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‘Vaccine diplomacy’ to launch in North Korea

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Jan 14,2008
John Clemens
The International Vaccine Institute, a Seoul-based international organization that develops and produces vaccines for developing countries, will begin innoculating an estimated 6,000 North Korean children against bacterial meningitis and Japanese encephalitis later this month, John Clemens, the director general of the institute, said in an interview with the JoongAng Daily.
Clemens, who has spearheaded the $500,000 project since last May, said vaccines can build understanding, and the latest project will help establish “vaccine diplomacy” between South and North Korea, too.
“One thing people commonly do not recognize is that malnutrition is a problem not only of not enough food. Infectious diseases, especially diarrheal diseases, are a major exacerbator of malnutrition in children,” he said. Clemens and four other researchers at the institute have visited North Korea since October to set up programs to vaccinate 3,000 children each in Nampo and Sariwon, near Pyongyang. “Food is obviously essential in addressing malnutrition, but we need to tackle both supply of food and control of infectious diseases.”
Clemens stressed that vital vaccines have often been used as a tool to forge peace in the most conflict-ravaged areas.
“Because vaccines are non-controversial and non-political they are an ideal mechanism to bring people together,” he said. “So we feel in a very small way that our work with North Korea is also an example of vaccine diplomacy, and we have a very good and trusting relationship with our North Korean colleagues in our joint efforts to vaccinate North Korean kids.”
The institute, established in 1999 and headquartered in South Korea, develops vaccines against diseases common in developing countries.


By Jung Ha-won Staff Reporter [hawon@joongang.co.kr]


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