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The continued leadership of the United States in increasing access to lifesaving vaccines and immunization will be vital to sustaining progress achieved over the past decade in combating childhood diseases in the developing world, said Dr. Christopher J. Elias, president and CEO of PATH, at a recent Decade of Vaccines (DoV) Collaboration event.

Dr. Elias moderated a briefing and discussion on October 27 at PATH’s Washington, DC, office for leading health, development, vaccine, and immunization experts to allow them to contribute to and comment on an emerging global vaccine action plan being developed by the DoV Collaboration.

Representatives from nongovernmental organizations, the private sector, faith-based groups, think tanks, and government agencies also attended the briefing. Dr. Elias serves as co-chair of the DoV Collaboration’s steering committee.

Hopeful developments

Dr. Elias highlighted several key advances in vaccines and immunization over the past ten years, including the introduction of vaccines for pneumonia and rotavirus—the two leading killers of children under the age of five—and hopeful developments in the fight against diseases such as measles, polio, and meningitis A. However, he said immunization should not be seen as the silver bullet for addressing child health needs.

“Vaccines can prevent a major portion of the disease burden for diseases like diarrheal disease, but not all of it,” Dr. Elias noted. “While countries are interested in rotavirus vaccines, they are actually more interested in diarrheal disease control efforts that include water and sanitation, breastfeeding, oral rehydration solution, among other things.”

An integrated approach, such as pairing treatment and other prevention efforts with immunization, is ultimately needed to reduce deaths and eliminate diseases, he said.

Scaling up vaccine delivery

The DoV Collaboration is working to ensure that the full benefits of immunization are available to all people. By the end of the decade, the group is hopeful that millions more lives can be saved by significantly scaling up the delivery of existing vaccines and rapidly introducing new ones.

Dr. Elias was joined by several DoV Collaboration steering committee members, including Dr. Orin Levine, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Dr. Nicole Bates, senior program officer, Global Health Policy and Advocacy, at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Dr. Lee Hall, chief of the Parasitology and International Programs Branch at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; and Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Levine explained that the time is ripe for a global vaccine action plan. Despite great progress in the past decade, vaccine-preventable diseases still account for substantial mortality and morbidity, immunization coverage is still spotty, and vaccine delivery remains a challenge, he said.

The community is invited to provide feedback on the global vaccine action plan by:

  • Submitting comments directly to: feedback@dovcollaboration.org.
  • Attending an in-person consultation. Register here to be kept abreast of consultation opportunities and information about the DoV Collaboration.

More information

Posted November 8, 2011.