By Dr. Kate O'Brien

This week, IVAC staff have had the privilege to participate in the GAVI Alliance Partners’ Forum in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. This could not be a more fitting choice of location, as a country that has shown remarkable leadership and commitment to vaccines for children. Yesterday (December 6th) marked the dual launch of rotavirus vaccine and pneumococcal conjugate vaccine in Tanzania, the second country to have undertaken such a dual launch (Ghana being the first).

The Partners’ Forum brings together in one place the truly remarkable range of partners that make up the Alliance including civil society organizations, UNICEF, WHO, GAVI-country representatives, donor country representatives, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, vaccine manufacturers, the World Bank, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and many others, coordinated in their efforts through the leadership of the Secretariat. IVAC, and numerous other technical and academic groups, are counted among these valued GAVI partners producing work that really does move the needle.

The theme of this Partners’ Forum is RISE, highlighting Results, Innovation, Sustainability and Equity – four themes that resonate for us at IVAC. I want to particularly focus on the results, without which there is nothing upon which to base innovation, nothing to sustain and nothing driving an insistence on equity.

Throughout this Forum we have seen the power of evidence to propel sound decision-making and commitments that are saving lives and reducing suffering around the world. We saw the power of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine disease impact data from Kenya where in just two years of vaccine use, vaccine type pneumococcal disease is becoming vanishingly rare. We also saw the compelling case for vaccines through the promise of over $150 billion of economic benefits gained over 10 years through improved health by vaccination. And we saw the reassurance of real-world performance and safety evaluations for rotavirus and pneumococcal vaccines in settings around the world where the vaccines are most needed.

Economics of Immunization

Photo Credit: Excerpt from Shot at Life's Economic Value of Vaccination Infographic. Based on Decades of Vaccine Economics (DoVE) research from IVAC showing that increasing access to coverage with new and existing vaccines can yield substantial health and economic benefits (Stack, et al. Health Affairs - June 2011).

These results meaningfully strengthen the foundation of evidence on which these vaccines stand. Speaking for themselves, these data bring renewed energy, commitment and resolve that the extraordinary effort by hundreds of thousands of community health workers, nurses and doctors to get these vaccines into children, on time for every dose, will indeed deliver results.

IVAC is proud to have collaborated with various organizations, both in country and internationally, to generate the results highlighted above. These particular studies are a great example of how we all stand shoulder to shoulder with our partners, and our partners’ partners, to make vaccines real for children, families and communities. Through the GAVI Alliance we have had the opportunity to work in trusted collaboration with PATH, CDC, Aga Khan University, University of Witwatersrand, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, KEMRI Wellcome Trust, WHO, PAHO, MRC Gambia, South Africa’s National Institute of Communicable Disease, and many other institutions on projects, studies, evaluations, trainings, and assessments that are all delivering directly on our shared vaccine mission.

This Partners’ Forum has been a focused opportunity to see compelling results make a difference. It is really happening. As we contemplate what it will take to assure every child is not just vaccinated but fully vaccinated, I urge us all to lean forward together in this effort to ensure change happens.

We at IVAC are committed to Rising to the Challenge with all of you.

Kate O’Brien, MD, MPH is Acting Director of IVAC. A pediatric infectious disease physician, epidemiologist and vaccinologist, she previously served as Deputy Director of IVAC. She also serves as Associate Director of the Center for American Indian Health.