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DEVELOPMENT REPORT – January 6, 2003: UN Study of Vaccines - 2003-01-03

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

Vaccines are special medicines to prevent diseases. They are usually given to children by injection. They have prevented millions of deaths around the world. However, a new report says children in rich countries are getting most of the world’s vaccines.

The World Health Organization, World Bank, and the U-N Children’s Fund, UNICEF, released the joint study in November. It says that vaccinations are a powerful, low cost way to prevent the spread of diseases. However, the study found that twenty-five percent of the world’s children lack protection from common, preventable diseases.

For example, only fifty percent of children in countries in southern Africa are vaccinated during the first years of life against diseases like tuberculosis, measles, tetanus and whooping cough. In some of the poorest developing countries, fewer than five percent of children are vaccinated against these diseases.

Officials say many developing countries are not able to buy vaccines used in industrial countries. In fact, UNICEF, the single largest buyer of vaccines for children, also has problems finding needed medicines. This is because demand for vaccines is higher than the supply in the world market.

Daniel Tarantola heads the vaccine program for the World Health Organization. He says one way to solve the shortage problem is by having developing nations manufacture their own vaccines. This, he says, would also help lower the cost of treatments in poor countries. Doctor Tarantola believes the market for vaccines in developing countries could be huge. This is because more than one-hundred-thirty-million children are born in developing countries each year.

The report says wealthy countries need to provide poor nations with more aid money to help prevent the spread of diseases. Every year, industrial nations give more than one-and-one-half-thousand-million dollars in aid for vaccination programs.

An extra two-hundred-fifty-million dollars a year would pay for major vaccines for at least another ten-million children. An additional one-hundred-million dollars a year would cover the cost of newer kinds of vaccines for those same children. Such new vaccines protect against diseases like Hepatitis B, which causes more than five-hundred-thousand deaths a year.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss.