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Contact: Deborah Phillips, PATH, 206.285.3500, dphillips@path.org.

Kampong Chham, Cambodia, October 9, 2009—PATH applauds the Government of Cambodia on today’s launch of an immunization program to protect infants against Japanese encephalitis (JE). JE immunization will begin on a small scale, with JE vaccine provided through the public sector as part of routine childhood immunization services in Kampong Cham, Svay Rieng, and Takeo provinces. Through 2010, more than 100,000 infants will receive JE vaccine. The program will be expanded nationwide in the future, protecting more than 400,000 children each year thereafter.

JE is a severe disease that causes encephalitis, or infection of the brain, and there is no specific treatment. The JE virus is carried by mosquitoes and infects up to 50,000 people every year in Asia, mostly children—one-third of those infected die and another third are left with severe neurological disability. Human immunization is the only way to prevent JE infection.

Since 2006, together with the National Immunization Program, the National Institute of Public Health, PATH, and the World Health Organization, the Communicable Disease Control Department has conducted JE surveillance at six sentinel hospitals that confirmed JE as endemic in Cambodia. Cambodian officials developed a plan for JE vaccine introduction, prompted by these and other data—including PATH-supported studies on disability among JE survivors and cost-effectiveness of vaccine, along with the success of immunization programs in other countries of the region—to ensure protection for Cambodian children at greatest risk.

Infants will receive JE vaccine one month after receiving measles vaccine. The live, attenuated SA 14-14-2 JE vaccine, manufactured by the Chengdu Institute of Biological Products, China, is being used for the national program. This vaccine requires one dose and is highly effective and safe, demonstrated through 20 years of experience in childhood immunization programs. In addition to China, the SA 14-14-2 JE vaccine is also licensed and used in India, Nepal, South Korea, North Korea, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. A committee in Cambodia will monitor adverse events following immunization and use of the vaccine as part of routine services.

About PATH’s Japanese Encephalitis Project

PATH’s Japanese Encephalitis Project partners with global and regional organizations, ministries of health, research institutions, and universities to improve disease surveillance, accelerate development of an improved vaccine, and integrate JE vaccine into immunization programs in Asia. The project is funded through a generous grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. For more information, visit www.path.org/JE.

About PATH

PATH is an international, nonprofit organization that creates sustainable, culturally relevant solutions that enable communities worldwide to break longstanding cycles of poor health. By collaborating with diverse public- and private-sector partners, PATH helps provide appropriate health technologies and vital strategies that change the way people think and act. PATH’s work improves global health and well-being. For more information, visit www.path.org.