Pneumonia: smart vaccines to fight the number one child killer

Two young children, one with her arm around the other.

Pneumonia kills more young children than any other disease—about 1 million every year. Photo: PATH/Mike Wang.

Guest contributor Laura Anderson is an editor at PATH.

Each year, more than 2 million children die from just four illnesses: malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea caused by rotavirus, and Japanese encephalitis. To mark World Immunization Week, we’re profiling vaccine projects in our extensive portfolio that aim to protect children from these illnesses. Today, we look at the need for a new kind of vaccine against pneumonia. 

Graphic with text reading, "International Immunization Week 2014. Four vaccines, millions saved: malaria, pneumonia, rotavirus, Japanese encephalitis."

Illustration: PATH/Shawn Kavon.

The challenge

Pneumonia kills more children worldwide than any other disease. Last year, it took the lives of more than a million children—3,000 every day—primarily in the world’s poorest countries.

Poor access to sanitation and safe drinking water, a lack of health care, and inadequate diagnostic tools all contribute to pneumonia’s toll. Often, parents don’t recognize children’s symptoms in time, and when they do, lifesaving care may be miles—or even days—from their homes.

Meeting these challenges requires a combination of approaches. For more than ten years, vaccines have been a particularly powerful ally. Last year, immunization against the leading cause of pneumonia, the pneumococcus bacterium, saved thousands of lives in more than 100 countries. Yet existing vaccines are complicated to manufacture, too expensive for many low-resource countries, and don’t offer complete protection against disease. To beat pneumonia, we need to keep improving our tools. Continue reading »

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Malaria: is vaccine against a parasite possible?

Five smiling mothers hold their young children on their laps while health workers look on.

These children in Tanzania are among more than 15,000 African children participating in a phase 3 trial of RTS,S, the most clinically advanced malaria vaccine candidate. Photo: PATH/David Poland.

Each year, more than 2 million children die from just four illnesses: malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea caused by rotavirus, and Japanese encephalitis. To mark World Immunization Week, we’re profiling vaccine projects in our extensive portfolio that aim to protect children from these illnesses. Today, World Malaria Day, we look at progress toward a vaccine that promises to be the first to provide humans with protection from a parasite.

Graphic with text reading, "World Immunization Week 2014. Four vaccines, millions saved: malaria, pneumonia, rotavirus, Japanese encephalitis."

Illustration: PATH/Shawn Kavon.

The challenge

How do you stop a complex and adaptable killer that has survived for millennia?

Malaria is responsible for the deaths of more than 600,000 people each year, mostly children in sub-Saharan Africa. And every year, it sickens some 200 million others. While drugs and insecticides save millions of lives, the mosquito-borne malaria parasite is developing resistance to both. A safe, effective, and affordable malaria vaccine could close the gap in interventions.

The vaccine

A vaccine that protects people from a human parasite has never been developed before, and until recently, many people thought it was impossible. But PATH, through our Malaria Vaccine Initiative, is working with many partners to accomplish an important goal of the malaria community: develop a first-generation vaccine that cuts the number of episodes of malaria in young children by about half, with protection lasting for more than one year. Continue reading »

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Our goal: defeat malaria forever

Woman holding toddler in her mud-brick home, standing in front of a bednet hung above a mattress.

Sharon Atieno shares a mosquito net with her husband and two-year-old son, Ronald. Photo: PATH/Eric Becker.

Guest contributors Dr. Carlos C. (Kent) Campbell and Bindiya Patel wrote this post to commemorate World Malaria Day. Kent is leader of our Malaria Control Program. Bindiya is a strategy officer at PATH.

Portraits of Kent Campbell and Bindiya Patel

Kent Campbell and Bindiya Patel. Photo: PATH.

Ending malaria is a priority at PATH, and we are proud to be a key contributor to an emerging global campaign that is intensifying the control of malaria illnesses and deaths around the world.

PATH’s portfolio of malaria programs has grown exponentially since our first malaria projects were launched in the 1990s. The span of our program experience, expertise, and available technologies has expanded to meet the rising opportunity to stop transmission of malaria infections altogether.

