Vaccination Acts As a Solution to PovertyOver the past few years, the health status of many developing countries has improved significantly as the goal of increased accessibility and affordability of basic healthcare services became attainable across different regions of the world. Recently, researchers at Harvard University have debated the fact that vaccination is the key solution for not only lowering the number of deaths in developing countries, but also for alleviating the burden of medical expenses inflicted by poverty on the population and government.

The study was carried out by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health faculty, and was published in the journal of Health Affairs. Results highlighted that investments in preventive healthcare, particularly immunization which allow individuals to have access to 10 types of vaccines (measles, hepatitis B, human papillomavirus, yellow fever, rotavirus, rubella, Hib, pneumococcus, Neisseria menpngitidis and Japanese encephalitis) in 41 low-and-middle-income countries, could prevent a total of 36 million deaths over a period of 15 years.

It was also seen that 24 million cases of medical impoverishment could be prevented since most out-of-pocket medical expenses are usually associated with vaccination services in third world countries.

How Vaccination Acts As a Solution to Poverty

The following are five ways of how vaccination acts as a solution to poverty:

  1. Positive Economic ImpactAccording to Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of the Vaccine Alliance-GAVI, vaccines not only save lives, but also generate huge economic impacts for families, communities and society at large. He further explained his point of view by stating that a healthy child who has received all of his/her vaccination will become a productive member of society and can then contribute positively to the prosperity of the country. The family of vaccinated children can also avoid any strenuous costs associated with vaccine-preventable diseases.
  2. Increased Health Equity

    By legislating new policies allowing people to afford the necessary vaccinations, poverty will eventually decrease, leading to improved equity on the global development agenda. New vaccination policies could be considered as a milestone contributing to the process of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and universal health coverage.

  3. Reduced Mortality Rates

    Poverty-related statistics reveal that people living in extreme poverty tend to benefit the most from increased access to vaccines since they are more susceptible to preventable infectious diseases. Increasing their access to complete vaccine doses can lower their risk of contracting deadly communicable diseases, and thus lower their overall healthcare costs.

  4. Increased Life-Expectancy

    A study conducted by John Hopkins University in 2016 found that every $1 spent on immunization efforts is equivalent to $16 saved on healthcare costs. Therefore, the more the population saves money by avoiding additional healthcare costs, the higher its productivity and income due to improved health. As a result, people are offered the opportunity to lead longer, healthier lives, and the return on investment rises to $44 per $1 spent on vaccines.

  5. Reduced Burden of Preventable Infectious DiseasesHepatitis B was estimated to cause 14 million cases of medical impoverishment per year, while measles and meningitis A generated 5 million and 3 million cases of poverty per year, respectively; Rotavirus was also set to cause 242,000 poverty cases per year. By providing people with the necessary vaccines, morbidity and mortality rates will decline significantly and thus lead to overall reduced poverty rates. Currently, measles vaccine is projected to prevent around 22 million deaths each year.

The assumption that vaccination acts as a solution to poverty is a highly supported public health issue that has caught the attention of medical professionals and public health workers all over the world. Such a powerful primary prevention method should be widely dispersed among the public in order to initiate the start of a bright, equitable future and a world where poverty is defeated.

– Lea Sacca
Photo: Flickr

Increase Child Immunization
Orange, GAVI and Côte d’Ivoire Ministry of Health are coming together for a mobile phone project, “M-Vaccin Côte d’Ivoire,” which will increase child immunization by focusing on regions with the lowest immunization rates in the Côte d’Ivoire.

GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance

GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, is dedicated to protecting children’s lives and health by providing immunizations in developing countries. Orange works towards providing technology to use as tools in both healthcare and also education and finances and believes that their digital outreach supports those aspects of underdeveloped countries.

The project will use Orange mobile technology to both inform parents about the importance of vaccinations through text and voice messages and to also make sure parents don’t forget about immunization appointments by sending reminders of the date and time of their child’s session.

Orange Technology

Orange will also be providing health care workers with the M-Vaccin mobile application that allows them to view data, create vaccination schedules for individual families they are caring for and monitor the results, which in turn should increase child immunization.

The partnership between these organizations will continue for five years; during this time, Orange and GAVI will combine to invest a collective $5.47 million in the project. Half of the investment will be from the GAVI Matching Fund, and the other half from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

This funding will go to support the outreach program and provide both mobile devices to those in need and healthcare workers, and also inform citizens about the importance of immunizations, and keeping up with vaccination appointments and learning sessions.

Project Implementation

The Project will be implemented in the 29 districts of Côte d’Ivoire where immunization is lower than the national average. Many of the parents living in these districts aren’t fully informed about immunizations, and often aren’t living close enough to healthcare centers in the first place. Côte d’Ivoire’s infant mortality rates are some of the highest in the world, and only continue to increase; about half of children under age one are immunized.

The M-Vaccin Program

The M-Vaccin Program expects to reach more than 800,000 children and could possibly be expanded into other countries in West Africa upon evaluation. Dr. Seth Berkley, the CEO if GAVI, said the partnership is really important for the children of Côte d’Ivoire, and that their parents do not receive enough information about vaccinations because of where they live.

