New and Old Vaccines Still Out of Reach for Many

Families and health workers defy the Taliban's ban on oral polio vaccines (OPV). (Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai / IPS)Families and health workers defy the Taliban’s ban on oral polio vaccines (OPV). (Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai / IPS)

While long-awaited new vaccines for malaria and dengue may finally be within reach, many of the world’s existing vaccines have remained unreachable for many of the people who need them most.

The recent outbreak of yellow fever in Angola shows how deadly infectious diseases can return when gaps in vaccination programs grow.

Recently, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan noted that the recent outbreak of deadly disease has happened despite a vaccine being available for nearly 80 years.

“The world has had a safe, low-cost, and effective vaccine that confers life-long protection against yellow fever since 1937,” she said. “Yellow fever vaccines should be used more widely to protect people living in endemic countries.”

Unfortunately, yellow fever is one of many vaccine preventable diseases which has persisted, and at times, resurged. So far, only one of the world’s existing vaccines — the smallpox vaccine — has reached the ultimate goal of eradicating a disease entirely.

In 2015, the world inched closer to eradicating one other disease through the use of immunisation, when Nigeria became the last country in Africa to get rid of polio.

“We are in the endgame period of polio, as we expect to see soon the interruption of polio in the remaining two countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Dr Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele, Director of the WHO Department for Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals, told IPS.

Last month, an ambitious plan to switch to a new polio vaccine was rolled out globally. The switch took place because the vaccine no longer needed to fight against type 2 polio, which has not been seen since 1999, said Okwo-Bele.

However, Okwo-Bele told IPS that the world needs to get as good at getting rid of old vaccines as it has become at finding new ones.

“The pipeline for vaccines is so big now that we should get better at using the currently…

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