GAVI welcomes report on leading childhood killer

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Geneva, 31 August 2008 - The GAVI Alliance welcomes a new report launched yesterday in the United Kingdom by the All Party Group on Pneumococcal Disease Prevention (APPG), which highlights the devastating global health burden caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae, a group of bacteria that kills up to one million children every year.

The APPG report, Improving Global Health by Preventing Pneumococcal Disease, provides strong evidence from governments, multilateral agencies, NGOs, pharmaceutical companies and funding organisations about the human and economic burden of pneumococcal disease. It points to the interventions available to prevent and treat pneumonia and meningitis, and calls for them to be made a top health priority along with HIV, malaria and TB.

According to the World Health Organization, at least one child dies of pneumococcal disease every minute, making it the leading cause of childhood pneumonia deaths in the developing world and the number one vaccine-preventable cause of death in children worldwide.

Although a pneumococcal vaccine currently exists, its formulation is not optimal against the major strains found in poor countries. Introducing a potentially more effective vaccine at an affordable price normally takes up to 15 years or more.

The new report endorses the pilot mechanism to accelerate pneumococcal vaccines, known as the Advance Market Commitment (AMC), launched by the Governments of Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, Russia, and Norway and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This new approach to public health funding is expected to help accelerate the development and availability of a pneumococcal vaccine in the developing world.

"The GAVI Alliance applauds the work of the APPG in highlighting pneumococcal disease as an unrecognised global health tragedy. The report is a wakeup call to the international community that increased attention and commitment are vital. Innovative initiatives such as the AMC and the strengthening of health systems are vital to bolster efforts to prevent this disease and save more children's lives, faster," said Julian Lob Levyt, Executive Secretary, GAVI Alliance.

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