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Author Topic: Nigeria: Kicking Out Infectious Diseases With Vaccines  (Read 2692 times)
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Francis Umeoguaju
Expert in Bioscience Issues
Posts: 657

« on: June 04, 2011, 01:24:48 pm »

The co-chair of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Mr Bill Gates, at the ongoing 64th World Health Assembly urged nations to invest on vaccines. However, WINIFRED OGBEBOR reports that lack of adequate funds might pose a great challenge for poor nations.
According to World Health Organisation estimates, 1.7 million children die yearly from vaccine preventable diseases, mainly in developing countries.That is one child in every 20 seconds.

Addressing the member nations at the ongoing World Health Assembly, Bill Gates said that vaccines were one of the best investments the world could make in the future.
"And as we free billions of people from the relentless burden of sickness and death, we will unleash more human potential than ever before," he added.
He noted that the greatest asset of every country was the energy and talent of its people even as he observed that diseases sapped that energy and squandered that talent.
Gates explained, "Repeated intestinal infections stunt children's growth and reduce their cognitive development. Meningitis can cause permanent neurologic disability. Malaria prevents people from being productive; over a lifetime, high rates of malaria can cause substantially reduced earnings
"This year, 20 million children will have severe pneumonia. More than a million will die. But even when the disease doesn't take a child's life, it can affect the child's and family's future. For the survivors, the sickness reduces their chances of growing up healthy and strong. Their parents will go into debt."
Endorsing Bill Gate's call for a Decade of Vaccine, the Director- General, World Health Organisation, (WHO), Dr Margaret Chan, said that vaccines offered evidence of a welcome new trend, adding that Africa was the first to receive the best technology that the world, working together, could offer.
She said, "Thanks to innovative financing mechanisms and other support from the GAVI Alliance, we are now seeing the roll out of new vaccines against the two biggest killers of young children; diarrhoea and pneumonia."
The 46-member states of the African region had stated in their report that the global response to the 2009 HINI pandemic was ample testimony of the need for a better coordinated global preparedness and response for influenza pandemics.
They noted that it also gave them an opportunity to reflect on the challenges the African Region and other developing countries continue to face, ranging from lack of capacity to manufacture vaccines, lack of affordable access to vaccines to inadequate risk assessment and surveillance and laboratory capacity.
"We therefore welcome the framework, particularly the institutionalisation of a legal regime which will enhance equitable access to essential vaccines, anti-viral drugs and diagnostic kits, especially for low income countries," they stated.

The framework provides a much more coherent and unified global approach to ensuring that influenza viruses are available to the WHO system for monitoring and development of critical benefits such as vaccines, antiviral drugs and scientific information, while at the same time, ensuring more equitable access to these benefits by developing countries and promotes global health security and solidarity in pandemic times.

Tracing the progress of the collaborative efforts that have brought about the success of the vaccines, Chan narrated that on April 17, after negotiations that lasted through the night, countries agreed on a set of strategies for improving preparedness for influenza pandemics, sharing viruses, and extending the benefits of new drugs and vaccines to the developing world.
However, she said that though epidemic meningitis was not the biggest killer in Africa, it was among the most greatly feared of all diseases.

She said, "This is easy to understand: the sudden contagion, the rapid progression to severe disease, the long lines of people waiting for a vaccine after the epidemic has started."
"The empty street, the deaths, the weeks when parents watch over children in hospital. The children who survive but are permanently impaired by mental disorders or hearing loss.

'The people of Africa deserve better, and in December of last year, they got a powerful new vaccine that can prevent epidemics in Africa's notorious meningitis belt."
She disclosed that in a project coordinated by WHO and PATH, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the vaccine was developed in record time, and at about one 10th of the cost usually needed to bring a product through development to the market.

She stated, "Remember the people infected with a drug- resistant form of tuberculosis or co- infected with HIV who had to wait up to three months for a reliable diagnosis.
"Last year saw the introduction of a rapid new diagnostic test for TB that is vastly superior in its speed and sensitivity, delivering results in around 100 minutes. WHO's endorsement of the test brought an immediate price reduction of 75 per cent for developing countries. Roll -out has begun in more than 30 countries, assisted by WHO and other partners.

"A decade ago, HIV infection meant a slow but certain and often painful death for most people in the developing world. Today, more than six million people with the vast majority living in sub- Saharan now receive antiretroviral therapy for AIDS."
The world health chief pointed out the WHO had new treatment guidelines that offered the first real prospect of reducing the yearly number of new infections.

Other new guidelines, she said, gave the world its first vision of a generation of babies born HIV-free."
Gates noted that vaccines were extremely elegant technology which can be inexpensive, easy to deliver, and proven to protect children lifelong from diseases.
He enthused, "At Microsoft, we dreamed about technologies that were so powerful and yet so simple. Today, I like to imagine what the future will look like when world leaders start to take advantage of vaccines.

"Early in this decade, we will eradicate polio. By the end of the decade, five or six new vaccines will be available to all children of the world. And, crucially, every country in the world will have built a delivery system made to get vaccines to every last child."
He said that to put an end to polio and reach all children with new vaccines, a strong immunisation programmes must be created.

"In January of last year, I called for the world to accelerate progress on vaccines. That was a moment, and now there is momentum. I am excited that global health leaders are now collaborating to put a specific global vaccination action plan in place. The success of that plan will be a blue print for the success of the Decade of Vaccines. It will depend on us to do our best work," he added.
According to him, pneumonia vaccines are a symbol of one of the most exciting trends in global health, the drive towards equity in delivering innovations.
"In the past, innovations developed vaccines for rich countries, and it took more than a decade before they were introduced in poor countries. But that is changing."

He explained that the Gates Foundation was working with many vaccine manufacturers to ensure that vaccines were available at a reasonable price. This would ensure that there is equitable access to healthcare by making the vaccines affordable to each country.
"I believe that we can cut the combined price of the pentavalent, pneumococcus, and rotavirus vaccines in half by 2016. But even when prices are fair, delivering vaccines to every child takes great commitment"

In his call to action, Gates said the world has a great opportunity right now and whether or not it seize it will depend in large part on those member nations present in the room.
'It will depend on our ability to do the difficult, necessary things to usher in the Decade of Vaccines.
According to Gates, if donor nations increase their investments in vaccines and immunisation, the world can prevent four million deaths 2015. "By 2020, we can prevent 10 million deaths," he added.

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