Category Archives: vaccines

Celebrating Victories, Together with a Public Health Champion


A pregnant woman speaks with a health worker during a vaccination session at the primary school in the town of Coyolito, Honduras on Wednesday April 24, 2013.

A pregnant woman speaks with a health worker during a vaccination session at the primary school in the town of Coyolito, Honduras.

The Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region continues to inspire the world, showing how unwavering determination can help achieve public health elimination targets.

For example, earlier this year the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and other leading global health experts said goodbye to rubella in the Americas, a virus also known as German measles. This exciting accomplishment is the result of a concerted 15-year initiative to provide widespread provision of the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps and rubella).

Announced on April 30th, this historic achievement generated even more energy and excitement during Vaccination Week in the Americas (VWA), held during April 25th – May 2nd.  VWA, a regional flagship initiative of PAHO, is an extraordinary effort led by countries to vaccinate people of all ages against rubella, measles, polio, pneumonia and other diseases. These vaccination campaigns are also used to deliver a package of life-saving health interventions, including Vitamin A supplements to boost children’s immune systems, deworming treatments that rid people of intestinal worms (a type of neglected tropical disease) and distribution of insecticide-treated nets to prevent malaria. The Guardian has highlighted VWA as one of five memorable public health movements that save millions of lives.

We are especially excited to celebrate these recent victories with a public health champion from Córdoba, Argentina, Dr. Mirta Roses, who recently visited the Sabin Vaccine Institute office in Washington, D.C. Holding medical and public health degrees, serving two terms as Director of PAHO and representing the LAC region on the Global Fund Board provides only a small snapshot of her passion for equitable access to health. We are proud to have her serve as Special Envoy for the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, speaking out on behalf of the hundreds of millions of people suffering unnecessarily from preventable diseases.

Dr. Roses began working at PAHO in 1984 – and became Director 20 years later. She took action quickly as Director, spearheading the first-ever Vaccination Week in the Americas in 2003. This annual campaign was inspired by the Sucre Agreement, signed 23 April 2002 by the Andean Ministers of Health (Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela) plus Chile, recommending simultaneous implementation of their national immunization weeks. Following a 2002 measles outbreak in Venezuela and Colombia, this coordinated effort was planned to prevent future outbreaks across the Andean Region.

During the final stages of polio eradication in the Americas in 1991, Dr. Roses witnessed how the power of social communication and community involvement transformed vaccination campaigns into health celebrations. Entire villages, countries, leaders and celebrities were eager to participate, injecting a vibrant, dynamic energy into the campaigns.

Building off the momentum and success of this approach, annual Vaccination Weeks in the Americas helped create an even larger health celebration by sharing educational materials, screening for communicable and chronic diseases and delivering deworming treatments. This platform also helps early detection of NTDs, disabilities and micronutrient deficiencies.

As an example, in Honduras, the Ministry of Health uses this campaign to deliver deworming treatments to children across at the country alongside vaccines and other interventions. Honduras has also integrated water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) practices, as well as vitamin A supplementation, as part of this effort. Since poor WASH contributes to increased intestinal worm infections, and intestinal worms can worsen and intensify malnutrition, integrating these three health interventions is essential for maximizing the health of children.

This unprecedented model caught the attention of people across the world. One by one, countries from all six WHO regions started employing the same approach – beginning with countries from the Eastern Mediterranean, reaching all the way to South-East Asia. By 2011, the World Health Organization made it official: World Immunization Week will happen every year during the last week of April.

These successes demonstrate the sharp and unwavering determination of people, communities and partnerships in the LAC region. We look forward to celebrating future success with Dr. Roses, PAHO and other partners, and inspiring other countries and regions to learn from lessons learned and best practices.

IMA Tanzania a Key Player in Massive National Vaccine and MDA Campaign


Image from IMA World Health

Image from IMA World Health

The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases is happy to share news from IMA World Health. A first of its kind for Tanzania, the national co-implemented immunization and mass drug administration strengthened the country’s integrated efforts to control and eliminate neglected tropical diseases. 

On Saturday, October 18, IMA World Health participated in a special event in Dodoma, Tanzania, to launch the 2014 national co-implemented immunization and mass drug administration (MDA) campaign to protect 21 million children against measles, rubella and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). One of the largest public health intervention efforts ever staged in Tanzania, the 2014 campaign will run from October 18-24.

The annual event was convened and attended by the Government of Tanzania, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Health Organization (WHO), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and numerous other partners.

For the past four years, IMA has been MDA for NTDs in Tanzania through the USAID-funded ENVISION Project, led by RTI International. With over $5 million in annual support, IMA has distributed preventive treatment to more than 14 million people across 9 regions of Tanzania, as well as trained 5,000 health workers and over 10,000 community volunteers.

