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Groups Seek $4 Billion for Child Vaccines

Rwandan children receiving pneumococcal vaccine in April 2009
Rwandan children receiving pneumococcal vaccine in April 2009

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This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

Vaccines and chest compressions are both ways to save lives. Now, separate new reports say each could save more lives if they were used more.

One report is from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the GAVI Alliance. GAVI is the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization.

This alliance of public and private groups finances vaccines in poor countries. Spokesman Jeffrey Rowland says GAVI has done a lot since it began ten years ago.

JEFFREY ROWLAND: "We have prevented 5.4 million premature deaths. That means these children will not die of these diseases, 5.4 million, and we hope to prevent 4.2 million premature deaths by keeping immunization rates high over the next five years for basic immunization and rolling out vaccines against pneumonia and rotavirus diarrhea."

GAVI says these two diseases cause more than one-third of all deaths in children under age five. It says new vaccines against the pneumococcal bacteria and rotavirus could save more than one million children each year.

But the group warns that a shortage of four billion dollars threatens these and other immunization programs. Some of these programs have made great progress against polio and other diseases preventable by vaccines.

In other health news, a new study compares ways of saving patients with cardiac arrest. Sudden cardiac arrest is when the heart develops an abnormal rhythm and stops beating.

An analysis of four studies found no difference in short-term survival when rescuers followed current guidelines. These call for defibrillation as soon as possible. A defibrillator is the device used to shock the heart back to normal rhythm.

But there was a small increase in long-term survival among those who received chest compressions before defibrillation. This was true one year after cardiac arrest, and especially if there were delays in the arrival of emergency medical services.

Doctor Pascal Meier of the University of Michigan Health System led an international study of one thousand five hundred patients.

PASCAL MEIER: "What we wanted to test is whether it would be better to start first with good quality chest compressions to prepare the heart for this electrical shock -- to get some blood circulation to the brain and heart before we apply the shock."

Dr. Meier says people should start to give compressions immediately if emergency help has not arrived. He says good quality compressions are done in the middle of the chest.

PASCAL MEIER: "On the breast bone, usually about two fingers above the lower end of the chest bone, you put your both hands and then you have to straighten your arms and do pretty strong compressions there."

A report on the findings appeared in the online journal BMC Medicine.

And that's the VOA Special English Health Report. You can read and listen to our programs at I'm Steve Ember.


Includes reporting by Lisa Schlein in Geneva and Jessica Berman in Washington