We've Invented The Vaccines, Now Let's Ensure They're Delivered
This post was originally published on HuffPost Canada
By: Maryam Rehman | Toronto, Canada
As I walked through the doors of the hospital, it was hard not to feel relief, considering the facilities that everyone there had been given. As soon as I did, the realization that also hit me was that not everyone was given the same resources as us. In Ontario, we've always been extremely lucky to be given access to universal healthcare, and access it when needed. Not everyone, everywhere in the world is given that opportunity.
The third Sustainable Development Goal is Good Health and Well-Being, the aim being to "ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages."
In the timespan between the inauguration of the Millennium Development Goals, and 2015, our medical technologies have advanced considerably. It's not a matter of how many new diseases we've found cures for, it's a matter of how we've managed to distribute vaccines, and other services to some of the most inaccessible people in the world.
Based on the World Health Organization's Millennium Development Goals Fact Sheet, the following accomplishments have been achieved.
1. Globally, the number of deaths of children under five years of age fell from 12.7 million in 1990 to 6.3 million in 2013.
2. In developing countries, the percentage of underweight children under five years old dropped from 28 per cent in 1990 to 17 per cent in 2013.
3. Globally, new HIV infections declined by 38 per cent between 2001 and 2013.
4.Existing cases of tuberculosis are declining, along with deaths among HIV-negative tuberculosis cases.
5. In 2010, the world met the United Nations Millennium Development Goals target on access to safe drinking-water, as measured by the proxy indicator of access to improved drinking-water sources, but more needs to be done to achieve the sanitation target.
One of the main challenges that comes in the way of our achieving this Global Goal, is the delivery of vaccines. Vaccines are responsible for saving the lives of millions each year. As stated by the National Health Service of England: "Due to vaccinations, we no longer see smallpox, and polio has almost been eradicated. No wonder vaccination is considered a modern miracle. Vaccination is one of the greatest breakthroughs in modern medicine. No other medical intervention has done more to save lives and improve quality of life." Vaccines and immunization are one of the most successful medical breakthroughs, resulting in many accomplishments, as listed above.
We have observed many changes in developed countries like the U.S. where diseases were attacking the population at an uncontrollable speed. How Stuff Works Health reported:
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average life expectancy at the beginning of the 20th century was 47.3 years. A century later, that number had increased to 77.85 years, due largely to the development of vaccinations and other treatments for deadly diseases. Of course, vaccines and treatments only work if they're given, which is why many of these diseases still persist in poorer, developing countries. Despite the success of vaccines, only one of these diseases -- smallpox -- has been erased from the globe.
Nevertheless, despite these accomplishments, there still remains an urgent need to reach all children worldwide with life-saving vaccines. Statistics provide data that we should not be proud of -- 1.5 million children die each year from vaccine-preventable diseases such as diarrhea and pneumonia.
The question that comes to mind, is how can we implement plausible, and achievable solutions for making sure disease preventable resources reach those in the places that are the hardest to reach? How can we provide those people with access to the services most in developed countries find so easily accessible?
We need organizations focusing on specific areas, and accessing everyone in that area. The next step, in order to help us achieve good health and well-being at least in the area of vaccines and preventable diseases, is implementation, and distribution of resources. Organizations exist today for that sole purpose, and I'd like to share two that I believe have been taking action setting the perfect example for others to follow.
1. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - Vaccine Delivery
As stated under the Vaccine Delivery page on their website, the strategy of the foundation is,
"At the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, all of our investments in vaccines and immunization contribute to the goals of the Decade of Vaccines. As one entity within the greater vaccine community--which includes national governments, other donors, international organizations, the private sector, academia, civil society organizations, faith-based organizations, and local communities--we are working to ensure that existing life-saving vaccines are introduced into countries where people need them most and to support the innovation needed to develop new vaccines and new delivery technologies and approaches."
For more information -- please visit http://www.gatesfoundation.org.
2. GAVI - The Vaccine Alliance
As stated under the Gavi's Mission page on their website:
"In January 2000 the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi) was created. A unique public-private partnership, Gavi was created to bring together the best of what key UN agencies, governments, the vaccine industry, private sector and civil society had to offer in order to improve childhood immunisation coverage in poor countries and to accelerate access to new vaccines." For more information, please click here.
This blog post wasn't designed to provide solutions to all aspects of this goal, but instead, to give light to an issue falling under the Global Goal of Good Health and Well-being. When it comes to Good Health and Well-Being, there is so much to consider. Both mental, and physical health need to be taken account of -- people's financial situations need to be considered, etc. My sole purpose was to share with you the vaccine distribution aspect that needs to be considered when addressing this goal, and put the spotlight on two organizations who are on the right path to making the Global Goal a reality, from the vaccine distribution sector.