CDC official visiting PATH sees innovation in immunization

A man holds out a plastic box to a woman, who takes it in one hand.

Rebecca Martin of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and PATH’s Pat Lennon examine a prototype of housing for the FoneAstra milk banking monitor during Dr. Martin’s visit to our headquarters. Photo: PATH/Patrick McKern.

Guest contributor Dr. Rebecca Martin, director of the US Centers for Disease Controls’ (CDC) Global Immunization Division, recently visited our Seattle headquarters.

Diseases know no borders. A person with measles in an airplane today can lead to an outbreak of measles in the United States one week later—something that’s been happening in record numbers this year.

To achieve its mission of working 24/7 to protect Americans from threats to health, safety, and security, CDC focuses on improving global health. The vision of CDC’s Global Heath Strategy is a world where people live healthier, safer, and longer lives through science, policy, partnership, and evidence-based public health action.

From smallpox eradication to polio elimination

CDC has been engaged in global health for nearly 60 years—from smallpox and cholera outbreaks in the 1950s to the eradication of smallpox in 1979 to certification of the elimination of polio in the Americas in 1994 to current efforts in global polio eradication and regional measles elimination.

As the director of the Global Immunization Division (GID) at CDC, I have the privilege of working with over 150 world-class scientists and public health experts toward achieving our vision: a world without vaccine-preventable disease, disability, and death.

A focus on partnership, collaboration

GID is committed to working with partners toward achieving six priority goals, defined in CDC’s Global Immunization Framework 2011–2015. GID contributes to achieving CDC’s global immunization goals through its collaboration with the World Health Organization and UNICEF, universities, nongovernmental organizations, and most importantly, directly with governments.

We recognize the importance of leadership by ministries of health and the need for country ownership for long-term sustainability and growth of national immunization programs. We work towards eradicating polio, eliminating measles, and controlling other targeted vaccine-preventable diseases and reducing related disease, disability, and death. We collaborate and provide technical expertise to ministries of health in strengthening immunization systems—including strengthening disease surveillance, the workforce, and the performance of immunization programs—to deliver quality and timely services and to detect disease and respond rapidly.

Immunization and more

GID also works on ensuring synthesis between immunization programs and other public health interventions. This has included providing vitamin A supplementation, deworming tablets, and insecticide-treated nets with measles or polio vaccine in supplemental immunization activities, and collaborating with water, sanitation, and hygiene initiatives to support the use of oral cholera vaccine in Haiti.

All of our work is done through the continual development and strengthening of partnerships that maximize coordination and leverage strengths toward achieving the immunization goals, which are all aligned with the strategic goals and objectives of the Global Vaccine Action Plan under the Decade of Vaccines.

Seeing innovation on a visit to PATH

In the past 20 years of working in immunization in the United States, Africa, and Europe, I have had the opportunity to be actively engaged in and experience the impact of new vaccine and delivery device development, innovation in the field, and the engagement of new partners. Walking through the product testing and development laboratory at PATH, I saw models of needle cutters that we had conducted operational research on in Eritrea and Ethiopia.

I was also reminded of PATH’s work in scaling up the use of vaccine vial monitors and autodisable syringes. These have been major advancements in providing quality vaccines and safe injections. With over 1 billion vaccinated against measles globally through supplemental immunization activities, autodisable syringes have had a major impact on ensuring safe injections.

I was extremely impressed by PATH, and by the organization’s strong and broad vaccine platform. I look forward to strengthening existing collaborations with PATH while creating new technical collaborations toward the achievement of the Decade of Vaccines vision: delivering universal access to immunization. All children deserve a shot at a healthy life, no matter where they are.

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