ISTANBUL, TURKEY, 15 February 2008 – Leading health experts gathered in Istanbul today to call upon policy leaders in Turkey and in the region to assure access to pneumococcal vaccines and to support the expansion of health systems to deliver them and monitor their impact.

Pneumococcal disease is a leading infectious killer of children and adults worldwide. A bacterial infection that causes pneumonia, meningitis, sepsis and other life-threatening ailments, pneumococcal disease kills 1.6 million people – including more than 800,000 children under age five – every year. Survivors of pneumococcal meningitis can be left with serious disabilities, including brain damage, deafness, limb amputations and developmental delays.

According to the World Health Organization, pneumonia and meningitis are among the leading causes of death among children in Turkey. Pneumonia alone causes an estimated 7,000 deaths annually, accounting for 14% of deaths among children under age 5.

“Pneumococcal disease is preventable, yet is taking an unnecessary toll in Turkey and around the world,” said Dr. Ciro A. de Quadros, executive vice president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and co-chairman of the Pneumococcal Awareness Council of Experts (PACE). “We have an unprecedented opportunity to save lives through vaccination, and the time for prevention is now.”

A vaccine is currently available to safely and effectively protect children against most pneumococcal infections. In 2000, the 7-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV-7) became available and is currently in use in over 70 countries. Extended protection pneumococcal conjugate vaccines – 10- and 13-valent formulations are currently in the late stages of development and expected to become available by 2009-2010.

In 2007, the World Health Organization published its recommendation that pneumococcal conjugate vaccine be prioritized for inclusion in national childhood immunization programs. To date, 16 European Union member countries have introduced the vaccine, with several additional countries considering implementation. In Turkey, PCV-7 can be purchased on the private market but has yet to be introduced into the routine immunization schedule.

”Treatment of this disease is simply not enough,” said Dr. Mehmet Ceyhan, Professor of Pediatrics and Infectious Diseases at the Hacettepe University Faculty of Medicine, Ankara and director of the Turkish Infectious Disease Society. “The burden of this disease in our country, coupled with the increasing resistance of pneumococcus bacteria to the most common antibiotics, demonstrates why vaccination against pneumococcal disease is so important.”

Leading health experts from around the world, led by the Pneumococcal Awareness Council of Experts (PACE), issued a global call to action for governments to make financing available to assure access to pneumococcal vaccines and to support the expansion of health systems to deliver the vaccines and surveillance systems to monitor vaccine impact. Nearly thirty professional societies around the world – including the Turkish Society of Pediatric Infectious Disease – have signed on to support PACE’s efforts to ensure that vaccines are available at affordable, sustainable prices to children worldwide.

Estimates show that with increased awareness and a resulting commitment to purchase and deliver pneumococcal vaccines globally, 5.4 million children’s lives can be saved by 2030.

“By increasing awareness about this disease and its impact, our aim is to help save lives in Turkey and around the world,” said Dr. Orin Levine, executive director of the GAVI’s PneumoADIP and co-chairman of PACE. “We urge policy-makers in Turkey and in the region to take action now to prevent this deadly disease.”

The Third Regional Pneumococcal Symposium, a collaborative effort of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and GAVI’s PneumoADIP at Johns Hopkins, brings together more than 200 policy makers, national public health and financial authorities, pediatric and infectious disease societies, scientists, researchers, bilateral and multilateral agencies, and other partners. Disease burden data and a call to action are focal points of the Symposium, where speakers will also review the epidemiology of pneumococcal disease, evaluate the status of pneumococcal vaccine development and implementation, and identify key actions for disease prevention in the region. For more information, visit

The Pneumococcal Awareness Council of Experts (PACE) is a working group of health experts convened by the Sabin Vaccine Institute to raise awareness of pneumococcal disease – a leading infectious killer of children and adults worldwide – and advocate for its prevention through vaccination. Through awareness, action and prevention, PACE is committed to significantly reducing the more than 1.6 million deaths that occur annually from this vaccine-preventable disease. To learn more, visit

The Sabin Vaccine Institute is a non-profit public organization dedicated to saving lives by stimulating the development and distribution of vaccines throughout the world. The Institute is committed to continuing the work of Dr. Albert Sabin, developer of the oral live virus polio vaccine, who envisioned the enormous potential of vaccines to prevent deadly diseases. To learn more, visit

PneumoADIP is an organization based at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and supported by a $30 million grant from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization that aims to improve child survival and health by accelerating the evaluation of and access to new, lifesaving pneumococcal vaccines for the world's children. For more information, visit