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HEPATITIS B VACCINE INTERNATIONAL IMMUNIZATION PROGRAM

Executive Summary

HEPATITIS B VACCINE INTERNATIONAL IMMUNIZATION PROGRAM is being planned by a task force of nine doctors and experts on hepatitis B from around the world. The program, which is to be co-sponored by the World Health Organization, will be discussed at a meeting in March, in Nairobi, Kenya. The meeting is open to vaccine manufacturers. The United Kingdom Overseas Group, a subdivision of SmithKline French Limited, is one vaccine producer which already is planning to participate. A hand-out on the "Task Force on Hepatitis B Immunization" states that the objective of the group is to "accelerate efforts to initiate hepatitis B immunization programs in developing countries where hepatitis B is hyperendemic." Among its duties, the task force collaborates with agencies such as WHO, the Task Force for Child Survival, and bilateral donors to raise the priority given to hepatitis B. The group also assists in arranging supplies of vaccines to governments that wish to develop a national program, provides information and technical assistance to developing countries and interacts with manufacturers for adequate supplies of vaccines. Programs of the task force are administratively supported by Program for Appropriate Technology in Health. Richard Mahoney, PhD, executive secretary of the task force, said the group is currently raising money "to launch demonstration projects in a number of developing countries . . . to show how the vaccine can be distributed and made available to poorer people." He said a demonstration project is being designed for Indonesia and the first vaccinations would probably take place no sooner than October 1987. He noted that programs for Thailand and Brazil will follow the Indonesia program. Overall funding to operate the international immunization program is being negotiated with various foundations and United Nations agencies. Vaccines being considered for the demonstration projects include those from: the South Korean firm, Cheil Sugar & Co.; the Korean Green Cross; and the Dutch Red Cross. Vaccines from SmithKline French Limited in England and Connaught in Toronto, which are expected to be approved in some world markets shortly, will also be considered. The vaccine supplier selection will apparently be a price sensitive decision. The task force maintains that a new and less expensive method of making the vaccine has been developed by the New York Blood Center and licensed to Cheil, which will produce the vaccine for $1 a dose. The task force predicts that the New York Blood Center's vaccine production method will cause a reduction in the price of other vaccines. Mahoney said the new method is less expensive because the base material contains more hepatitis B antigen, and traditional harsh purification procedures, which can reduce the amount of vaccine produced, are not used. He added that other methodologies produce one dose of vaccine from one cc of plasma, whereas the Blood Center method produces 10 doses of vaccine from one cc of plasma.
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