Jim Cox, Country Director for IMA Tanzania, commented in a speech at the October 18 event, “As IMA celebrates its 20th anniversary in Tanzania… we are proud to be part of this first-ever joint NTD and immunization campaign, which lays the groundwork for healthy communities throughout Tanzania.”

IMA works with the Tanzania Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOHSW) to support implementation of the integrated five-disease NTD control program targeting onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, trachoma, LF, and STH using MDA in the community and schools.

Photo from IMA World Health

A Part of Something Bigger: Reflection from the Sabin Symposium



Jessica Yoo*, an END7 Student Advisory Board Member from the University of Virginia, reflects on her experience attending the Sabin Vaccine Institute’s 20th Anniversary Scientific Symposium. 

Starstruck. As a 21-year old college student, I had never in my life been surrounded by so many inspiring visionaries and giants in public health. A few weekends ago, I traveled from the University of Virginia to Washington, DC to attend the Sabin Vaccine Institute’s 20th Anniversary Scientific Symposium.  There, in the oaken, soft-lit belly of the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), I got an insider’s peek at what some of the most brilliant minds of global health do on a regular basis.

Listening to speeches from a star-studded cast of representatives from the Sabin Vaccine Institute, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the GAVI Alliance, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Harvard School of Public Health, I received a crash course on the history of vaccinology, learned about the challenges of developing a broad-spectrum antibody for influenza A, and rediscovered the complexity of the factors underpinning a successful health initiative.

The broad palate of ideas presented— ranging from economic analyses to new advances in cutting-edge molecular biotechnology— reminded me that the public health challenges we face today require an interdisciplinary approach that integrates all fields of study. Observing doctors, writers, policymakers, MPH-holders, researchers, advocates, scientists, businessmen, photographers and professors interact during the coffee break only reinforced this impression.

A ringing noise announced the end of the coffee break and I followed the steady scuffle of heels and dress shoes back into the conference room, where a discussion panel comprised of representatives from PAHO, UNICEF, Merck Vaccines, Biofarma, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awaited. Dr. Ciro de Quadros, a legendary figure that later received the Public Health Heroes of the Americas award for his work with eradicating smallpox and polio in the Americas, led the panel discussion on ways to collaboratively advance the Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP). It was clear that this type of cooperation and teamwork between participating nonprofits, governmental organizations and private sector companies is necessary for effective, holistic and sustainable changes to occur in the global health arena.

To signal the drawing end of the symposium, a message from Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), reiterated the potential of vaccines as a powerful tool against diseases and celebrated the great distances already traversed in immunization worldwide. Reflecting back upon Sabin’s 20-year journey, as well as the colorful history of vaccinology and public health overall, I was able to connect my efforts to bring the END7 to the University of Virginia’s campus to the larger effort to improve health worldwide.

In other words, one of the most valuable insights I gained from the symposium was the sense that I was part of something bigger— something noble and grand. Through my involvement with END7, I had also inadvertently joined humanity’s relentless race against the affliction and senseless suffering caused by diseases worldwide. Thus, we may not have the full answer to the question posed by Dr. Peter Hotez at the beginning of the symposium, when he asked what the next twenty years will look like for vaccine development and global health worldwide. But looking back on the significant milestones and lessons accumulated over the past two decades, I too am confident that “the future of immunization looks bright.”

*Jessica joined the END7 Student Advisory Board in January, and has been working with other passionate students this semester to found an END7 Coalition at the University of Virginia. 

Innovation to Fund Global Health

Last Friday, The Hill’s Congress Blog highlighted the innovative ways governments, NGO’s and the private sector are using to aid for global health. Programs like the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) and The Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria are not only ensuring that health interventions are getting to the people that need them most, they are helping to promote market growth and drive down prices.

Here’s an excerpt on public-private partnerships from the blog:

“Millions of lives are saved today in developing countries because of bold, innovative financing arrangements over last 10 years. These financing mechanisms are good examples of private sector partnership with public sector for common good.

These financing initiatives have pooled large public sector funding with private sector resources, thus allowing tax payers funds to have much larger impact than would otherwise be possible. Some of the examples are given below.”

USAID’s Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) Program is one such collaboration. In a press statement released last fall, Dr. Ariel Pablos-Mendez, Assistant Administrator for USAID’s Global Health Bureau, states:

“To date, USAID’s NTD program is the largest public-private partnership collaboration in our 50 year history. Over the past six years, USAID has leveraged over $3 billion in donated medicines reflecting one of the most cost effective public health programs. Because of this support, we are beginning to document control and elimination of these diseases in our focus countries and we are on track to meet the 2020 goals.”

To read more about NTDs in national and international public policy, visit the policy section at

You can also read about how Sabin in helping countries create sustainable access to immunization financing here.