Photo: Sabin CEO Michael W. Marine, Ambassador (Ret.), with Former President of Ghana, John Kufuor

This is my final day as CEO of the Sabin Vaccine Institute. As I prepare for retirement and reflect on my six years at the helm of this organization, I feel a deep sense of pride over the contributions we have made to strengthen the response to global health challenges. Based on the World Health Organization’s most recent figures, global immunization rates have improved notably since 2010, resulting in a significant reduction in reported cases of several diseases. Sabin has played a role in this success, but improving access to vaccines is just one element of our work. Sabin has also advanced the development of vaccine candidates for nine diseases, including two of the most common neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), human hookworm and schistosomiasis, which impact hundreds of millions of people around the world. We have played a significant role in expanding access to available treatments – generously donated by a number of major pharmaceutical companies – for the most common NTDs through our advocacy with donor and endemic countries. We have also worked to protect funding for USAID’s NTD Program, which has provided more than 1.3 billion treatments to nearly 600 million people around the world.

Sabin has a two-pronged approach to fighting NTDs; advocating for treatment using existing medications and developing first-of-their-kind vaccines to protect the world’s poorest people against these parasitic, bacterial and viral threats. Through our pioneering non-profit product development partnership, Sabin collaborates with international research and academic institutions to develop new, low-cost vaccines to combat diseases that afflict nearly 1.8 billion people. And through the END7 campaign, we have built public awareness and raised funding to support NTD treatment efforts in Ethiopia, Honduras, Indonesia, Myanmar, Kenya, Nigeria, Peru, Sierra Leone, Vietnam and Timor-Leste, helping to restore health and hope to millions of children. I am especially proud that 100 percent of every donation to END7 goes straight to NTD treatment programs.

Sabin’s Vaccine Advocacy and Education program has expanded considerably, including the creation of new programs that address a range of global vaccination challenges, all with the goal of reducing vaccine-preventable deaths to zero. The Sustainable Immunization Financing program now helps empower health and finance officials in 22 countries to increase domestic investments in their immunization programs. Since its launch only two years ago, the International Association of Immunization Managers has become the largest network of immunization managers in the world, and the Coalition against Typhoid has accelerated the fight against this often-underreported disease through research and advocacy.

All of these diseases are inextricably linked to poverty and inequality, both as a cause and a symptom. In the wake of the global endorsement of the UN’s new Sustainable Development Goals, now is the time for developing countries and their global partners to definitively prioritize, fund and strengthen health programs. The plain fact is that, in the 21st century, no child should suffer stunting or loss of intellectual capacity due to intestinal worms. No child should die for lack of a simple, inexpensive immunization against diarrheal disease. Together, we can help control and prevent these diseases and improve the lives of millions of people.

It has been a privilege to work alongside Sabin’s talented and dedicated team, and I know I am leaving the organization in good hands. Sabin’s new CEO, Amy Finan, brings decades of experience in life sciences, as well as business acumen, advocacy skills, and effective business and partnership development, and I have every confidence that she will guide the organization into new, exciting territory. With her leadership and your support, I look forward to seeing what the next chapter will bring.