The annual meeting of the Health Ministers from the Group of 7 (G7) countries took place from September 11-12, 2016, in Kobe, Japan. The Sabin Vaccine Institute (Sabin) was pleased to see the G7 Health Ministers Kobe Communiqué reiterate a continued emphasis on strengthening efforts to control infectious diseases through international cooperation. As the Health Ministers concluded, “Health is the foundation of human security…We are determined to commit to a healthier world, where all people can receive the basic quality services they need, and are protected from public health threats.”

The concept of human security, in which security efforts focus on the individual rather than nations, was used as a lens throughout each of the Japanese-hosted G7 meetings this year. This framework is particularly useful for ensuring universal access to treatments for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and basic immunizations against vaccine-preventable diseases. These are both critical components of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) objective of leaving no one behind.

In particular, Sabin commends the following passages from the Communiqué:

  • “We highlight the interdependence of the SDGs, including the specific contribution of progress on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), along with other infection prevention and control measures, including immunization as one of the key cost-effective measures in combating infectious diseases…”
  • “With the SDGs, we have committed to end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases by 2030. Given the historic opportunity to fast-track the response to end these epidemics, we intend to continue to support financing of the response, including through the use of development assistance to promote mobilization of domestic resources to accelerate the progress.”
  • “The end to polio is also within reach. Financing polio eradication activities to ensure we have the last global case this year, will require commitments from all stakeholders to reach every child, including in challenging operating environments, with the polio vaccine. Ultimately, the transition of polio assets, including a large community health workforce, has the potential to ensure strengthened health systems to help achieve UHC.”
  • “We will strengthen collaboration between the public and private sectors and leverage mechanisms to address issues and coordinate R&D activities among G7 countries, including the mapping and analysis of investments in areas such as AMR, neglected tropical diseases and other threats to health security. We call on the international community, including international organizations, to promote the mobilization of resources in support of new incentives to foster research and development.”

Sabin applauds the G7 Health Ministers’ focus on the SDGs and their recognition of immunization as a cost-effective tool against the spread of infectious diseases. Sabin’s Sustainable Immunization Financing (SIF) program brings together government officials, technical experts and immunization advocates to catalyze domestic resource mobilization in nations with under-investment in immunization. In the past year alone, SIF helped bring about domestic immunization budget increases in Uganda, Nepal, Senegal, Mali, and Cameroon.

Jon Andrus, Sabin’s Executive Vice President, has been heavily involved in work to ensure a smooth transition of the immense polio eradication infrastructure and human workforce capacity to post-eradication surveillance capacity as well as measles, mumps and rubella elimination through the Global Polio Partners Group. Transitioning this vast infrastructure for renewed use against other disease threats will certainly accelerate universal health coverage, particularly in hard to reach areas.

“The success of polio elimination is so valuable in part because it provides key lessons learned to accelerate disease control around the world,” said Andrus. “We will be able to reach the health ministers’ goals much faster if decision makers develop disease control policies with these lessons in mind. As we saw through our polio elimination effort, successful health systems are dependent on maintaining political will, accountability, community engagement and surveillance capacity. These considerations, coupled with existing disease control infrastructure, can serve as a strong framework as the health ministers work to expand immunizations for vaccine-preventable diseases.”

Finally, Sabin’s Product Development Partnership (PDP) has a robust pipeline of vaccine candidates against neglected tropical diseases, including hookworm, schistosomiasis, Chagas, and leishmaniasis. This public-private partnership utilizes innovative vaccine development techniques that bring a product to market without the restraints of the traditional vaccine development pathway. More investment in PDPs by major donor governments, especially the G7, is imperative to ensure that these vaccines make it to the people who need them most.

 

Photo from the Kobe Health Ministers' Meeting Promotion Council.