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Health Ministers Approve Rubella Elimination, Increased Vaccination Coverage

Washington, D.C., September 28, 2006 (PAHO)—Health ministers from the Americas at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Directing Council today approved a new regional strategy to sustain immunization programs in the Americas, calling on countries to achieve vaccination coverage of more than 95 percent in all districts and to meet the target of eliminating rubella and congenital rubella syndrome by 2010.

In a resolution approved unanimously, health ministers also asked their countries to find new ways to finance and sustain immunization programs so they can introduce new vaccines against rotavirus, pneumococcus, and human papillomavirus, and to use the PAHO revolving fund to buy new and underutilized vaccines, including those against seasonal influenza and yellow fever.

Noting the successes of smallpox and polio eradication and measles elimination achieved through vaccination programs in the Americas, Dr. Gina Tambini, PAHO’s area manager for family and community health, said "This program with many achievements also has an unfinished agenda, and we have to work to extend the protection of vaccines to all vulnerable children and women in the region. We still have about one of every three children in Latin America and the Caribbean living in underserved districts, and they all require equitable access to the benefits of immunization."

Although the PAHO revolving fund, which helps countries buy vaccines at bulk prices, was used to buy $154 million in vaccines last year, new generation vaccines will require an increase in its working capital "to ensure PAHO’s continued service to countries for the introduction of new vaccines," the document explains. "These estimates of annual increases will require innovative mechanisms of support to the Revolving Fund, such as additional voluntary contributions from countries or donors. As it stands now, there is insufficient working capital to adequately keep up with the country demands for new vaccines like influenza and rotavirus."

"Disturbing evidence from industrialized countries has indicated the vulnerability of successful public health programs including immunization to ‘defunding’ as the memory of childhood killer diseases fades. Lapses in public vigilance in Australia, the United States of America, and the United Kingdom and other European countries resulted in dramatic drops in immunization coverage in the early 1990s. High-level policy changes and extensive and very costly programmatic efforts were required in each of these countries to restore immunization coverage to the 1980s levels," the Directing Council document noted.

The resolution, which also urged a focus on immunizing in the poorest districts and among indigenous populations, was approved at the annual PAHO Directing Council meeting, in which ministers of health from throughout the Americas discuss health policy for the region.

The agenda and all the documents for the Directing Council can be found on this page.

PAHO, established in 1902, works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and living standards of their peoples. It is also the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization.

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

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