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New Vaccines Present Financing Challenges, PAHO Experts Say

Washington, D.C., September 29, 2005 (PAHO)—"Immunization is the key to reducing child mortality and we must ensure that new vaccines are accessible to all people in an equitable manner," according to Dr. Carissa Etienne, assistant director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

Speaking to health ministers at a briefing on sustaining national immunization programs with new vaccines, Dr. Etienne said, "Significant advances are occurring in the field of immunization and we must make these new technologies available to all, considering issues of price, production and availability. As we advance to 2015 it is clear that immunization is the key to success of the Millennium Development Goals of reducing child and maternal mortality."

"We have had many achievements and successes in immunization, from eradicating polio and eliminating measles in the region of the Americas, and we are well on the way to eliminating Congenital Rubella Syndrome," Dr. Etienne said at the briefing on vaccines, given during PAHO's Directing Council meeting, composed of health ministers from throughout he Americas and which continues through Friday.

Peru's Health Minister, Dr. Pilar Mazetti Soler, said "It is crucial for us in the health sector to strengthen our links with ministers of finance and those responsible for budgets in our countries, because we have very important times ahead of us in terms of new vaccines." From a country perspective, she said, one of the lessons learned is setting priorities for health interventions and protecting the immunization achievements to date, while promoting new alliances and improving efficiency.

Dr. Jon Andrus, chief of PAHO's Immunization Unit, said the guiding principles for vaccination are ensuring access and equity, accelerating control of vaccine preventable diseases, and strengthening the public health infrastructure. He said there has been "Spectacular progress" on the goal of reducing child mortality, though Rubella and Congenital Rubella Syndrome have not yet been eliminated. The future challenge, he said is to make new vaccines against priority diseases available equitably and to improve the performance of vaccination programs to reach the neglected populations.

Andrus cited the example of seasonal influenza vaccine, noting that 15 countries now use it, compared with five countries 10 years ago. "The introduction of new and underutilized vaccines should be evidence based and consistent with overall health budget priorities," he said, based on such factors as disease burden, characteristics of the vaccine, economic analysis, perception of risk, political will, logistical issues, and partnerships, among others.

The annual Directing Council meeting at PAHO's headquarters is to analyze the health situation in the region and adopt key resolutions on important public health problems.

PAHO was established in 1902 and is the world's oldest public health organization. PAHO works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and the quality of life of people of the Americas. It serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO).

For more information please contact , PAHO, Public Information, 202-974-3459.

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