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Worldwide Vaccine Availability Reaches All-Time High: Report

Experts urge international community to continue to push for progress

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Worldwide immunization rates are at their highest-ever levels, a new report shows.

A record number of vaccines -- 120 -- are now available to prevent deadly diseases, and more than 80 new vaccines are in late-stage clinical testing, according to the report scheduled to be released Wednesday by the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the World Bank.

A record 106 million infants were immunized in 2008, reversing a downward trend. Measles deaths worldwide decreased 74 percent between 2000 and 2007, the report authors noted.

"Such progress must inspire new efforts to immunize children around the globe against life-threatening diseases," UNICEF executive director Ann M. Veneman, said in a news release.

Along with the good news, the "State of the World's Vaccines and Immunization" report also said rich nations need to contribute more to eliminate an annual $1 billion funding gap that leaves about 24 million children at risk, particularly in the poorest nations and communities.

Recently developed vaccines include those to protect against meningococcal meningitis, rotavirus diarrhea, pneumococcal disease and human papillomavirus (HPV). Vaccines now in late-stage testing include more than 30 that target diseases for which no vaccine currently exists. Researchers are also working to create vaccines against HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and dengue.

The report also said that manufacturers in developing countries now fill 86 percent of the demand for traditional vaccines such as those that protect against measles, whooping cough, tetanus and diphtheria.

"We have seen a dramatic turnaround in the availability of vaccines in even the poorest countries," Graeme Wheeler, managing director of the World Bank Group, said in the news release. "Yet the international community, together with the countries themselves, must ensure that new and existing technologies actually reach the most vulnerable populations, especially children."

More information

The World Health Organization has more about immunization.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: World Health Organization, news release, Oct. 21, 2009

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