Program will reach more than 675,000 Hondurans and strengthen health care capacity

Millwood, Virginia , April 25, 2011

Project HOPE, a global health education and humanitarian assistance organization, in partnership with Merck, a leader in global health care (known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada), is collaborating with the Honduran Ministry of Health to further advance efforts to vaccinate vulnerable populations against pneumococcal infections, a major cause of pneumonia. The program will vaccinate more than 675,000 adults ages 60 and older and individuals between the ages of 2 and 59 with indicated chronic diseases.

Through this public-private partnership, Merck will donate to Project HOPE more than 675,000 doses of its vaccine PNEUMOVAX® 23 (Pneumococcal Vaccine Polyvalent) and make a charitable contribution of approximately $300,000 to help strengthen health care capacity in Honduras over the course of a three-year phased program.

“Hundreds of thousands of Hondurans will benefit from this partnership among the Ministry of Health, Project HOPE and Merck,” said Dra. Ida Berenice Molina, Manager of the National Vaccines Program at the Honduran Ministry of Health. “With the experience of Project HOPE and Merck's contribution, the Ministry will be able to coordinate with health professionals across the country who will administer the vaccine to help prevent serious illness and even death.”

Known to potentially lead to serious illnesses, the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae, can invade the body and cause sinus and lung infections or spread by entering the bloodstream to cause meningitis, bone and joint infections or pneumonias. In 2005, the World Health Organization estimated 1.6 million people die of pneumococcal disease every year worldwide.

As part of the program, Project HOPE staff in Honduras will work with the Honduran Ministry of Health and community health groups to raise awareness and knowledge about pneumococcal disease and its prevention. Prevention is important as certain pneumococcal bacteria are becoming more resistant to common antibiotics making them harder and more costly to treat.

"This public health initiative delivers on Merck's commitment to improving access to our vaccines and helping to build health care capacity through innovative public-private partnerships in the Americas," said Eduardo Cortés, Managing Director of MSD in Central America and the Dominican Republic.

Utilizing the charitable funding from Merck, Project HOPE will advance its focus on education and mission to provide sustainable solutions by improving the capacity of local health workers and the national immunization program. Through this initiative, health care workers will be trained to plan and implement successful vaccination programs and strengthen existing immunization efforts. Project HOPE also will provide the Honduran Ministry of Health with vital equipment and supplies including refrigerators required for the proper storage of vaccines and computers to help monitor and evaluate immunization activities as this initiative progresses.

“Making a positive difference in the health and care of thousands through knowledge and education is what Project HOPE does best,” said John P. Howe III, M.D., President and CEO of Project HOPE. “However, HOPE could not improve the health and care of Hondurans without the generous support of the Honduran Ministry of Health and Merck.”

Project HOPE has managed active humanitarian assistance programs in Central and South America and the Caribbean for many years. In Honduras, HOPE has implemented maternal and child health programs, strengthening local health care capacity in child nutrition, pneumonia case management, immunization and Vitamin A supplementation. The organization also operates a Village Health Bank (VHB) initiative in country that provides microcredit and education to raise awareness about domestic violence, HIV and sexually transmitted infection vulnerability to women.  

About Project HOPE
Founded in 1958, Project HOPE (Health Opportunities for People Everywhere) is dedicated to providing lasting solutions to health problems with the mission of helping people to help themselves. Identifiable to many by the SS HOPE, the world’s first peacetime hospital ship, Project HOPE now provides medical training and health education, as well as conducts humanitarian assistance programs in more than 35 countries.

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Geraldine Carroll +1-540-257-3746

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