Immunization: It Takes More Than a Vaccine
It takes more than a vaccine to make a successful immunization program. This World Immunization Week, we are taking a look at some of the factors that contribute to effective immunization programs.
Data for Decisions
Countries need all the facts to make informed decisions on vaccine introduction. For instance, Sanofi Pasteur has released the first vaccine for dengue, which has now been licensed by several countries. But countries need to take a close look at the data, such as disease prevalence, the vaccine’s efficacy and cost, to decide if it is the right choice for their country, especially in the context of their local conditions and public health priorities. To make health decisions for diseases, including vaccines against rotavirus and pneumococcus, countries can now calculate the cost of preventing a death from the disease, the cost of treating an unvaccinated individual and other important data points using tools provided by groups like the ProVac Initiative.
Countries like Uganda and Nepal are passing laws that create dedicated national funds for immunization to ensure national ownership and sustainability of their programs, being less dependent on outside sources that are not sustainable when emergencies or competing priorities emerge. These laws recognize that immunization is a child’s right. Laws like these also help set up immunization programs for long-term stability and success. To ensure that every child gets the vaccines they need to stay healthy, some of these laws require parents to vaccinate their children and present immunization cards in order to enroll their children in school. Such actions are intended to leave no child unprotected.
Vaccines – especially new vaccines – can be expensive. Many lower-income countries receive assistance from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to purchase vaccines, but as their economies grow, they will no longer be eligible for this support. Vaccine costs can represent a significant share of countries’ immunization budgets, and can pose a barrier to vaccine introduction. But prioritization of immunization in the national budget, price transparency and collective bargaining can help make vaccines more affordable. Almost 35 years ago, a group of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean created the PAHO Revolving Fund, which allows them to pay one set price for vaccines, syringes and other supplies – no matter the size or economic situation of the country. This model has served as inspiration for other countries in establishing immunization funds of their own.
From managing a complex supply chain to combatting vaccine hesitancy, immunization managers have a tough job. They are responsible for meeting ambitious coverage targets and introducing new vaccines, all while faced with limited budgets and resources. Training is important, but the best resource is someone who has stood in your shoes. Through peer-to-peer exchanges, an immunization manager can visit and learn from one of their peers who has dealt with – and overcome – the challenge they are facing.
20 percent of children are still not getting all the vaccines they need. We’ll need more than vaccines to ensure all children benefit from immunization. Immunization challenges can’t be solved overnight, but using these and other approaches, we can get there. Because #vaccineswork.