Pneumonia and diarrhoea, which kill one in three children around the world, are emerging as key concerns in disease prevention, a public-private partnership said Friday.
In the coming year, more progress in getting vaccination against the two diseases would reach more countries, said the GAVI Alliance, which is a grouping of governments, philantrophists, vaccine industry players and international organisations such as the World Health Organisation.
"Of prime concern are pneumonia and diarrhoea which together account for 36 percent of global child deaths. Progress in preventing these diseases is crucial to achieving the Millennium Development Goals," said the alliance in its annual report.
In 2007, the alliance had first allowed eligible countries to apply for support for vaccines against pneumococcal, which causes pneumonia and meningitis, and rotavirus, which causes severe diarrhoea.
Nicaragua, Guyana and Honduras became the first countries to apply and be approved for pneumococcal vaccine support in 2007, while the first to apply for rotavirus vaccine were Bolivia, Guyana and Honduras.
Two other countries have expressed interest in the rotavirus programme, and 25 others in pneumococcal.
GAVI said it had adopted a two-phase strategy for rotavirus vaccine, with the first phase to make vaccines support available to Latin American and European countries where the vaccine was already licensed for use.
"Roll-out in Africa and Asia awaits the results of large-scale safety and efficacy trials," it said.
Meanwhile, a pilot project for a pneumococcal vaccine would begin this year, with six donors already having set aside 1.5 billion dollars for the project.
Overall, significant steps have been made to get more people immunised against key diseases, said GAVI.
The alliance noted that last year, three in four children from countries eligible for its funding were immunised with three doses of diptherai, tetanus and polio vaccines, compared with 64 percent in 2000.
Meanwhile, 67 out of 69 countries eligible for support have applied for aid for hepatitis B vaccines, said GAVI.
Julian Lob-Levyt, who is the executive secretary of the alliance, said that the progress was thanks to contributions from governments, health organisations as well as private sector players.
"New vaccines and technology, increased coordination and new funding streams are allowing us to tackle the killer diseases in a methodical and consistent way. We are at a seminal moment in positively impacting health in poor nations," he said.