NEW YORK–In a critical step toward launching an ambitious immunization initiative for the Republic of Armenia–the Ani &Narod Memorial Fund announced it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Health to pilot Armenia Immunization 2000 (AI2K).
Supported by an ANMF administered endowment–AI2K will provide–on a long-term sustainable basis–vaccines to Armenia’s children. While Armenia’s immediate vaccination needs are supplied by international organizations–AI2K at first will support those vaccine programs recommended by the World Health Organization that fall within the context of the National Immunization Program of the health ministry but are not presently supplied to Armenia on a sustainable basis. The memorandum specifically refers to the vaccines for Hepatitis B and Mumps.
"We are delighted by the ingenuity–originality and patriotic spirit of AI2K. It is a unique–self-sustaining solution to a challenge of the highest order – the immunization of our next generation against unnecessary infection by preventable diseases. Immunization is one of the most cost-effective forms of preventive health care and we applaud the ANMF for spearheading this effort for the benefit of our nation’s youth," said Dr. Haik Nikoghossian–Minister of Health of Armenia.
Hepatitis B is a viral infection that can cause serious and sometimes fatal liver disease. The virus is 40 to 100 times more infectious than the HIV.
"The Hepatitis B vaccine has been available in the western world since 1982–and was added to Armenia’s National Immunization program recently. While its cost has substantially decreased over the years–Armenia’still cannot afford it–" said Dr. Margarita Balassanian–head of the National Program of Immunization. "Vaccinating all newborns with three shots of the vaccine provides long-term immunity and prevents infection and its complications. When administered correctly–the vaccine is 95 percent effective."
In 1991–WHO recommended that all countries add Hepatitis B to their immunization programs–but only 100 developing countries did so.Although not life threatening in nature–the Mumps infection causes significant discomfort and potential serious complications in older children. According to Sevak Avagyan–Deputy Minister of Health–AI2K is a timely solution to an impending Mumps epidemic in the country. "The disease and its complications are a serious public health problem and need to be addressed immediately," said Avagyan.
The AI2K endowment will be designed to provide a steady stream of income as an adjunct to government funds and international aid to purchase the Hepatitis B and Mumps vaccines. The program also will facilitate the procurement and transportation of all immunization related supplies–such as syringes. AI2K will enable immunization of an average of 50,000 newborns per year in Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh.
"In a small country like Armenia–with an existing medical infrastructure and a "working" immunization program–AI2K will create a bigger and better immunization program and serve as a model for other developing countries," said Seda Aghamianz–Program Manager of AI2K. "The program is very doable. We are focused and committed to execute our plan and make a real difference in the lives of thousands of children for generations to come."
According to Aghamianz–the program is the result of more than six months of due diligence and a feasibility study funded by ANMF and the Cafesjian Family Foundation. A Medical Advisory Council comprised of health care professionals will advise AI2K and guide its program once the endowment is raised. "In the coming months–AI2K will forge strategic alliances with many key partners that will complement our capabilities," added Aghamianz.
However–the program’s first challenge will be to build up its endowment over the next 12-18 months and leverage funding from governmen’s–corporations and the private sector. By building an endowment for the program–ANMF will show donors that it is serious about its mission of providing long-term–sustainable vaccine supplies and will ensure a more stable future for Armenia’s immunization programs. The AI2K fund’s goal is to reach a minimum commitment of $2 million.
For more information about AI2K or to find out how you can support this unique initiative–write to AI2K c/o ANMF–PO Box 8131–New York–NY 10150 or email to ANMF@aol.com. AI2K is a program of the Ani & Narod Memorial Fund–a private non-profit operating foundation established in 1994 in the memory of Ani and Narod Ardhaldjian. AI2K is an endowment of ANMF to help sustain supplies of vaccines to Armenia. Headquartered in New York–ANMF was established to serve a broader mission of helping Armenian women and children live happier and fuller lives.