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UNICEF & Merck Partner to Protect 100,000 Children and Young People Against Mumps Epidemic
Date:6/9/2008

NEW YORK, June 9 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Officials with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF and global pharmaceutical company, Merck & Co., Inc. announced the donation and delivery of 100,000 doses of M-M-R(R) II (measles, mumps and rubella virus vaccine, live, attenuated) to the government of the former Soviet republic of Moldova, in response to an ongoing serious mumps outbreak in that country.

The vaccine is a combination vaccine against three diseases, measles, mumps, and rubella, and will be used to respond to the current mumps epidemic in a national immunization campaign for children and young people born between 1989 and 1994 to be carried out by the Moldovan Ministry of Health. The vaccine has been in use since the 1970s and more than 500 million doses of the vaccine have been distributed worldwide.

"Merck's donation of vaccines to assist in Moldova's immunization campaign is a shining example of corporate goodwill," said Caryl Stern, president and CEO, U.S. Fund for UNICEF. "We are pleased to partner with our friends at Merck to do whatever it takes to save a child."

"Public health crises such as this help remind us of the critical need for vaccinations. Merck's long history of success in discovering, developing and making potentially life saving vaccines helps us build a more productive and healthier future for all people," said Jeffrey Sturchio Ph.D., vice president of Corporate Responsibility for Merck. "UNICEF's first-hand knowledge of the situation and expertise in logistics made them the best choice to help coordinate the timely delivery of this important vaccine."

According to Moldovan Ministry of Health data, since the beginning of the year nearly 24,800 people have been infected with mumps, of which 9,615 persons were hospitalized, most of them having suffered complications such as pancreatitis, meningitis and orchitis. Children and young people between 14 and 24 years proved to be the most vulnerable, 80 percent of them having contracted the disease in educational institutions.

Vaccination efforts to date have yielded immediate results and the number of mumps cases has dropped significantly. A total of 317,725 of children have been vaccinated, and all vaccines have been distributed for the campaign. According to officials at the National Centre for Preventive Medicine, last week 100 cases of mumps were registered in the country compared to 2,351 cases in April. The spread of the infection is particularly reduced in the capital city of Chisinau and the regions of Balti and Ungheni.

UNICEF has helped respond to this epidemic in many ways. Last month UNICEF delivered 210,000 booster shots against mumps to Moldova's National Centre for Preventive Medicine. The boosters were purchased with World Bank funds. This delivery took place after the government requested support from the international community in order to purchase 600,000 booster shots necessary to eradicate a mumps epidemic that has been ravaging the country.

Moldova is a country with an area of 13,000 square miles, slightly larger than the state of Maryland. It is bordered on the west by Romania, on the east by Ukraine and on the south by the Black Sea.

About UNICEF

For more than 60 years, UNICEF has been the world's leading international children's organization, working in over 150 countries to address the ongoing issues that affect why kids are dying. UNICEF provides lifesaving nutrition, clean water, education, protection and emergency response saving more young lives than any other humanitarian organization in the world. While millions of children die every year of preventable causes like dehydration, upper respiratory infections and measles, UNICEF, with the support of partnering organizations and donors alike, has the global experience, resources and reach to give children the best hope of survival. For more information about UNICEF, please visit http://www.unicefusa.org


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SOURCE U.S. Fund for UNICEF
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