PATH now employs 115 staff across a diverse portfolio of malaria projects, working with 29 countries and a combined annual budget of $79 million. We take a multipronged approach in fighting the disease through optimizing the use of current strategies and technologies, developing the next generation of tools, and working with countries to demonstrate how to rapidly bring down childhood and maternal deaths from malaria—with the ultimate goal of eliminating the disease community by community.

We can’t stop at malaria control

Not only is PATH’s goal to intensify the development of strategies and tools to reduce the burden of malaria and build toward the eventual elimination of the disease, our experiences over the years have shown us that this must be the long-term goal of all malaria programs, partners, and endemic countries.

Defeating  malaria—and forever ending the well-documented risk of resurgence—is the only long-term goal. Some may argue that sustained control of the spread of malaria is more feasible or cheaper, but simply put, malaria control is not and cannot be an endpoint. Rather, it is part of the natural evolution of malaria programs as they move from an initial phase of scaling up efforts to achieving significant reductions in malaria illnesses and deaths and eventually clearing malaria infections in all people. Continue reading »

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10 reasons vaccines are the best protector of human life

Schoolgirl with a broad smile recieves a shot in her upper arm as her schoolmates watch.

Every year, vaccines save the lives of between 2 and 3 million children. Photo: PATH/Aaron Joel Santos.

Immunization is one of the most powerful health interventions ever introduced. Every year, the World Health Organization estimates, vaccines save between two and three million children from killers such as polio, measles, pneumonia, and rotavirus diarrhea.

To mark World Immunization Week, which begins tomorrow, over the next week we’re reporting on the lifesaving potential of vaccines against four illnesses that kill more than 2 million young children a year: malaria, pneumonia, rotavirus, and Japanese encephalitis. Today, Dr. John Boslego, director of our Vaccine Development Program, gets us started with his list of the top 10 ways vaccines make a difference for children and for global health. His post originally appeared on our sister blog, DefeatDD.

Graphic with text, "World Immunization Week 2014, four vaccines, millions saved, malaria, pneumonia, rotavirus, Japanese encephalitis."

Illustration: PATH/Shawn Kavon.

No. 10: Vaccines lower the risk of getting other diseases.

Portrait of John Boslego.

Dr. John Boslego. Photo: PATH.

Contracting some diseases can make getting other ones easier. For example, being sick with influenza can make you more vulnerable to pneumonia caused by other organisms. The best way to avoid coinfections is to prevent the initial infection through vaccination.

No. 9: They keep people healthier longer.

Some vaccines protect people for a limited time and require booster doses; others protect for a lifetime. Either way, vaccinated people are much safer from many serious diseases than people who haven’t been vaccinated, both in the short and long term. Continue reading »

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Innovative partnership connects kids, vaccine in Laos

A pair of hands holding a small photograph of a boy.

A Laotian father holds a photograph of his eldest son, who died of Japanese encephalitis at age 13. Photo: PATH/Aaron Joel Santos.

Guest contributor Monica Graham is a communications officer with our Vaccine Access and Delivery Program.

Thanks to an innovative partnership between Microsoft employees and PATH, thousands of children in Laos no longer face the possibility of severe, lifelong brain injury or even death from Japanese encephalitis (JE). Earlier this month they were vaccinated against the disease—the single most effective method of prevention.

PATH and our partners have been working for more than a decade to identify and accelerate the delivery of an affordable JE vaccine with the power to protect millions of children. In Laos, they needed a way to get the vaccine from its manufacturer in China to the children in their villages. Microsoft and its employees stepped forward with a creative campaign that let employees who took part in a health screening designate a donation toward providing the vaccinations in Laos. Their support helped pay for transporting the vaccine.

Two weeks ago, I watched as the first children gathered for vaccinations at a primary school in Xiangkhouang Province, and followed along as the campaign moved from village to village and district to district. Here is some of what I saw:

A large crowd of schoolchildren walks through white awnings. A banner behind them advertises a vaccination campaign.

Photo: PATH/Aaron Joel Santos.

On the first morning of the Japanese encephalitis vaccination campaign in Xiangkhouang Province, children gathered at the Sibounheuang primary school to get their shots. More than 500 children received protection from  life-threatening infection at the campaign launch.

A schoolgirl sits in a white plastic chair as a health worker administers vaccine in the girl's arm.

