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 Press/Media Corner

What do we have and what do we hope to develop in terms of vaccines?

Washington, DC, July 18, 2002 (PAHO) -- With three million deaths worldwide each year from diseases preventable by vaccination, it is not surprising that the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has a division entirely devoted to immunization programs and to vaccine development, since it is commonly accepted that vaccines are the safest and most cost-effective health interventions.

"I want to strengthen the appeal for all countries to maintain local and national vaccination programs with useful immunization coverage," says Dr. George Alleyne, Director of PAHO. He has asked "all the parents, mothers, and tutors of children in all the countries of the Americas to ensure that every child under 5 is vaccinated. We are all responsible for the health of our peoples, and for protecting our children against diseases that are easily preventable by vaccination."


 Men being vaccinated
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 Kid receiving measles vaccine
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The Division of Vaccines and Immunization of PAHO is in charge of promoting, coordinating and carrying out technical cooperation activities to improve vaccination programs, and strengthening programs for the production of high-quality vaccines.

According to PAHO experts, the main obstacles to complete immunization programs for all children in the Americas include the lack of political commitment, the lack of vaccination laws with specific, independent budgets to buy vaccines, and administrative problems that impact on the efficient distribution of financial and human resources.

PAHO's Program on Vaccine Technology Access supports regulation and harmonization of vaccine production and promotes the adoption of vaccine safety standards. It also promotes research and development of vaccines, in collaboration with public sector laboratories, ensuring that local vaccine production is economically and technically viable and adheres to good manufacturing practices, as well as national and international norms and standards. PAHO also fosters the establishment of a consortium of laboratories that produce vaccines; the adoption of good manufacturing practices; and the regional certification process for vaccine producers.

PAHO is working in several fronts, such as the determination of the burden of disease and the inclusion of vaccines against Haemophilus influenzae type b, measles and rubella, or measles-mumps-rubella vaccines in basic vaccination plans.

Extraordinary advances in molecular biology and immunology have continued to create opportunities to expand development of new vaccines. Emerging diseases and old diseases that to date have not been conquered continue to challenge researchers and stimulate innovative approaches to disease eradication.

The improvement of existing vaccines and the development of new vaccines to combat emerging diseases are major challenges for PAHO. Program priorities include quality assurance of vaccines used in the region in conjunction with national authorities and a regional laboratory network. Strengthening surveillance is another priority, especially for distribution of serotypes of Pneumonia and Influenza.

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

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