December 9, 2007 (SEOUL, KOREA) – The International Vaccine Institute (IVI), the world’s only international organization devoted exclusively to the research and development of new vaccines for developing countries, announced today that the Asia-Pacific region’s first symposium on pneumococcal disease and vaccines will be held at the Lotte Hotel in Seoul, Korea, on December 13 and 14. The symposium is being co-hosted by the IVI, the GAVI’s PneumoADIP, and the Sabin Vaccine Institute. The World Health Organization (WHO) will also participate in the symposium.
In an unprecedented gathering, decision-makers and experts from more than 25 countries in the Asia-Pacific region will gather to address barriers and propose solutions in the fight against pneumococcal disease, the largest killer of children under five years of age in the region and around the world. According to the WHO, pneumococcal disease claims up to 1.6 million lives worldwide annually, including up to one million children under five years of age, a majority of them living in Asia and Africa.
“The seriousness of pneumococcal disease has not been addressed properly, especially in the Asia-Pacific region. Pneumococcal disease, including pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis, is a major infectious killer of children in the Asia-Pacific region,” said Dr. John D. Clemens, Director-General of the IVI.
According to the report “Pneumonia: The Forgotten Killer of Children” published by WHO/UNICEF in 2006, more than half of all pneumonia cases worldwide occur in the Asia-Pacific region where seven of the top 15 countries affected by pneumonia are located. Of the 133 million childhood pneumonia cases around the world in 2005, India accounted for 44 million and China accounted for 18 million. It is estimated that about 50 percent of all child pneumonia deaths are caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacterium, commonly known as pneumococcus.
Pneumococcal disease, which includes pneumonia, meningitis, septicemia and ear infections, is becoming an increasing threat worldwide. Antibiotic-resistant infections are widespread and pneumococcal pneumonia frequently follows influenza infections, making it more likely to occur in the event of an influenza pandemic.
Fortunately, vaccines are available to prevent pneumococcal disease. Pneumococcal conjugate vaccines, which are capable of protecting against seven of the most common serotypes of this organism, are currently available for introduction into routine infant immunization programs. To this end, the GAVI Alliance has committed more than USD100 million for 2008 and beyond to support the introduction of vaccines against pneumococcal disease in eligible countries. This support was expanded in 2007, when donors including Italy, the U.K., Canada, Russia, Norway and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged USD1.5 billion for the Pneumococcal Advanced Market Commitment.
In the Asia-Pacific region only Australia and New Zealand have introduced pneumococcal vaccines into routine infant immunization programs. The symposium will offer a unique opportunity to draw attention to the seriousness of this disease, evaluate opportunities for expanding vaccination programs and plan concerted actions to ensure that prevention of pneumonia is regarded as a public health priority across the region.
Along with the symposium, press conferences will be held in the Pine Room at the Lotte Hotel at 11:00 a.m. on both December 13 and 14. The December 13 press conference will address the seriousness of pneumococcal disease in the Asia-Pacific region and solutions to combat it. The December 14 press conference will announce the launch of the Asian Strategic Alliance for Pneumococcal Disease Prevention (ASAP).About IVI
The International Vaccine Institute (IVI) is the world’s only international organization devoted exclusively to developing and introducing new and improved vaccines to protect the world’s poorest people, especially children in developing countries. Based in Seoul, Korea, and established as an initiative of the United Nations Development Programme in 1997, the IVI operates under a treaty signed by 40 countries and the World Health Organization, and conducts research in more than 20 countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America on vaccines against diarrheal infections, bacterial meningitis and pneumonia, as well as Japanese encephalitis and dengue fever. For more information, please visit www.ivi.int About PneumoADIP
The goal of the Pneumococcal Vaccines Accelerated Development and Introduction Plan (PneumoADIP) is to shorten the time between the use of a new vaccine in industrialized countries and its introduction in developing countries by reducing demand uncertainty and achieving an affordable, sustainable supply of vaccines. This novel approach is funded by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) through its partner the Vaccine Fund. PneumoADIP is located at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The mission of PneumoADIP is to improve child survival and health by accelerating the evaluation of and access to new life saving pneumococcal vaccines for the world’s children. For more information, please visit: www.preventpneumo.org About Sabin Foundation
The Sabin Vaccine Institute is a non-profit public organization dedicated to saving lives by stimulating the development and distribution of vaccines throughout the world. The Institute is committed to continuing the work of Dr. Albert Sabin, developer of the oral live virus polio vaccine, who envisioned the enormous potential of vaccines to prevent deadly diseases. To learn more, visit www.sabin.org