Child immunization round the world hits all-time high

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Childhood immunization rates reached an all-time high around the world last year and vaccine development is booming, the World Health Organization and the World Bank said in a report Wednesday.

Despite the record 106 million vaccinations the report said 24 million children were deprived access to immunization programs.

The two organizations said an estimated one billion dollars in additional funds are needed to make available new and existing vaccines to children in 72 of the world's poorest nations.

In a statement accompanying the report, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan stressed the importance of overcoming "the divide that separates rich from poor -- between those who get life-saving vaccines and those who don't."

Chan extolled the unparalleled role of vaccines in preventing the spread of diseases, such as the avian and swine flus, and urged everyone to take up the challenge of making them accessible to populations most at risk.

"The influenza pandemic draws attention to the promise and dynamism of vaccine development today," she said.

"Yet it reminds us once again of the obstacles to bringing the benefits of science to people in the poorest nations."

United Nations Children's Fund Executive Director Ann Veneman said "worldwide measles deaths fell by 74 percent between 2000 and 2007, and vaccinations played an important part in that decline."

"Such progress must inspire new efforts to immunize children around the globe against life-threatening diseases," she added.

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