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In celebration of World Immunization Week, we asked some of our staff to reflect on their careers and why immunization is a critical tool in public health.

#IAmIVAC


Here’s what inspires them:

What was the moment you realized you wanted to work in the immunization/vaccines field?
“It clicked for me when I was taking care of kids who had Hib meningitis during the late 1980's right after the vaccine was starting to be used in the United States.” – Kate O’Brien, Executive Director

“While serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa, I worked with the local Ministry of Health's National Immunization Days for Polio.  I spent a week traveling out to remote villages vaccinating children and providing Vitamin A supplements to prevent Polio.” – Matt Coles, Senior Program & Contract Analyst

“After completing my pediatric training I worked in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia as a pediatrician for two years and saw many children die of vaccine-preventable diseases, most notably measles and meningitis.” – Bill Moss, Deputy Director

What do you find rewarding about working in global health? In immunization/vaccines?
"Knowing how much of an impact vaccines can have on every family.  Many families will never know the devastation of these preventable illnesses and knowing I contributed to that, even in a small way is HUGE for me.” – Lois Privor-Dumm, Director of Policy, Advocacy & Communications

“Being a positive part of a global community.” – Diane Coraggio, Research Associate

“Working in global health has allowed me to understand the root causes of poverty and disease that plague the majority of the world, and do so inequitably, and has provided me with the confidence and skills I need to contribute to changing the current situation and addressing those root causes.” – Olivia Cohen, Research Associate

“Immunization programs target healthy people and aim to keep them healthy. What better way contribute to public health?” – Kyla Hayford, Research Associate

What are you most proud of in your work at IVAC or in immunization/vaccines?
“I am always proud when the pediatricians and public health experts we have worked with advocate for change and speak up for needed interventions in effective ways - I love seeing a little bit of training and empowerment turn into something much bigger and better than we would have ever thought of!” – Lois Privor-Dumm, Director of Policy, Advocacy & Communications.

“I'm most proud of the impact our work has----it has tangibly and meaningfully contributed to actually moving the needle on getting vaccines to the people and places where they are most needed.” – Kate O’Brien, Executive Director

“It's especially rewarding when governments and policymakers use our work to make decisions around vaccines. “– Brian Wahl, PhD Candidate

What is something about immunization/vaccines that you wish more people knew?          
“Vaccines are by far one of the most cost-effective public health solutions!” – Diane Coraggio, Research Associate

“Immunizations are the best buy out there-----there isn't anything that does a better job of preserving health and enhancing life.” – Kate O’Brien, Executive Director

What do you find most challenging about your vaccine/immunization work?         
“There is so much to do and so little time!  The vaccine world is a complex space and this field needs the best, the brightest, and all of our efforts to make accelerated progress.” – Kate O’Brien, Executive Director 

“One of the most challenging things about successful vaccine work is that it can undermine itself. The disease goes away and people no longer understand how important vaccines are and they played in reducing the disease burden.” – Bill Moss, Deputy Director

What do think is the biggest challenge to closing the immunization gap? 
“I think the focus needs to be more on the hard to reach with an understanding that where the greatest burden is (often where health systems are weakest) is truly the priority.  There have been some examples of successful programs, countries, communities and the global health community need to focus on all aspects of strengthening immunization programs - both on the demand and supply side.” – Lois Privor-Dumm, Director of Policy, Advocacy & Communications.

“Delivery, delivery, delivery and optimizing the ways in which we use the vaccines we have.” – Kate O’Brien, Executive Director 

“Reaching populations in areas of continuous conflict zones, refugee camps, and increasingly in areas of recent natural disasters.” – Olivia Cohen, Research Associate

“Improving accountability and governance in many developing countries and integrating immunization with other primary healthcare services will help close the gap.” – Brian Wahl, PhD Candidate

By Rebecca Van Roy, Communications Officer, Vaccine Advocacy and Education at Sabin Vaccine Institute

This article was originally published on the Dengue Vaccine Initiative's blog and is cross-posted here with permission. IVAC is a member of the Dengue Vaccine Initiative. (DVI) 

Earlier this year, DVI convened the Americas Dengue Prevention Board along with scientists, global health experts, mathematical modelers and representatives of dengue vaccine manufacturers to discuss updates in dengue vaccines and vaccine introduction. Held in Bogota at the Colombian National Institute of Health (Institituto Nacional de Salud – INS), the meeting was instrumental given the new available clinical trial data, particularly the results of the first Phase 3 trials ever completed for a dengue vaccine candidate. These results demonstrated that a safe and effective dengue vaccine is feasible

A mosquito that costs over $2 billion

Dengue, caused by a small mosquito with black and white striped legs, is the most widespread vector-borne disease in the Americas. In 2013, cases and deaths nearly doubled those of previous years in the region. The southern cone reported the highest incidence rate of cases, but the Andean region reported the highest number of severe cases. The burden of dengue in the Americas has been estimated at more than $2 billion dollars, from hospitalization costs to loss of productivity, representing a significant threat to the wellbeing of the region.

A safe and effective vaccine can help reduce this threat. While the decision to introduce a dengue vaccine can only be driven at the country level, such decisions must be based on sound evidence. DVI Dengue Prevention Board Meetings seek to share and update existing dengue knowledge and identify gaps to ensure countries have scientific, objective data to make informed public health decisions proactively, before a vaccine becomes available.

An open forum to share dengue knowledge –-and its gaps

With this objective in mind, the meeting offered an open forum where participants revisited the minimum requirements for successfully launching a dengue vaccination program among other crucial dengue topics.

On the first day, they reviewed the status of dengue vaccine development with representatives of the manufacturers of the five vaccines in clinical trial (Butantan/NIH, GSK/Fiocruz/Walter Reed, Merck, Sanofi Pasteur and Takeda). They also discussed the applications of mathematical modeling for predicting the impacts of dengue vaccination.

On the second day, country representatives presented the current dengue situation in their homeland and perspectives on dengue vaccine introduction and use.

Finally, the meeting broke into groups to assess considerations for vaccine introduction. The Board then met separately to draw conclusions. The meeting ended with the closing remarks of the Colombian Ministry of Health, who highlighted the spread of dengue and the urgent need to stop it. 

Board Conclusions

The Board noted the critical importance of linked disease surveillance and vaccination registries to monitor coverage and vaccine effectiveness, as well as monitoring for vaccine safety. They also urged the standardization of age groups and case definitions of dengue disease across countries in the region to enable comparisons. They called for further analyses to understand how a limited supply of vaccine might best be utilized in the first year(s) of vaccine introduction. They affirmed the importance of the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) for supporting vaccine introductions, particularly through activities such as issuing recommendations for laboratory-based disease surveillance in the region, with an aim of standardizing the diagnostic tests.

The table below summarizes these conclusions. For more detail we encourage you to read the full report here: “Development of Dengue Vaccines: A Review of the Status and Future Considerations.

DVIBoardConclusions_Aug2015
 

About Dengue Prevention Boards

In 2007, PDVI (Pediatric Dengue Vaccine Initiative—DVI’s precursor) established two regional Dengue Prevention Boards (DPBs) — one for Asia and one for the Americas. Members of the boards include medical and public health experts, opinion leaders and policy makers from countries in their respective regions. They meet once a year to advise on dengue surveillance, diagnostics, vaccine introduction and communications.

All reports on DPB meetings are published in the DVI website to inform dengue and global health stakeholders.