Thursday, 11 June 2015

The Future of Immunization

The development of vaccines, followed by its mass scale adoption is often hailed as the greatest public health triumph of the 20th century. The worldwide vaccination campaign has helped eradicate small pox, a disease responsible for millions of deaths, and immunization has eliminated polio in all but a handful of countries. Childhood vaccination has significantly reduced the mortality and morbidity from infectious diseases in a large part of the developed world. The success of vaccines is validated largely due to their impact on acute infectious diseases like Polio and Influenza.

Having said that, it is important to note that until a vaccine reaches the people who need it, it’s not saving lives. Children living in the poorest part of the world, who are under the constant threat of diseases, often are the last to receive the vaccines that has the potential to change their lives. In fact according to a study, upto 15 years may pass between the introduction of a new vaccine in the developed world to be in routine use in the developing world. Thus a lot is at stake when it comes to the success of vaccines, accessibility being one of the foremost requirements.

Below are some of the important issues that would define the success and future of immunization in the coming years:
·         Accelerating access to vaccines
According to John Wecker, former director of PATH’s Vaccine Access and Delivery program, “Introducing a vaccine is a long-term commitment”. Before countries can commit to add a certain vaccine to their public health programs, they need to have the best of information possible about the need for vaccine and its possible effects. Despite, this critical information is often hard to come. So the need of the hour is to form a highly connected, effective and informative channel which would suffice this gap, thus reducing the time lag.

·         Forecasting Supply and Demand
Once a promising new vaccine is added to a countries immunization program, another important question arises: will there be enough vaccines for every child?

With dozens of developing economies from around the world claiming to roll out a range of vaccines, meticulous coordination becomes essential. A need to analyze the demand for vaccines and their available supply arises. A need to size the market arises, as the donor need to understand how much is needed in terms of financial resources. In addition the industry partners also need to be informed to ensure a sustainable market in terms of supplies. While dealing with the supply and demand functions, there are other things like the country’s burden of diseases, available infrastructure etc. which also needs to be taken into consideration in addition to the respect to a country’s preferences as well.

·         Unplugging the supply chain bottlenecks
One of the most common supply chain bottlenecks when it comes to vaccines in developing countries is the cold chain, the system that keeps vaccines at the proper temperature all the way to the most distant health centre, which is often challenging in the low resource settings. But if the requirement of the vaccine can be forecasted earlier with much higher degree of accuracy, the supply chain can be modified well in advance. The need of the hour is however to develop ways to stabilize vaccines so that one day refrigeration will be no longer necessary.

A single shot in the arm or a few drops in the mouth can mean the difference between a family’s sorrows or a child’s healthy future. Where the population has a sound access to vaccines, children have a great chance of surviving some of the most common illness, growing, thriving and eventually protecting their own children from a preventable disease.
Each year immunization reaches 106 million children and saves about 2.5 million children from vaccine preventable disease. Still about 24 million children lack the basic immunization, and the new vaccines that reach the developed world may take decades to become available for the poorer nation. Thus the future of immunization greatly lies on the accessibility of it by the world population. The challenges facing researchers, industry and policymakers are many, but optimism thrives. Experts believe immunology is on the cusp of a renaissance.

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Hilleman Laboratories is a global vaccine research & development organization focused on making affordable vaccines using innovation to address gaps that exist in low resource settings. Hilleman Labs acts as a catalyst in bridging the gap between academic research and product development by targeting novel vaccines and increasing the efficiency of existing vaccines. Know More

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