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PETERSBURG. As of January 2015, the Russian government has included the life-saving pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) in the routine vaccination schedule for all infants and financed the procurement and availability of PCV throughout the Russian Federation. A pilot PCV vaccination program of infants in St. Petersburg organized by the Rostropovich-Vishnevskaya Foundation (RVF) served as a model for the nationwide program.

Elena Rostropovich visits with a mother and daughter at a pediatric hospital in Russia

Elena Rostropovich visits with a mother and daughter at a pediatric hospital in Russia

The WHO estimates that every year over 800,000 children under 5 years of age worldwide die of vaccine-preventable pneumococcal diseases, including pneumonia, meningitis and bacteremia. In developing countries, pneumonia accounts for 25% of overall child mortality. The WHO recommends that countries provide PCV to all infants as part of their routine vaccination schedule.

As a first step to introducing PCV in the Russian Federation, the RVF, in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and the St. Petersburg Health Committee, launched a pilot PCV vaccination program for all babies born in St. Petersburg in 2013. Pfizer Inc. and its Russian partner Petrovax donated PCV13 for the program to the RVF. Nearly 30,000 infants were vaccinated. Administrative costs of the pilot program were covered by the energy company Weatherford International, Inc., which has supported many of the RVF’s successful children’s health initiatives in the Russian Federation.

In keeping with the RVF policy of creating sustainable programs that build local capacity, St. Petersburg health authorities have assumed full responsibility for implementing the program, including the distribution of the vaccine to pediatric clinics across St. Petersburg, safe vaccine storage and administration of the vaccine to infants, and accurate record keeping. RVF has worked closely with the St. Petersburg Health Committee to conduct training seminars for clinicians and develop educational materials for parents to maximize vaccination coverage rates.

The RVF is continuing its longstanding partnership with Russian health authorities to ensure that all children in the country have access to modern vaccines.

An English translation of the associated press release from the Russian Federation’s Federal Service on Consumer’s Rights Protection and Human Well-Being Surveillance (Rospotrebnadzor) can be found here.