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Stamford, CT, December 27 2005 – As winter arrives in Pakistan’s almost inaccessible mountainous regions, survivors of the October 8 earthquake are increasingly at risk for contagious diseases. Responding to an urgent need, AmeriCares is sending an airlift carrying one million doses of this life-saving immunization to Pakistan.The vaccine, known as HibTITER® (Hæmophilus b Conjugate Vaccine Diptheria CRM197 Protein Conjugate), protects young children against Haemophilus influenzae type b (HIB), a major cause of invasive bacterial disease, including meningitis. Responding to a request from World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF officials, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer of HibTITER, offered the vaccine to the Pakistan relief effort. However, because the vaccine must be transported by a “cold chain”— that is, kept between 36ºF and 46ºF at all times during the shipping and distribution process—officials in Pakistan had no way to safely transport the vaccines from the U.S. to Pakistan. Upon learning of these special requirements at a meeting with Pakistan’s Ministry of Health and WHO officials in Islamabad earlier this month, AmeriCares President and CEO Curt Welling offered to deliver the goods.
Our greatest challenge right now because of the cold, is to protect young children from infections. This vaccine will go a long way in doing this,” says Dr. Rehan Hafiz, head of Pakistan’s national immunization program. “Administering this vaccine is one of the major initiatives for protecting children under the age of two years, who are at the greatest risk.”
On Thursday, December 29 at 1:30 a.m. an AmeriCares airlift will depart from Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, CT, carrying the vaccine. The flight will be met in Islamabad, Pakistan by an AmeriCares relief team already on the ground, and the vaccines will be delivered to the World Health Organization and UNICEF.
“In the U.S., there is widespread availability of the HibTITER vaccine but in developing countries, very few children have access to it,” says Dr. Stephen Winter, a Connecticut-based physician and AmeriCares board member who traveled to Pakistan this month with AmeriCares. “In Pakistan, where earthquake survivors are living so closely together in large tented refugee camps, especially during the winter, the risk of communicable diseases is increased. The HibTITER vaccine will provide protection to many children from infections such as meningitis.”
This latest initiative is part of AmeriCares comprehensive effort to provide relief to Pakistan’s earthquake survivors. AmeriCares delivered two airlifts carrying more than $8 million of essential medicines, tents and blankets in the month of October; and last month, delivered and constructed a field hospital that is currently providing health care to an area of 150,000 residents in the isolated Allai Valley.
For information on AmeriCares’ relief efforts, visit the web site at www.americares.org or call AmeriCares directly at 1-800-486-HELP (4357).