Steve Davis, President and CEO of PATH.
In the past two decades, we’ve seen tremendous evidence of the power of vaccines to save lives and improve health. As the leader in global health innovation, PATH works across the spectrum from development to delivery, accelerating innovations in vaccines and other areas into better health and opportunity for all. But we can’t do it alone. Vaccines protect children from early death and disability, but to ensure that they are safe, effective, affordable, and accessible requires not only a village—it takes a coordinated and committed global community of scientists, policy makers, advocates, regulators, medical workers, and caregivers.
There is an African proverb that says, “If you want to walk fast, walk alone; if you want to walk far, walk together.” PATH was one of the founding members at the inception of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance in 2000, and has been a partner ever since. It is estimated that 7 million lives have been saved due to Gavi and its partners’ efforts to finance, deliver, and accelerate access to vaccines in its first 15 years, but it is only through walking together in partnership that PATH, Gavi, and a multitude of global partners have been able to contribute to such far-reaching reductions in child mortality and disease through innovations across the vaccine spectrum. The stories of vaccines against meningitis A and Japanese encephalitis are two examples of innovation and partnership in action.
In 1996 and 1997, more than 25,000 people died and more than 250,000 were sickened in sub-Saharan Africa during the largest epidemic of meningitis recorded in history. In addition to those it killed, the epidemic left behind a tragic wake of permanently disabled survivors. Thanks to the 2010 introduction of MenAfriVac®, a meningitis A vaccine developed by the Serum Institute of India with PATH, WHO, and a consortium of partners, more than 215 million people have now received protection from this disease. With support from Gavi, the vaccine has been introduced at large scale in 15 African countries, and not a single case of meningitis A has been reported among those vaccinated.
Nigerian children wave their immunization cards during a meningitis vaccination campaign. Credit: GAVI/Ed Harris.
We also turned the tide against Japanese encephalitis (JE), a devastating brain infection spread by a virus transmitted by mosquito bites, which kills up to 30 percent of its victims and leaves thousands more with permanent brain injuries. The turning point happened in 2013, when WHO gave a critical stamp of approval to a low-cost JE vaccine developed by the Chengdu Institute of Biological Products in China. This achievement, fueled by PATH’s support to ensure a consistent, high-quality supply of an existing vaccine, led to the vaccination of more than 200 million people. Now, with Gavi’s help in providing JE vaccine support for low-income countries with a high JE burden, we can save millions more from a deadly disease.
As these cases illustrate, it takes strong and innovative partnerships to develop and deliver vaccines. Those saved from meningitis A and JE are among the millions of people who have benefited from vaccines. But as much progress as we’ve made, we have much more to do.
While new vaccine introductions and current vaccination programs are saving lives each year, it’s not just developing and introducing vaccines that matters. The vaccines need to be delivered to the right people, in the right place, at the right time, and in the right condition. This is at the heart of Gavi’s 2016-2020 strategy and of PATH’s core values: employing the power of innovation and partnerships to ensure that the world’s most vulnerable are protected through equitable access to vaccines. This requires advanced and innovative supply chain systems, including vaccine transportation and storage solutions as well as ways to track supplies and vaccination coverage with accurate data.
Through the Better Immunization Data (BID) Initiative launched in 2013, PATH is empowering countries to enhance immunization and overall health service delivery through improved data collection, quality, and use. Gavi is a key partner to the BID Initiative, supporting the development and testing of new barcode technology in Tanzania.
Gavi’s support to programs such as the BID Initiative and the rollouts of MenAfriVac® and the JE vaccine is a small part of its large portfolio of plans for increasing immunization coverage of ten essential vaccines and strengthening the health systems that deliver them. Gavi’s upcoming replenishment conference on January 27th aims to mobilize US$7.5 billion to save 5 to 6 million lives through the immunization of 300 million children in the world’s poorest countries between 2016 and 2020. Because of Gavi’s holistic and partnership-based approach to immunization, the 5 to 6 million additional saved lives will also mean improved supply chains, more equitable coverage of existing vaccines, and rapid access to much-needed new vaccines for diseases such as Ebola—all of which will be fueled by innovation and global collaboration.
PATH celebrates 15 years of partnership with Gavi in creating access to lifesaving vaccines and strong immunization systems that reach all children everywhere, and we look forward to continuing that partnership and to seeing global leaders stand with us in support of child health later this month. By continuing to walk together, let’s see just how far we can go.
Steve’s blog was kindly written in support of the Gavi pledging conference, which will take place on January 27th 2015, in Berlin.
To find out more about this opportunity to reach every child with life-saving vaccines, visit the event’s home page.