Overloaded healthcare systems main barriers to vaccination

More and more children are dying of preventable diseases in 14 mostly African countries torn by civil strife or whose health care systems are overloaded by the AIDS crisis, the head of the UNICEF said Thursday, urging developed countries to take action. Rich nations need to "find ways to assist countries in crisis or other fragile states," said executive director Ann Veneman at a meeting of government, aid and health care officials from around the world organized by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization in New Delhi.

A lack of money, ignorance and difficulties delivering life-saving vaccinations to children can hold up immunization programs for years or decades, said Julian Lob-Levyt, executive secretary of the GAVI Alliance. He urged a "strong push" to help developing countries overcome these problems.

If diseases like tuberculosis that have been wiped out in wealthy countries are left untreated in poor regions, they could "mutate and make a come back," Indian Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss warned the conference. He urged industrialized countries to contribute to efforts to develop new vaccines.

Other speakers emphasized that recent advances in vaccines meant that deadly diseases such as Japanese encephalitis, diarrhea, pneumonia and the meningitis-causing Haemophilus influenza, could be prevented, saving approximately two million children each year. A lack of health facilities and poorly funded health programs in developing countries restrict the number of children who are covered by immunization programs, participants said.

The alliance plans to launch an initiative this week to promote a newly developed vaccine for Haemophilus influenza. Doctors in the developed world have started using the vaccine, but it is rarely administered in developing countries due to its cost. The Haemophilus influenza virus is spread by droplets expelled when people cough or sneeze, and often breaks out in overcrowded areas, reports the AP. N.U.

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