Promoting Evidence-Based Strategies for New and Underutilized Vaccines: Why It's Important
Global Causes of Child Deaths*
[Black et al, Global, regional, and national causes of child mortality in 2008; a systematic analysis. (2010). The Lancet, 375(9730; 1969-1987]
*Data are separated into deaths of neonates aged 0-27 days and children aged 1-59 months. Causes that led to less than 1% of deaths are not presented.
More than 2 million of these deaths, or over 20%, could be prevented by the widespread use of vaccines that are currently available in developed countries. For example, tetanus is still common in many parts of the world, and neonatal tetanus needlessly kills thousands of babies each year. In places where birthing conditions are not sanitary, tetanus in newborns is a real threat. WHO estimates that neonatal tetanus claimed the lives of 59,000 newborn babies in 2008 because immunization was not widely available.
Other vaccines that are not routinely used in many parts of the world include some that are new—rotavirus, pneumococcal conjugate (PCV), and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines—as well as some that are simply underutilized Haemophilus influenzae type b [Hib], Hepatitis B, rubella, and seasonal influenza vaccines.
Lifesaving Potential of Hib, Rotavirus, and PCV Vaccines
According to the GAVI Alliance (GAVI), the time is now optimal to speed up introduction of Hib, PCV, and rotavirus vaccines—using them can result in a 40% to 60% reduction in the 2.9 million annual deaths caused by pneumonia and diarrhea among children younger than age 5. WHO recommends the use of all three vaccines in all countries.
Human Papillomavirus Virus Vaccine
Human Papillomavirus Virus (HPV) Vaccine prevents cervical cancer and other less common cancers that are caused by human papillomavirus virus (HPV). In addition to cancer, HPV* can cause other global health problems such as genital warts.
*HPV is a common virus that is easily spread by skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity. It is possible to have HPV without knowing it, so it is possible to unknowingly spread HPV to another person. Safe, effective vaccines are available to protect both females and males against some of the most common types of HPV and the health problems the virus can cause. For more information on the HPV vaccine, visit the HPV website.
In addition, other vaccines, such as Japanese encephalitis, typhoid, cholera, yellow fever, and meningococcal group Avaccines, can be used to address specific public health needs in only those particular regions or groups of countries where these devastating diseases are prevalent.
Meningococcal Group A Vaccine
Approximately 450 million people are at risk for meningitis* in 25 African countries commonly referred to as the “meningitis belt,” which extends from Ethiopia in the east to Senegal in the west. However, there is now promise that this devastating public health threat will soon begin to wane. A new meningococcal group A vaccine — MenAfriVac™ became available for use in Africa in 2010 priced at just U.S. $0.40 per dose, an affordable price for Africa.
* Bacterial meningitis, a contagious infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, kills about 10% of patients, and about 25% suffer long-term injury such as deafness and brain damage. In Africa, children, in particular, are at risk. A single case of meningitis can drive an African family into a spiral of poverty from which it may never recover.
MenAfriVac™ was developed specifically to protect against the meningitis strain responsible for about 85% of meningitis epidemics in Africa. It is targeted at children and young people between 1 and 29 years of age and can provide up to 10 years of protection. CDC staff in the Division of Bacterial Diseases collaborated with The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP)—which includes PATH, WHO, the Food and Drug Administration, the Health Protection Agency, and the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control—to help bring this low cost-vaccine through clinical development to public health use.