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$3 million pledge to combat Rheumatic Fever

$3 million pledge to combat Rheumatic Fever

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, meeting in Queenstown for their annual talks, today announced that the two governments will provide $3 million in matched funding over the next two years to support the identification of a potential vaccine for Rheumatic Fever.

Rheumatic Fever may lead to long term heart damage known as Rheumatic Heart Disease.

In New Zealand, Rheumatic Heart Disease kills about 150 people per year, while hospitalisation costs alone for Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease are around $12 million. The prevalence rate of Rheumatic Fever among indigenous Australians was 25 times as high as for other Australians.

Mr Key said that the agreement follows reports that both Prime Ministers received from their Chief Science Advisers.

“Rheumatic Fever is a significant issue for Māori, Pacific, Australian Aboriginal, and Torres Strait Islander communities and an effective vaccine would be a major step forward for the health of these communities in both countries and across the Pacific,” Mr Key said.

“This joint Australian and New Zealand Government investment will fund the evaluation of three potential vaccine candidates currently under development to identify one that could then proceed to clinical trials,” Ms Gillard explained.

Governments will await the outcomes of this research before considering any further support for on-going development of a Rheumatic Fever vaccine, including clinical trials.

The Prime Ministers noted that that this was an important step in trans-Tasman scientific collaboration, jointly sharing costs and harnessing scientific minds from both Australia and New Zealand to try to find solutions to common challenges.

ends

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