Solving or working around these situational obstacles will significantly improve the rates of child immunization in the Côte d’Ivoire, and also hopefully serve as a catalyst for further increases in child immunization across the continent.

– Chloe Turner

Photo: Flickr

Maternal ImmunizationMaternal immunization is a necessary solution to reduce mortality rates for newborns as well as pregnant women. These vaccines must be monitored for safety and effectiveness. Systems must also be enforced to make the change, especially in low and middle-income countries, as the neonatal (first 28 days of life) period mortality rates are significantly higher in developing countries. 99 percent of all neonatal deaths occur in low and middle-income countries. Vaccinations in a pregnant woman protect herself, the fetus, and the newborn by transferring maternal antibodies across the placenta, guarding them both against life-threatening infections.

A system that identifies, evaluates and responds to the potential events after immunization is called the Pharmacovigilance system. This system is vital for pregnancies but unfortunately, it is still uncommon in developing countries. Fortunately, however, GAPPS (Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Still Birth) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have created a report that discusses the monitoring of existing systems for safety,  identifies the gaps, and outlines a plan to implement this program in low and middle-income countries.

The analysis brings in a range of organizations including the WHO (World Health Organization), UNICEF, and MNCH (Maternal, Newborn and Child Health) to develop the strategy further. The report also discusses key necessities such as the need for regulations, response to events including the health of pregnant women and their offspring, training in the Pharmacovigilance system, model creation of dates, and linkages between the systems and collaborators.

If a pregnant woman is at a high risk of being exposed to any diseases that would be a high risk to both her and the fetus, the benefits of maternal immunization would typically outweigh the risks. The two vaccinations for pregnant women that are most encouraged are whooping cough (Pertussis), and the flu (Influenza) vaccines. The whopping cough can be life-threatening for newborns, but with the vaccine, the body will produce protective antibodies for the mother and the baby which protects against whooping cough. The flu vaccination is a necessity for pregnant women because they are more susceptible to the virus with the changes in their immune system, heart and lungs. If a pregnant woman catches the flu it can potentially cause serious problems for the fetus including premature birth.

With these systems and an increase in maternal immunization, pregnant women can have confidence in their pregnancy and labor as well as lower the global maternal and newborn mortality rate.

Chloe Turner

Photo: Flickr

UNDP Supports Universal Immunization Program in IndiaWith high risks of communicable diseases like bacterial diarrhea, malaria, hepatitis A and E and typhoid, there’s a rising necessity for a proper immunization program in India. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has partnered with the Indian government and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to design and put into effect an Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network (eVIN). This project, known as Improving Efficiency of Vaccination Systems in Multiple States, has already run since 2014 and is to run until 2021 to strengthen the evidence base for policy-making related to vaccine delivery, procurement and planning, and ensure equity in availability.

As the world’s largest immunization program, eVIN technology has already shown results in enabling real time information on cold chain temperatures and vaccine stocks and flows in all 371 implementing districts in India. It has managed to achieve over a 98 percent reporting rate from vaccine storage areas, with over 2 million transactions logged each month, and developed the skills of over 17,000 government staff in store keeping, data operating or cold chain handling in over 550 batches of training programs.

The eVIN is setup on a mobile application that easily allows cold chain handlers to log stock positions at the end of each routine immunization day, which is then relayed immediately onto a web interface for assessment by health officials. In India, this can come to play an important role as geography and communications can pose an issue, like in the small hill-state of Manipur, where vaccine vials are carried over extensive distances to session sites by auxiliary nurses and midwives. Instances of stock-outs have decreased by more than six times here, and eVIN has enabled staff to learn how to use a smartphone and other technology, improving quality of work and management in the process.

This immunization program in India has also significantly empowered women health workers, giving them the opportunity to work with technology after attending regional and district eVIN training sessions. This allows them to manage stocks and temperatures themselves, bridges the digital divide in rural parts of India and ensures transparency alongside accuracy. Over 50 percent of cold chain handlers are women, and many are from older age groups.

EVin has taken India out of the unproductive days of delayed decision making, shortages and expirations, and has created an efficient health system that allows for valuable state-wide geographic, stock-out or excess stock and temperature overviews on each district’s centers. It also allows for large savings by reducing vaccine wastage and allowing for timely and quality injections, as in Rewa, where around $70,000 was saved after six months of eVIN activation.

Though led by the UNDP and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in India, the Universal Immunization Program is largely supported by GAVI, a global vaccine alliance established in 2000. With support from GAVI and the Indian government, the Universal Immunization Program in India has immunized at least 65 percent of India‘s children and expects to immunize 27 million more each oncoming year.

Zar-Tashiya Khan

Photo: Flickr

How to Bring Medicine to the PoorThere are many diseases plaguing the developing nations of the world. There is also much that can be done to improve the state of health across the globe. This is especially true with regards to measles. Measles is a serious problem, particularly in African nations, including Nigeria. Nigeria desperately needs people to bring medicine to the poor.

