This is the first of a blog mini-series from the Dengue Vaccine Initiative about the collaborative work being done to ensure future access to dengue vaccines in developing nations.
As dengue outbreaks continue to infect thousands across the globe, including recent outbreaks in Pakistan, Kenya and the Bahamas, the need for a preventative dengue vaccine has never been more apparent. For those of you that are unfamiliar with the illness, dengue fever is the most prevalent mosquito-borne viral disease known to humankind, with nearly 50 million cases reported annually. Currently, over 2.5 billion people- two fifths of the world’s population- are at risk of contracting the disease.
Dengue is associated with flu-like symptoms, including rashes and high-fevers. Dengue’s low mortality rates have lead to a low priority in global public health. Measuring dengue in mortality alone, however, fails to recognize the substantial economic impact that dengue has upon individuals and society. Earning the name “Break Bone Fever,” dengue causes debilitating muscle and joint pain, leaving its victims unable to work or attend school. This severely hinders household earning potential as well as national productivity. As proven by the large outbreaks that occurred in Pakistan and Kenya, dengue epidemics also lead to hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations. This causes a significant burden on already weak healthcare systems in developing and endemic nations. It is estimated that the cost of dengue in the poorest countries of the Americas alone is US $2.1 billion per year.
Fortunately, a dengue vaccine could be available as early as 2015. Once available, vaccines traditionally have taken twenty years or more to be widely introduced to markets in the developing world, where dengue is the most endemic. Given that there has been an explosive increase in dengue cases in recent years- from 1.2 million per year in 1998 to over 50 million annual cases today- we cannot afford to wait 20 years for a dengue vaccine to reach the nations that need it most.
To address this issue of access, four organizations joined forces to create a coalition known as the Dengue Vaccine Initiative (DVI). The mission of DVI is to lay the groundwork for dengue vaccine introduction in endemic areas so that, once licensed, vaccines to prevent dengue will be swiftly adopted by countries most in need. DVI’s consortium members include the International Vaccine Institute, the World Health Organization, Sabin Vaccine Institute and the International Vaccine Access Center.
Over the next couple weeks, we will be running a mini-blog series about DVI and its activities. We will begin the blog series by profiling each coalition member and explaining the fundamental role they play in ensuring that the future dengue vaccine will reach communities most in need. We encourage you to visit DVI’s website for more information. Also, follow us on twitter @preventdengue – this is an open dialogue and we’d love to hear your thoughts.