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Sixth International Rotavirus Symposium
Mexico City – July 7-9, 2004

Health Officials From 16 Countries Ask Sustainable Programs For New, Old Vaccines

Mexico City, July 9, 2004 (PAHO)—Health officials from 16 countries today asked for budgetary support "to ensure the sustainability of the existing vaccination programs and the introduction of new vaccines," at the conclusion of a global symposium on rotavirus, a diarrheal disease that kills over 600,000 children worldwide every year.

 Boy with rotavirus infection
Benjamin, a one-year-old Chilean boy, almost died of rotavirus, an infection that kills 608,000 children every year worldwide. (Photo: Víctor Hugo Durán)

"Our countries have made tremendous advances in vaccines, and our governments have a responsibility to their people to continue these advances. We have the challenge of reducing infant mortality, and not only can we do it but we must do it," said Dr. Rosario Quiroga, vice minister of health of Bolivia.

In a declaration issued at the closing of the rotavirus symposium, representatives of health ministries from 16 countries in the Americas noted that new rotavirus vaccines "could reduce mortality from the disease by up to 60 percent if included in national immunization programs of our Region." The countries were Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Paraguay, Saint Vincent, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela.

The officials said they "call upon the Pan American Health Organization, and its Revolving Fund for Vaccine Procurement, to work with bilateral and multilateral organizations, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, and with vaccine manufacturers, to facilitate the introduction of vaccines against rotavirus at prices accessible to all countries of the region as soon as they become available."

The symposium, convened by the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), the Albert B. Sabin Vaccine Institute, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the U.S. National Institutes of Health, featured more than 400 scientists, health experts, and industry representatives involved in rotavirus vaccine development discussing all aspects of rotavirus.

The health officials in their declaration said "Treatment of rotavirus incurs high costs and its economic impact is great in Latin America, where approximately 15,000 deaths and 75,000 hospitalizations occur each year," and noted that two "promising vaccines are close to entering the market."

"This new technology should be made available to infants to prevent disease," they said, and immunization should continue receiving support, "with the highest political priority, as a public good for the region."

They also agreed to "search for mechanisms within national budgetary processes to negotiate, at the highest policy level, in order to ensure the sustainability of the existing vaccination programs and the introduction of new vaccines."

Dr. Jon Andrus, who heads PAHO`s vaccine programs, said "The commitment, experience and leadership of the countries of the Americas in immunization is amazing." Today, 19 countries have vaccine laws, and "The Americas lead the world in advances in immunization, Andrus said."

Contact: Daniel Epstein of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) at the Intercontinental Hotel in Mexico, 52 55 53277700, or at (631) 220 7869.

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