The New Times (Kigali)

6 January 2014

Rwanda: The Emerging World's Vaccine Pioneers

(Page 2 of 2)

Likewise, a Chinese biotech company won approval in October from the World Health Organization to bring to market an improved vaccine protecting children against Japanese encephalitis.

The same month, Brazil's top biomedical research and development center, Bio-Manguinhos, in partnership with the Gates Foundation, announced plans to produce a combined measles and rubella vaccine.

When I first got involved in global health more than 15 years ago, these kinds of announcements were rare. The vaccine field was dominated by a handful of multinational pharmaceutical companies in rich countries, and the entire sector suffered from a lack of competition.

Today, emerging-country manufacturers produce about 50% of vaccines purchased by United Nations agencies for use in the developing world, up from less than 10% in 1997.

The contributions of emerging-country vaccine producers often complement the work of their counterparts in developed countries. In fact, some of the most innovative ideas have come from their combined efforts.

The Gates Foundation supported a major partnership between the Serum Institute of India and SynCo Bio Partners, a Dutch vaccine producer, to produce a low-cost vaccine to protect more than 450 million people in Africa from meningitis.

This year, Biological E announced two major partnerships with multinational vaccine manufacturers. A joint partnership with GlaxoSmithKline will produce a six-in-one vaccine protecting children against polio and other infectious diseases; another, with Novartis, will produce two vaccines that will protect millions of people in the developing world from typhoid and paratyphoid fevers.

Despite all of this progress, more must be done to target the 22 million children, mainly in the poorest countries, who do not have access to lifesaving vaccines. Without protection against deadly diseases like measles, pneumonia, and rotavirus, many of these children are being denied a chance to grow up healthy, attend school, and lead productive lives. Their countries lose, too. Disease robs a poor country of the energy and talents of its people, raises treatment costs, and stymies economic growth.

We live in a world where we have the power to correct this injustice. We have the knowhow to produce effective vaccines, make them affordable, and deliver them to the children who need them.

Emerging-country vaccine suppliers are a critical part of this process. Thanks to their contributions, we are moving closer to the day when all children can have a healthy start to life.

Bill Gates is Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Copyright: Project Syndicate

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