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AmeriCares and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Inc. teamed up to provide vaccinations for 8,000 Peruvian children against bacteria that cause pneumonia and serious infections of the bloodstream that can lead to meningitis. Vaccinations are especially important for children in Peru, where 47 percent of those under age 5 are malnourished and thus more susceptible to infection.
Wyeth donated $2 million worth of Prevnar vaccines to AmeriCares following an 8.0-magnitude earthquake in August 2007 that killed 520 in Peru and left tens of thousands homeless. Wyeth provided 24,000 doses of the vaccine, which can be given to infants as young as 6 weeks old. Each child receives three doses.
AmeriCares and Peru’s Ministry of Health kicked off the vaccination campaign during the last week of April in Huancavelica — a town where infections run rampant in children and, all too often, lead to death in cases of otherwise preventable infections. (Preventable infections are a problem across Peru, where 455 people died of pneumonia in the first four months of 2008.)
AmeriCares representatives, who flew in by helicopter for the first vaccination, were greeted by an enthusiastic crowd of more than 100. The first recipient was a 2-month-old baby named Lionel. “Huancavelica has the highest mortality and morbidity rates from pneumococcal infections in Peru,” said Jill Morehead, AmeriCares partnership manager for Latin America and the Caribbean. “It’s a remote area and many people must travel up to 12 hours to receive medical care.”
The Prevnar initiative coincided with the Pan American Health Organization’s sixth annual “Vaccination Week of the Americas.” From April 19-26 a record 62 million children and adults were vaccinated against leading infectious diseases.