Photo: PATH/Aaron Joel Santos.

Orladee, a nurse at the Pek district health center in Xiangkhouang, spent her day administering vaccines to the schoolchildren.

Man drives motorbike on a dirt road. A woman on the back of the motorbike holds a cold storage box.

Photo: PATH/Aaron Joel Santos.

In order to reach rural villages, the vaccine must be transported in cold storage boxes by motorbike.

Health worker injects vaccine into the upper arm of a young boy while another smiling boy watches.

Photo: PATH/Aaron Joel Santos.

Wa Meng, a father who lost his eldest son to Japanese encephalitis, made sure the rest of his family received protection when the vaccination campaign came to his village of Khonkandone.

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Cervical cancer vaccines: will our best hopes be realized?

Guest contributor Vivien Tsu is director of PATH’s Cervical Cancer Prevention Project and associate director of our Reproductive Health Program.

Portrait of Vivien Tsu.

Vivien Tsu. Photo: PATH/Doune Porter.

Our worst fear back in 2006—when the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine against cervical cancer finally came to market at a whopping $120 per dose—was that the girls who most needed it would be the ones least likely to get it.

More than 85 percent of cervical cancer cases occur in low- and middle-income countries, especially in Africa and Asia. Those same countries find it difficult to offer screening services, like Pap smears and HPV tests, that have nearly eliminated cervical cancer in wealthy countries. How would these countries ever be able to afford an expensive vaccine? Furthermore, could immunization programs geared to vaccinating babies effectively reach young adolescent girls? And would parents’ concern about cervical cancer caused by HPV override their hesitation to mention a sexually transmitted infection to their young daughters?

Easing the way for immunization

Group of girls in light blue uniforms stand, some holding their upper arms, before a man at a desk filling out records. Photo: PATH/Robin Biellik.

Schoolgirls in Uganda line up after receiving HPV vaccine. PATH/Robin Biellik.

The GAVI Alliance, an international organization that helps low-resource countries introduce needed new vaccines, greatly eased the first problem when they began offering HPV vaccine in 2012. Using the power of bulk purchasing, GAVI and UNICEF worked together to get the vaccine at a lower price. GAVI offered it to qualified countries for 20 cents a dose—and sometimes for free.

Meanwhile, groundbreaking work by PATH to understand cultural issues and to demonstrate and evaluate strategies for delivering the vaccine helped answer the other questions. Yes, the countries could reach the right girls and yes, once they understood the issue, parents would flock to protect their daughters against a deadly cancer. Continue reading »

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New infographic: 9 ways to improve child survival

Drawing of man and woman gazing adoringly at newborn held by woman.

Drawing of doctor with stethoscope examining pregnant woman on a table while man looks proudly on.

Obstetric care: 1.4 million deaths among mothers and newborns and stillbirths could be prevented each year by providing high-quality care during labor and delivery at a cost of less than $1 per person in the general population. Illustration: PATH.

Too often, proper care and lifesaving health tools and innovations are not within reach for women and newborns in low- and middle-income countries. While great progress has been made to improve child health across the globe, one area that continues to lag behind is newborn survival.

Today, newborn deaths make up a growing proportion of under-five mortality: 44 percent of all deaths among children younger than five years old happen during the first 28 days of life.

Yet, the majority of maternal and newborn deaths can be prevented with the delivery of existing interventions across the reproductive, maternal, and newborn health continuum of care.

Drawing of beaming man and woman, woman holding a newborn.

Foundation for the future: Healthy mothers and newborns lay the foundation for healthy families and communities. Taking simple steps to support maternal and newborn survival is a cost-effective way to ensure babies can grow into healthy children and mothers live to celebrate their children’s birthdays. Illustration: PATH.

We’ve created an infographic to serve as an easy-to-understand advocacy tool to show why US investments in the reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child continuum of care will help end preventable newborn deaths. Download the full-size infographic (1.7 MB PDF).

Preventable maternal and newborn deaths can be stopped. Policymakers, donors, and the global community can help through sustained investments that support evidence-based health programming and funding for research and development to advance and deliver priority health innovations.

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Here’s how smart information systems save lives

A man and a woman sit before laptop computers in an office setting.

