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Vaccine Experts seek Advances in New and Under-utilized vaccines

Guatemala, July 25, 2006 (PAHO)—Vaccine experts from throughout the Americas opened an international meeting today to explore the issues of maintaining the progress already achieved in immunization and advancing the introduction of new and under-utilized vaccines to reduce the burden of disease and death.

Dr. Joxel García, Deputy Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), said, "We need the political commitment of all countries to achieve the goal of completing the unfinished agenda of immunization. We want to eliminate rubella, expand vaccination coverage in communities with low vaccination rates, and ensure that the new vaccines that are coming out Hill be available to all."

New or under-utilized vaccines like the seasonal flu vaccine, the vaccine that protects against rotavirus, which causes 75,000 hospitalizations and 15,000 deaths in the Americas annually, and the new vaccine against Human papilloma Virus to help prevent 38,000 deaths from cervical cancer each year, must be used to save lives and placed within reach of all countries, Dr. García added.

The meeting of the Technical Advisory Group on Vaccine-Preventable Diseases, with more than 200 participants, centers on the theme "Protecting the Health of the Americas: Moving from Child to Family Immunization."

Dr. Gina Tambini, Area Manager of Family and Community Health at PAHO, explained how new vaccines are now available to protect the whole family, from children to women of childbearing age to seniors. "We need to reach underserved communities with these vaccines and keep working to reduce inequities in health services, which is essential to maintain current achievements and strengthen national capacity," Dr. Tambini said. "With the advances achieved by regional immunization programs in the Americas and the availability of new vaccines, there is a new opportunity to promote an integrated concept of health for children, women, seniors and the whole family, using prevention, health promotion, treatment and rehabilitation interventions.

Dr. Jon K. Andrus, Lead Technical Advisor of PAHO´s Immunization Unit, said "We face an enormous challenge in completing the unfinished agenda of eliminating rubella and congenital rubella syndrome, sustaining the gains achieved with polio eradication and measles elimination, and improving coverage and service in communities with low coverage. We also need to introduce new and underutilized vaccines to reach new disease reduction targets, including vaccines against influenza, rotavirus, pneumococcus and human papiloma virus infections."

"The elimination of neonatal tetanus, expansion of seasonal influenza vaccination and now the rubella elimination initiative give countries unprecedented experience in vaccinating adults and bridging childhood immunization to family immunization will be critical for improving influenza coverage and reaching more people with new life-saving vaccines for HPV and HIV when they become available. To achieve these results we will need extraordinary levels of regional solidarity, expressed politically as unanimous endorsement of the transition to family immunization and practically as full participation in the PAHO Revolving Fund for vaccine purchases, the cornerstone of PAHO´s technical and operational support to member countries."

Dr. Ciro de Quadros, President of the Technical Advisory Group, said that funds and partners are needed to be able to protect all the inhabitants of the Americas with existing vaccines and the new vaccines coming on the market.

"We were successful in eradicating smallpox and polio from the Americas, in eliminating measles, and we need to advance against rubella and other diseases easily preventable with vaccination so we can save lives and prevent suffering and disease," said Dr. de Quadros, who heads the Sabin Vaccine Institute’s international programs.

Other members of the prestigious Technical Advisory Group are Dr. Steve Cochi, Senior Advisor of the Global Immunization Division at eh CDC; Dr. J. Peter Figueroa, Chief of Epidemiology and AIDS in the Jamaica Ministry of Health; Dr,. Akira Homma, Director of Bio-Manguinhos at FIOCRUZ in Brazil; Dr. Arlene King, Director General of Pandemic Preparedness at the Public Health Agency of Canada; Dr. Roberto Tapia Conyer, Under-Secretary for Disease Prevention and Control of the Ministry of Health of Mexico, and Dr. Andrus of PAHO.

Some 200 experts from throughout the Americas are participating in the TAG meeting, as well as representatives of WHO, UNICEF, CDC, laboratories and many other agencies to discuss the elimination of rubella and many other vaccination-related topics.

The Pan American Health Organization, which serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization, works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and raise the living standards of their peoples.

For more information please contact , PAHO, Public Information, at the Marriott Hotel in Guatemala, 241 01780, or Silvia Posada, PAHO Guatemala, 2332-2032, cell 55 21 9653.

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