Growing debate between vaccination programs

In a recent article posted at guardian.co.uk, the author focuses on a debate that seems to be growing over how best to run vaccination programs. And, she points out that charities and aid agencies are critical of pharmacy company links.

The author, Sarah Boseley, states that “Vaccination is a big success in poor countries.”

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A leader in the industry is an organization that helps make sure children in poor countries get the same vaccines that children in rich countries do, known as GAVI. They are a unique public-private global health partnership committed to saving children’s lives and protecting people’s health by increasing access to immunization in poor countries.

The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi) said it has prevented more than 5 million child deaths in the last decade and will prevent 4 million more by 2015.

But critics want to ensure limited funds are best used. Princeton University academic Donald Light objects to the lack of debate around Gavi’s vaccine funding strategy. “I think the taxpayers of affluent countries and their leaders should support saving poor children and reducing global poverty but this is a moment when they could critically review how that money is being spent,” he said. “The Gavi model depends on giving more and more money year after year to get vaccines to poor countries in ways that are not self-sustaining and at prices that are unaffordable.”

MSF and Oxfam also believe the decisions made by Gavi are skewed by the presence on its board of pharma companies – GSK-Bio has just been replaced by Crucell, which earns more than a third of its income from the pentavalent vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B and Hib, which is bought by Gavi.

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The two agencies say the companies should step down from the Gavi board. “Pharmaceutical companies’ representation on Gavi’s board creates a conflict of interest. The current structure is far too cozy,” said Mohga Kamal-Yanni, Oxfam senior policy adviser.

Another aid agency which sends doctors into the field, Merlin, is concerned that the large amounts of money pumped into Gavi will not ensure the poorest children are immunised. Half of all children’s deaths take place in fragile states, which do not have enough clinics and vaccination teams and cannot afford to pay the small co-payment required by Gavi for vaccines.

“Weak health systems are no justification for inaction,” said Merlin’s director of health and policy, Linda Doull. “Yes, it’s more difficult to vaccinate children in these countries but it’s doable and Merlin is doing just that every single day. Fifty per cent of children who die live in some of the most isolated areas of already vulnerable countries. Isn’t their survival every bit as important as any other child’s?”

The latest goal of GAVI is to increase the availability of the pneumococcal vaccine around the word. The author also discusses in the article what critics believe about offering this vaccine. She states, “While vaccines are generally recognized as some of the most cost-effective interventions in existence, there are those who worry that the pneumococcal vaccine may have only a limited lifespan.”

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As stated, this is an ever growing debate that is sure to be heated on many sides. This is obviously a topic that will be covered more in the future.

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