Additionally, the report covers the disease burden, financing and also the future of the fight against pneumococcal disease.

"We commend APPG's recommendation to elevate pneumococcal disease alongside other global killers including AIDS, malaria and TB," said Dr Orin Levine, Executive Director, GAVI's PneumoADIP. "Vaccination is a proven, safe and effective solution to the global burden of this deadly disease. It is vital that the donor community maintain and increase their commitment, ensuring these vaccines are made available to those who need them most."

To ensure the introduction of lifesaving vaccines to developing countries, the first pilot Advance Market Commitment (AMC), a novel financing mechanism, is investing in accelerating the introduction of this vaccine to where it is needed most, the developing world. The AMC for pneumococcal disease is expected to make an important contribution to saving the lives of over 7 million children by 2030 (5).

GAVI Executive Secretary Julian Lob-Levyt said, "New financing mechanisms such as an AMC have the potential to save millions of lives. To reach Millennium Development Goal 4, which calls for a two-thirds reduction in childhood mortality by 2015, we must urgently use solutions like the AMC to provide dramatic and rapid impact. Ensuring faster access for children to a vaccine against pneumococcal is a fundamental step towards this goal."

Prof Tumani Corrah, Unit Director & Chairman, Executive Management Board, MRC in The Gambia, said, "Countries in Africa and across the developing world see the impact of pneumococcal disease on our families on a daily basis. The All Party Parliamentary Group on Pneumococcal Disease Prevention in the Developing World is doing an invaluable job in raising the profile of this forgotten but devastating disease. As their report states, it is essential that governments across the world remain committed to fighting this deadly bacteria."

Evidence for the report was gathered from across the globe from individuals, governments, multi-laterals, NGOs, funding organisations and the pharmaceutical industry.
-end-
Notes to editors:

1. For further information about pneumococcal disease, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Pneumococcal Disease Prevention in the Developing World, or to download a full version of the report please visit: www.appg-preventpneumo.org

2. Interviews are available with spokespeople quoted above and representatives of the APPG.

For further information or to organise an interview, please contact:

Georgina Pinnington
Consultant
Ruder Finn
Mobile: +44 (0)20 7462 8932
Email: gpinnington@ruderfinn.co.uk

Ashlea Reece
Consultant
Ruder Finn
Mobile: +44 (0)20 7462 8959
Email: areece@ruderfinn.co.uk

References

(1) World Health Organisation. Initiative for Vaccine research: Streptococcus pneumoniae. http://www.who.int/vaccine_research/diseases/ari/en/index5.html (accessed 8 October 2008)
(2) World Health Organization. Pneumococcal vaccines. Weekly Epidemiology record 2003;14:110-9
(3) UNICEF/WHO. Pneumonia: the forgotten killer of children, UNICEF/WHO report 2006: ISBN-13;978-92-806-4048-9
(4) Department of Health. Report of the Director of Immunisation, April 2008
(5) Joint Donor Statement on the Report of the Implementation Working Group on the Advance Market Commitment for Pneumococcal Vaccines, 10 July 2008

International Vaccine Access Center

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