Investment reduces typical 10- to-15 year timeline for vaccines to reach developing countries

Berlin, 29 November 2006 - A historic decision announced today will bring new vaccines to the developing world with unprecedented speed. The GAVI Alliance Board of Directors approved plans to finance the purchase of rotavirus vaccines to curb childhood deaths from severe diarrheal disease in the world's poorest countries. The case for this investment was made by the PATH Rotavirus Vaccine Program (RVP), jointly with its partners, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

GAVI support will make it possible for low-income countries to begin using the vaccines in quick succession to their introduction this year by the United States and European Union. This investment will set in motion the potential to prevent 370,000 childhood deaths in the world's poorest countries by 2015, as well as prevent over 14 million hospitalizations and clinic visits, and save more than US$71 million in direct medical costs.

This investment dramatically reduces the traditional 10- to 15-year lag between the introduction of new vaccines in wealthy countries and their availability in the developing world. Established four years ago, RVP is one of GAVI's Accelerated Development and Introduction Plans, charged with gathering evidence on the burden of rotavirus disease, the efficacy of rotavirus vaccines in developing countries, and the cost and benefits of their use, in order to build a case for investment by the global health community.

"Developing countries can now realize the rewards of GAVI's commitment to address the disparity of access to new vaccines in different parts of the world," said Dr. John R. Wecker, director of RVP. "Today's pledge of support by GAVI demonstrates that the global community is moving quickly to save the lives of millions of children in the world's poorest countries."

While rates of rotavirus infection are nearly the same around the world, almost 90 percent of the childhood deaths from rotavirus occur in the developing world. Because access to appropriate medical care for severe diarrhea and dehydration is often limited in developing countries, vaccines are the most effective strategy to prevent severe cases of rotavirus infection.

"We applaud GAVI's decision to pledge funding not only for the purchase of rotavirus vaccines, but for the technical activities necessary to support accelerated introduction," said Dr. Christopher J. Elias, president of PATH. "Their concerted plan of support will help countries create the systems and strategies that will ensure the vaccines' successful introduction on the ground."

Countries that were represented in the initial clinical trials to prove the vaccines' safety and efficacy, particularly those in Latin America, will be among the first to adopt rotavirus vaccines, and support activities will focus on helping those countries prepare applications for funding and document the impact of these vaccines. Countries will apply for GAVI support in 2007 and be able to receive vaccines in Spring 2008.

PATH is working with the vaccine manufacturers to conduct clinical trials to test vaccine efficacy in resource-poor populations of Asia and Africa. In parallel, GAVI support will help to strengthen rotavirus disease surveillance, complete the clinical trials, and forecast global supply and demand for the vaccines, with an ultimate goal of worldwide coverage complemented by a robust global market.

"GAVI's decision to finance rotavirus vaccines in developing countries will provide a strong signal to industry of GAVI's intent to accelerate the availability of these vaccines," said Julian Lob-Levyt, Executive Secretary of the GAVI Alliance. "Today's investment in the health of developing countries will stimulate the growth of a mature vaccine market to ensure a maximum public health impact."

PATH is an international, nonprofit organization that creates sustainable, culturally relevant solutions that enable communities worldwide to break longstanding cycles of poor health. By collaborating with diverse public- and private-sector partners, PATH helps provide appropriate health technologies and vital strategies that change the way people think and act. 

The PATH Rotavirus Vaccine Program (RVP), a partnership with the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control, was established in 2003 as an Accelerated Development and Introduction Plan (ADIP) funded by the GAVI Alliance. GAVI ADIPs are a unique approach to dramatically reducing the typical 10 to 15 year timeline between introduction of new vaccines in wealthy countries and their availability in the developing world.

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