18 million Indian children to receive life-saving five-in-one vaccine

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US$165 million grant from GAVI will kick off massive introduction of new vaccine

Geneva, 12 August 2009 -More than 18 million children in India will be immunised with a pentavalent five-in-one vaccine thanks to funding worth US$ 165 million from the GAVI Alliance, a public-private partnership which brings together all key players in immunisation including the Indian government, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, donors, industry and the Hib Initiative.

A decision by the GAVI Alliance's Executive Committee in Geneva announced today paves the way for the introduction of the combination vaccine in India, where some 27 million children are born each year. This is the first phase of a national roll-out which will start in 10 states.

The decision to approve the funding was communicated to Indian Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad by GAVI Alliance Deputy CEO Helen Evans  on Monday 10 August.

India's important and far-sighted decision to introduce the pentavalent vaccine will bring the country and the world significantly closer to achieving Millennium Development Goal 4.

GAVI CEO, Dr. Julian Lob-Levyt

Ninety percent of world's poorest children

The pentavalent vaccine protects against five potential killers -- diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), hepatitis B, and Haemophilus influenzae type b (often known as Hib) which causes some severe forms of pneumonia and meningitis. Children need to be vaccinated three times before they can be considered fully immunised.

While children in all countries are routinely immmunised against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and increasingly hepatitis B, the introduction of this pentavalent vaccine in India, will mean that now more than 90% of the world's poorest children will be vaccinated against Hib.

Globally, Hib kills more than 370,000 children under five every year; nearly 20% of these children die in India. Survivors are often permanently paralyzed, deafened or brain damaged.

Routine introduction of Hib vaccine has been proven to prevent the majority of severe bacterial meningitis and up to one third of life-threatening cases of bacterial pneumonia, the leading infectious cause of death in children worldwide.

Critical step

"The introduction of the pentavalent vaccine in India is a critical step in our government's efforts to protect all Indian children from deadly diseases," said India's Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.

"We are glad to be working with the GAVI Alliance to turn this long-held vision into a reality for millions of families. I am extremely thankful to GAVI for assistance given for pentavalent vaccine."

"India's important and far-sighted decision to introduce the pentavalent vaccine will bring the country and the world significantly closer to achieving Millennium Development Goal 4, which aims to reduce child mortality by two-thirds by 2015," said Dr. Julian Lob-Levyt.

"With such a significant number of pneumonia deaths occurring in India, we are pleased to see India recognising the importance of adding protection against Hib while continuing to work on strengthening routine immunisation."

One of largest-ever GAVI grants

In one of its largest-ever single grants, GAVI will fund the first two years of pentavalent vaccine introduction in India. In the first year, the pentavalent vaccine will reach more than 10 million children in 10 states -- about 40 percent of India's total number of babies born each year.

By funding the introduction of the pentavalent vaccine, GAVI will equip India to expand its use in the rest of the country.

Pneumonia control strategy

"Introduction of Hib vaccine in India will save thousands of children's lives," said Panna Choudhury, President of the Indian Academy of Pediatrics.

"Routine use of Hib vaccine is an essential piece of a comprehensive pneumonia control strategy to reduce the disease's terrible burden on children."

"No child should die or suffer from this preventable disease," said Dr. Mathuram Santosham, executive committee member of the Hib Initiative at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

"Hib vaccine is a safe, effective intervention that has been used for more than nearly 20 years in developed countries. Where used routinely in countries such as Kenya, Uganda and the Gambia, it has been proven to virtually eliminate Hib disease."

Pentavalent vaccine is now available from Indian suppliers and is expected to be used both in children in India and around the world. With increasing demand, this indigenous supply will play an important role in saving children's lives.

The Hib Initiative
The Hib Initiative unites experts from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the World Health Organization, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and provides technical, coordination and communication support to countries making decisions regarding the use of Hib vaccine. The Hib Initiative is supported by a 4-year grant from the GAVI Alliance. The Hib vaccine is being used or will soon be used in at least 62 developing countries eligible for support from the GAVI Alliance.

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