When a digital health technology comes along that has the strength, versatility, and functional chops to break through barriers, it does a lot more than make our jobs easier—it saves lives. Photo: PATH.

Guest contributor Laura Anderson is an editor at PATH.

PATH’s work to improve health for women and children worldwide takes us to some challenging places. This includes the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where a lack of infrastructure, security, and well-functioning health systems adds complexity to even the most powerful efforts.

So when a digital health technology comes along that has the strength, versatility, and functional chops to break through barriers, it does a lot more than make our jobs easier—it saves lives.

A data management challenge

Here’s how. In 2012, PATH was leading a consortium of partners to intercept the devastating trajectory of HIV and AIDS in the DRC. With the help of more than a hundred local groups, the Integrated HIV/AIDS Project (ProVIC) was improving care and services, giving communities new tools to combat disease, and strengthening the country’s health systems.

Yet a lack of data on these efforts was quickly growing from a weak link to a critical gap. How many patients were being treated? Had they returned to clinics for lifesaving follow-up care? Were pregnant women with HIV giving birth in facilities equipped to lower their babies’ risk of infection—and if not, what was keeping them away? Facing urgent need, our partners made do with the data they could gather, but it wasn’t always enough. Continue reading »

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Social entrepreneurs: here are two rules to ensure impact

A smiling health worker reaches for three vials of vaccine.

Vaccine vial monitors (the purple circles shown on these vaccine vials)—developed by PATH, the World Health Organization, and Temptime—show when the vaccine has spoiled due to heat. Photo: PATH/Umit Kartogulu.

“Everyone talks about cross-sector partnerships, but what does it really take to effectively solve global problems and have a viable business?” asks PATH president and CEO Steve Davis on the Skoll World Forum website.

Portrait of Steve Davis.

Steve Davis. Photo: Auston James.

In advance of his participation at this week’s 11th Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship in Oxford, England, Davis wrote about two ways even the smallest entrepreneurs can make a big impact on pressing global health issues through partnership:

  • Know what’s in it for you and what’s in it for your partner.
  • Think big even when you’re small.

From PATH’s work on the vaccine vial monitor—the “world’s smartest sticker”—to a mobile phone–based sensor that can monitor safe pasteurization of breast milk, we rely on partnerships to get lifesaving solutions into people’s hands. Social entrepreneurs can tap into the expertise of PATH and other organizations to overcome product development hurdles, grow their markets, and create social good.

As Davis points out, “If you’re smart, creative, and eager, there is plenty of room at the table to turn great ideas into tremendous lifesaving solutions.”

To read the full commentary, see the Skoll World Forum website.

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A “woman of courage” reflects on a career in global health

Woman wearing purple sash with text reading "Women of Courage" stands next to smiling man.

Dr. Jacqueline Sherris and PATH cofounder Gordon Perkin at the University of Washington Women’s Center’s Women of Courage awards. Photo: University of Washington Women’s Center/Alan Abramowitz.

This month, Dr. Jacqueline Sherris, our vice president for public health impact, will leave PATH to start a global health consulting business. Jackie is internationally recognized for her expertise in global health and known as a passionate advocate for women’s and children’s health. Michele Burns, PATH’s content director and one of Jackie’s early hires, asked Jackie to reflect on the evolution of global health since she joined PATH in 1988.

Q. I understand you were named a “Woman of Courage” by the University of Washington Women’s Center recently. Congratulations!

A. Thanks. It was an honor to receive that award.

Q. Given the stature of previous honorees—such as Senator Patty Murray and former Washington Governor Christine Gregoire—this is a tremendous testament to your achievements. As you were receiving the award, which of your accomplishments stood out as the most important?

A. At PATH, I’ve been most proud of my ability to channel the tremendous capacity, skill, and knowledge we have across the organization and bring it to bear on critical global health problems. Because I have a history with the organization, I’ve been able to mobilize my networks and experience across PATH to help us move big projects forward. And it’s been so exciting to see long-term projects reach big successes, whether they’re addressing meningitis, cervical cancer, Japanese encephalitis, or HIV in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo.

I’m also proud of the people I’ve hired. I’ve been directly involved in hiring and/or mentoring a number of PATH’s current program and project leaders. If there’s a legacy I have at PATH, they’re it! Continue reading »

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