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Millwood, VA, April 19, 2013

Project HOPE, a global health education and humanitarian assistance organization, in partnership with MSD, a leader in global health care (known as Merck in the United States and Canada), has delivered the final shipment of 200,000 doses of the vaccine PNEUMOVAX® 23 (Pneumococcal Vaccine Polyvalent) to Managua, Nicaragua as part of a national campaign to vaccinate vulnerable individuals against pneumococcal infections, a major cause of pneumonia.  

In August 2010, the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health (MINSA), in collaboration with Project HOPE and MSD, commenced a three-year phased program to vaccinate adults ages 50 and older and individuals ages 2 to 49 with chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, that put a person at higher risk for pneumococcal disease.   

Through this public-private partnership, MSD has donated to Project HOPE more than one million doses of PNEUMOVAX® 23 for distribution in Nicaragua through a series of shipments beginning in 2010.  Merck also made a charitable contribution of more than $700,000 to help strengthen health care capacity in Nicaragua over the course of the program.  The funds have been used to train health care workers about the planning and implementation of successful vaccination programs.

To date, more than 903,000 Nicaraguans have been vaccinated, and over 5,000 health care workers have been trained through 101 training sessions.  Because the vaccine needs to be kept cold at all times, refrigeration equipment has been purchased and installed.  Donated funds also have been used to purchase computers to help MINSA monitor and evaluate immunization activities as this initiative progresses.  The investments have strengthened the vaccine distribution system throughout Nicaragua and will provide a solid infrastructure for vaccination programs in the future.

“Hundreds of thousands of our citizens are already benefiting from Merck’s generous donations and Project HOPE’s public health expertise,” said Dr. Edmundo Sánchez, Director of Disease Prevention at MINSA.  “With this final shipment, we will be able to realize our goal of vaccinating one million vulnerable Nicaraguans against pneumococcal infection.

Known to potentially lead to serious illnesses, the bacterium streptococcus pneumonia 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.

“This final shipment completes our promise to donate one million doses of PNEUMOVAX® 23 in Nicaragua, and speaks to MSD’s commitment to work with others in public and private partnerships to make vaccines accessible to people around the world, and help broaden access to vaccines in developing countries,” said Ricardo Pellegrino, Managing Director, MSD Central America and Dominican Republic.  

As part of the program, Project HOPE staff in Nicaragua has been working with MINSA 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.

Project HOPE and Merck have also been working with the Ministry of Health in neighboring Honduras to vaccinate hundreds of thousands of people with PNEUMOVAX® 23 in the nation’s national vaccination program.  More than 1,273,000 people in Honduras and Nicaragua have received the vaccine in the two programs so far.

Project HOPE has managed active humanitarian assistance programs in Central and South America and the Caribbean for many years.  In Nicaragua, HOPE has implemented maternal and child health programs strengthening local health care capacity in child nutrition, pneumonia case management, immunization and Vitamin A supplementation.  Project HOPE has also operated a Village Health Bank Initiative in Nicaragua that provided microcredit and education to raise awareness about domestic violence, HIV and sexually transmitted infection vulnerability to more than 2,000 women and their partners. 

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.  For more information, please visit www.projecthope.org.

Media Contact

Geraldine Carroll +1-540-257-3746 gcarroll@projecthope.org

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