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Audrey Hepburn Discusses Vaccinating Children
CBS This Morning, October 8, 1991

HARRY SMITH, co-host:

It is 20 minutes until the hour. It is not often we can report good news about the world's poorest children, but we can this morning. UNICEF says it's reached its 1990 goal of having immunized 80 percent of these kids against the worst childhood diseases. UNICEF health workers have trekked to the most remote corners of the globe, and vaccinated kids against killer diseases like measles, and UNICEF spokeswoman Audrey Hepburn is often there right alongside them. And Audrey Hepburn joins us again this morning. Good morning.

AUDREY HEPBURN (UNICEF): Good morning, Larry. Thank you for having me again.

SMITH: We have talked so many times...

HEPBURN: So many times.

SMITH: the past, and so often about so much bad news. Tell us the good news this morning.

HEPBURN: Well, the good news is, you had just said, if you figure that in1974 less than 5 percent of the children in the developing world were immunized against all the diseases, our children are protected against, and our goal was to achieve in 1990 80 percent, and we have achieved that goal, and the story is mind-boggling, because it's been the most monumental global mobilization. As you said, UNICEF, but let us not forget all the extraordinary non-governmental agencies that have raised money, the health workers in the field, everywhere all over the world in the most isolated areas.

SMITH: Let's talk a little bit about the bear bones of this. What diseases are we talking about, just to begin with?

HEPBURN: What we call the six killer diseases, which is tuberculosis, tetanus, polio, which sometimes killed, but most often maimed the child for life, which is so terrible, diphtheria--what am I forgetting?

SMITH: Measles we already talked about, right.

HEPBURN: Measles. Measles. Yes.

SMITH: Yeah. How difficult is it...

HEPBURN: Tetanus.

SMITH: Yeah. How difficult is it to get some of these vaccines to these different parts of the world, because we think of our world and how easy it is to communicate.

HEPBURN: It is almost impossible very often, because if you think that you have to reach tiny hamlets up in the mountains, somewhere nowhere and yet get two children, out in the desert of Africa. I once helped raise money to buy camels, so that the vaccines could be transported across the huge distances of the Chad where they have very few paved roads, and these vaccines were taken to these nomadic tribes in solar energy boxes on the backs of camels, that's how we get it to them.

SMITH: To keep the--keep the vaccines cool.

HEPBURN: Cool. Yes. And, of course, now our great ambition, and that, too, will happen, is to raise enough money for the so-called supervaccine, which would be a one-time vaccine against all the diseases, because now, of course, we've achieved this with--but the big deal is to keep it going, to get the boosters.

SMITH: Yeah. 'Cause once...

HEPBURN: It would also make it cheaper, because basically a dollar's worth of vaccines will vaccinate a child for life. It costs you $ 15 by the time of the transportation and the refrigeration and so forth. In some countries, like Botswana, who by the way reached their goal long before many other countries, a country that is that poor, with-with people so scattered all over the country, there, because of the distances and everything, it has cost them $ 35 per child. And yet they did it with their own funds, and with our help, of course, but the--wherever there is political commitment, wherever the governments are behind the immunization campaign, they have always succeeded.

SMITH: Isn't that the great difficulty, and we talked about that in the last half-hour with Dionne Warwick and Winnie Mandela. There's so much political strife that even with the best of intentions, how do you get past all these different factions?

HEPBURN: People. People, commitment and, consequently, political commitment. If you think that in Iran--they reached their goal also very early during their--their war. So if a government wants to do it and the people are mobilized--and in Botswana they did it with hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren going from house to house, finding out if children had been vaccinated, which had not been. If a country mobilizes, it can be done, and finally for very little money.

SMITH: Nice to see you again, especially with this good news this morning.

HEPBURN: Can I tell you one more thing. When we speak of money, Rotary International raised $ 3/4 billion for immunization, and that's an extraordinary example of what people can do.