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A new report finds significant progress has been made in immunizing the world's children against preventable, killer diseases. However, it says millions of children still do not have access to these life-saving vaccines. The State of the World's Vaccines and Immunization report is produced jointly by the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children's Fund and the World Bank.
The report says immunization rates are at record highs and vaccine development is booming, worldwide. It says 106 million infants were vaccinated against DTP - diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis or whooping cough - last year.
One of the biggest success stories involves measles. The report says measles deaths worldwide fell by 74 percent between 2000 and 2007. The largest reductions occurred in Africa.
Alison Brunier is communications officer for the department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals at the World Health Organization.
She tells VOA vaccines are available against 120 diseases , a record number. And, new vaccines are coming through the pipeline.
"During the last years, there have been new vaccines put on the market against rotavirus diarrhea, against meningococcal meningitis, against pneumococcal disease, and also against human papillomavirus, a cervical cancer vaccine," she said.
In addition, she says more than 80 new products are in late-stage clinical testing, including more than 30 that target diseases, such as dengue and malaria, for which no vaccine currently exists.
"Currently, it is estimated that 2.5 million children's lives are saved every year through use of existing vaccines," she added. "And, it is also estimated that if 90 countries reach 90 percent coverage with vaccines in the coming years, by 2015 an additional two million children's lives could be saved. But what would be required is an increase in coverage up to 90 percent, with existing vaccines."
Brunier notes life-saving vaccines are now common in wealthy countries. She says, unfortunately, these same vaccines still do not reach millions of children who live in poor countries.
"It is estimated that about 20 percent of the children, the infants we are trying to reach are not yet reached by the basic vaccines - approximately 24 million, although this number is going down," she noted. "Some of the basic challenges relate to issues such as difficult geographical situations, political strife, insufficient basic health care, infrastructure in countries."
Health officials say at least an additional $1 billion a year will be needed to make sure new and existing vaccines will be delivered to all children in the 72 poorest countries.
The report says the global vaccine market has tripled, in the last eight years, reaching more than $17 billion in revenue. It says manufacturers in developing countries now are meeting 86 percent of the global demand for traditional vaccines.