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Millwood, VA, April 22, 2013

Project HOPE and Merck, a leader in global healthcare, known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada have joined forces to vaccinate 1.7 million people in Nicaragua and Honduras against pneumococcal infections, a major cause of pneumonia, meningitis and serious sinus conditions, and have also made major strides in improving health infrastructure, treatment and access to  medical equipment in the two countries. More than 1,273,000 people have received PNEUMOVAX® 23 in the HOPE-Merck project in the two countries since 2010.

The Virginia-based humanitarian organization and Merck have delivered the final shipment of 200,000 doses of the vaccine PNEUMOVAX® 23 (Pneumococcal Vaccine Polyvalent) to Nicaragua as part of a national campaign to vaccinate vulnerable individuals.

The partners have also collaborated in neighboring Honduras to support the country's national vaccination program.

In August 2010, the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health (MINSA), in collaboration with Project HOPE and Merck, launched 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.

Merck 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.  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.”

More than 670,000 doses were delivered to Honduras and more than 1,200 health workers received training.

“Hundreds of thousands of our citizens are benefitting from Project HOPE’s expertise and Merck’s generous donation,” said Dr. Ida Berenice Molina, Manager of the National Vaccines Program at the Honduran Ministry of Health.  “With this final shipment, many more vulnerable people will be protected from this serious illness.”

Project HOPE staff in Nicaragua and Honduras have been working with the Ministries of Health in both countries and community health groups to raise awareness and knowledge about pneumococcal disease and its prevention.  Prevention is crucial as certain pneumococcal bacteria are becoming more resistant to common antibiotics making them harder and more costly to treat.

“These donations to Nicaragua and Honduras speak 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.

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 worldwide every year.

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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