Global Health Vaccine Development

If you could ask a scientist

Working so closely with scientists involved in HIV vaccine research and development, it often escapes me that some “obvious” information about how vaccines are developed, tested and introduced to the population is not so obvious at all!

For instance, did you know that there are so many factors that determine how effective a vaccine or drug will be in your body including your genetic make-up and environment? This is the reason that, as much as possible, scientists try to conduct clinical trials within different communities where the medicine or vaccine is intended for use to ensure their data helps them develop the most suitable product?

And did you know there are many different different technologies applied in developing them, each design carrying its own advantages and disadvantages including: vaccine safety, the amount of immunity they provide, the length of time the immunity lasts, the amount of vaccine that will be needed in a single dose etc.?

The world of vaccine development is complex and often, a lack of information or misunderstanding can breed fear and cause deep mistrust between us and the people who have dedicated their themselves to improving lives through science.

So, I ask, if there was just one question you would like to ask a scientist, what would it be?

Global Health Uncategorized Vaccine Development

It will take more than vaccine efficacy to control COVID-19

While we are understandably obsessed with vaccine efficacy, there are other important influences on the success of immunisation in controlling the COVID19 pandemic globally—vaccine manufacturing capacity, distribution systems and infrastructure, pace of implementation, coverage, health messaging, and continued adoption of non-pharmaceutical interventions.

There are lessons to be learned from the universal eradication of smallpox. The control of SARS-CoV-2 demands an approach that includes universal political commitment and a global coordinating body to provide strategic and moral leadership.

Read: The lessons of smallpox eradication for COVID-19 by Richard Horton.

 #covidvaccine #covax #vaccineswork

Global Health Uncategorized

Keeping our #EyesOnTheTarget of Ending the HIV Epidemic

Today, Monday 18 May 2020 is World HIV Vaccine Awareness Day (HVAD2020). Since 1997 May 18 has been set aside to celebrate all the volunteers, community members, health professionals, and scientists who have dedicated their lives to finding a safe and effective preventive HIV vaccine. It is also a time to remind ourselves of the important role an HIV vaccine could play in ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic. 

This year as we mark HVAD2020, the world is occupied with managing a new global pandemic – the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Since an outbreak of COVID-19 was first reported in China in December 2019, the disease has spread to every continent except Antarctica. Within just three months of the disease being declared a public health emergency of international concern world leaders, organizations and financial institutions pledged USD8 billion for research to find a vaccine against the disease. The significance of this show of solidarity is the recognition of the need for multi-nation collaboration and a focus on global access.

The global response to COVID-19 reinforces the clarion call of the HIV vaccine research and development fraternity – we need all hands on deck to overcome the four-decade long HIV epidemic. With new HIV infections not declining fast enough, we have already missed the UNAIDS 2020 targets to end the epidemic

While we take on new global health challenges, we should not take our eyes off the target of stopping new HIV infections. Adding a safe, effective vaccine to the current prevention toolkit could very well be the game changer! 

Global fund Global Health HIV, TB and Malaria

HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria – Let’s go for the big win!

It is good to celebrate every win on the way to victory. Even the very small ones – they remind you that you are making progress, and progress is what you need. However, the danger with getting too complacent and mistaking the progress for achievement is that the enemy who is in hot pursuit may not only catch up, but soon overtake you!

That may well be where we are headed with the fight against HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria, three ‘Goliathan’ enemies to global public health. The 2018 UNAIDS report, Miles to go—closing gaps, breaking barriers, righting injustices, cites still a 20 percent shortfall between what is needed and what is available. This, according to UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé, is a funding crisis and he has urged political leaders, national governments and the international community to increase financial investments towards the fight against HIV/AIDS.

In the UK, Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle decried the Department for International Development’s (DFID) cessation of funding towards development of an HIV vaccine, an intervention that could potentially have major benefits for lower-income countries that are hardest hit by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Increasing insecticide and drug resistance are necessitating acceleration in the search for new treatment and prevention approaches to TB and Malaria yet the political commitment to support such research is wavering, according to Peter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund partnership which pools the world’s resources to invest strategically in programs to end AIDS, TB and malaria as epidemics. 

As the sixth Global Fund Replenishment is launched in France this year, there can only be one message to all who have the political, economic and social muscle to determine where the money goes – let’s STEP UP THE FIGHT against HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria, let’s go for the big win!