Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Rotavirus: Prevention is the best cure!

Despite having safe and effective vaccines for Rotavirus, the disease continues to kill nearly half a million children each year and hospitalises millions more. The most powerful tool against it is the Rotavirus vaccine, which is still inaccessible by a majority of the global population.

While Oral Rehydration solution has helped in significantly decrease diarrheal disease mortality since its adoption in 1978, diarrhoea continues to be a major cause of childhood illness and mortality globally. Rotavirus, one of the most common cause of severe diarrhoea, is responsible for approximately 40% of all under 5 diarrheal hospitalisation and thousands of deaths worldwide.

Rotavirus vaccine offer the best protection for children and are an essential part of comprehensive diarrhoea control. While the WHO recommends that all countries introduce Rotavirus vaccine, only 77 have done so, 34 of which are Gavi-eligible countries where majority of the deaths occur. Unfortunately some of the most vulnerable children and communities do not have access to the vaccines.

In particular, Asia has lagged in introducing rotavirus vaccines, even though it accounts for more than 40% of global rotavirus deaths.

While dramatic reductions in deaths from childhood diarrheal disease have been achieved in Bangladesh, there are still more than 2.4 million rotavirus cases each year. It causes 2 out of every 3 diarrhea-related hospitalizations among children under 5. There are also serious economic consequences.

In India, where rotavirus is equally prevalent, the disease poses a significant financial burden to families and the country’s economy. Studies have shown that a hospitalization for rotavirus could potentially push a family into poverty or keep them there. Depending on the level of care, the total cost of a rotavirus hospitalization could range anywhere from nearly $32 to more than $135, equal to up to 2 months of income for an average Indian family. Rotavirus also burdens the healthcare system with the high cost of hospitalizations and outpatient visits.

Rotavirus affects a country’s economic and developmental goals as it affects the most crucial population i.e. under 5 kids. The kids are the most important portion of any society as they are the future of any country, thus making them the priority for any developing economy. For fast-growing countries like India and Bangladesh, tackling rotavirus—which affects children and the nation of productivity, well-being and development—should be a priority.

Last July, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that rotavirus will be included in the Universal Immunization Programme; and in April 2015, the first India-made rotavirus vaccine, ROTAVAC, was launched. Now is the time to get to the finish line—the cost of delaying access to rotavirus vaccines continues to mount. Together we can close this immunization gap and virtually eliminate rotavirus! 

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Thursday, 14 January 2016

How to address the Vaccines of Poverty?

The initial research of Ebola vaccine was published in 2003, where it waited more than a decade for a pharmaceutical company to take notice and invest in licensing and development. Only after the Ebola outbreak of 2014 did the US government stepped in and contributed more than $70M to develop the vaccine. But unfortunately by the time it was ready, the outbreak was over!

Now the question that comes into play is what led to such a situation?

"The business model is broken. The business model says an academic or a research institute develops the technology, you publish the paper, and you wait to license it to a major vaccine manufacturer. But who’s going to do that for a neglected tropical disease where there is no market?," Sabin President Dr. Peter Hotez said in remarks at last week’s Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting.

Pharmaceutical companies routinely donate existing drugs that can be repurposed to treat neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). But to tackle the immense challenged posed by about 17 NTDs, affecting about a billion people, new vaccines are required.

A pharmaceutical company is like a normal business. Without a market that will pay for its products, new products won’t be made. One of the effective solution to such a problem is to develop the products in the not-profit sector, through organisations known as product development partnerships or PDPs.

However as Ebola demonstrated, technology is only half the battle. Development of drugs and vaccines also require significant financial investments. This can be taken up by the set of innovative developing countries like India, Brazil, China who can invest in developing such vaccines as a majority of the affected people are from these major developing economies.
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Monday, 4 January 2016

How do vaccines work?

Vaccines have saved millions of lives from deadly diseases like Polio, Small Pox etc. But HOW?
To answer this, TED-Ed developed this animated video which explains exactly how the immune system works. It also discusses how scientists using this knowledge found ways to help our bodies protect us from infectious diseases.

This is not the only TED video explaining immunisation. In another interesting TEDMed talk on the value of herd immunity, Prof Adam Finn of the University of Bristol, explains the history of Whooping cough outbreaks to illustrate the danger of complacency.
“People need to understand why vaccines are important not just when a disease is common but also when it has become rare,” according to Professor Finn.

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About Me

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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