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Prime Minister Julia Gillard has agreed with New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, to provide support for the development of a potential vaccine for rheumatic fever. In a joint statement the Prime Ministers agreed to provide A$2.4 million in matched funding over two years to support a Trans-Tasman collaboration. Ms Gillard 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.'
The University of Western Australia and its affiliate, the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research have welcomed the commitment. The Director of the Telethon Institute, Professor Jonathan Carapetis, said while rheumatic heart disease is now rare in wealthy countries, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Maori and Pacific communities have among the highest rates of the disease in the world.
‘While treatments for patients with rheumatic heart disease are improving, it's critical that we stop the disease from occurring in the first place and the quickest way to achieve that will be with a rheumatic fever vaccine,' Professor Carapetis said. ‘A vaccine resulting from this initiative will not only be critical in eradicating this disease in Australia and New Zealand - a disease of yesteryear for most, but not for Indigenous people - but will also be a vaccine for the world.'
Sources: Prime Minister of Australia Press Office and University of Western Australia University News