The CDC reported 176,785 confirmed cases of measles in Africa between 2013 and 2016. While the frequency of measles cases has been on the decline since 2013, the disease is still too widespread to be considered a solved problem. This is especially true for children between nine and 59 months old; they are the most vulnerable to this disease.

Starting in 2013, Nigeria had 50,585 known cases of measles. By 2016, this number had dropped to 11,499 known measles cases, leaving it still the most highly infected African nation. This seems like an exceptionally great dilemma to members of the developed world who are accustomed to the high cost of vaccines. In the United States, the CDC’s five recommended childhood shots can cost an average of $937 per person. Considering how much these vaccines cost Americans, how could it be possible to combat an epidemic in a nation as poor as Nigeria?

According to the World Health Organization, it is actually quite cost-effective to immunize nations such as Nigeria from measles. While vaccines are quite expensive in nations such as the United States, they are relatively inexpensive to use when manufactured for mass immunization projects. The World Health Organization has estimated that mass immunizations could be performed in countries such as Nigeria for roughly $1 per child vaccine.

What can be done to bring medicine to Nigeria? A simple solution would be to write and call your Congress representatives to encourage them to support immunization projects. Donating to the Borgen Project is also a great way to put forth efforts to increase U.S. spending on global disease prevention. To make a direct impact, it is also possible to contact the World Health Organization to ask how you can contribute to the fight against measles. From these steps, there will be an improved capacity by many organizations to bring medicine to the poor.

Tim Sherwood

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in Tanzania
Gender inequality, limited access to safe water, lack of sanitation, poor hygiene and a recent drop in immunization are major issues Tanzanian citizens face in urban and rural areas of the country. These factors have contributed to the rampant spread of three common diseases in Tanzania: HIV and AIDS, cholera and malaria.

The most common disease affecting the Tanzanian populace is HIV and AIDS. HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system, the body’s natural defense against disease. The immune system is destroyed when left untreated and the person cannot recover from infections, big or small. At this stage, the person has AIDS.

According to the World Factbook, in 2015, almost 1.4 million people in Tanzania were living with AIDS. This is the most recent estimate. Also reported by the same source, Tanzania ranks sixth in comparison to the rest of the world with the number of its citizens living with the disease.

HIV is the main source of adult mortality in the country. The World Factbook states that in 2015 an estimated 35,700 Tanzanian adults died from the disease, placing the country in fourth place in comparison to the rest of the world.

According to the charity organization, AVERT, the populations most affected by HIV in Tanzania are people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men, mobile populations and sex workers. Of all HIV infections, 80% of them result from heterosexual sex. Tanzanian women are infected more than men due to having older partners, getting married earlier and neglecting negotiating skills for safer sex due to gender inequality.

The second of the most common diseases in the Tanzanian population is cholera. Cholera is a bacterial disease usually spread through contaminated water. Cholera causes severe diarrhea and dehydration. Cholera kills infected persons within hours when left untreated.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), by April 20, 2016, there was a total of 24,108 cases of cholera in Tanzania, including 378 deaths. The majority of the cases were reported from 23 regions in mainland Tanzania (20,961 cases, including 329 deaths). Neighboring Zanzibar islands reported 3,057 cases of the disease, including 51 deaths.

The disease spread quickly due to conducive conditions such as limited access to safe water in poor households, sanitary problems and poor hygiene found in both mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar. In addition, the nation’s water supply institutions lacked the capacity to disinfect water and conduct regular water quality monitoring and assessments.

Recently, there has been a decline in the number of newly reported cases of cholera. However, the conditions that helped the disease to persist still have not changed, so the risk for more infections remains high.

The final common disease affecting the Tanzanian population is malaria. Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. Mild symptoms include fever, headache and chills. Severe symptoms include anemia, difficulty breathing due to fluid-filled lungs and cerebral malaria in children. In adults, organ failure is also frequent.

The World Factbook reports malaria is a leading killer of children under five in Tanzania. According to the Malaria Spot website, Tanzania has the third-largest population at risk of malaria in Africa. Over 90% of the population live in areas where there is malaria. Each year, 10 to 12 million people contract malaria and 80,000 die from the disease, most of them children. There is no vaccine for malaria. This fact contributes to why the disease continues to be a threat to Tanzanians.

Common diseases in Tanzania are prevalent because the geographical and economic conditions of the country favor their spread. While HIV and AIDS, cholera and malaria have been a threat to the population there have been positive strides. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has been working with the government of the United Republic of Tanzania and more than 60 partner organizations since 2001 to address HIV, malaria, and other health threats by helping support service delivery and strengthen health systems and infrastructure. The CDC partnership has seen success, including:

  • 637,875 people are currently receiving HIV treatment
  • 74,430 pregnant women have received medication to reduce transmission to their babies through PEPFAR (The United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) since 2010
  • 1,155,833 men have been circumcised to prevent new HIV infections since 2010
  • New malaria infections have decreased from 18% to 10% in children 6-59 months in 2011-2012

With continued aid and improvement in living conditions for the Tanzanian people, common diseases in Tanzania will no longer remain common.

Jeanine Thomas

Photo: Flickr


Preventable diseases continue to claim thousands of lives each year in Africa, but leaders of state have taken a bold stand against this reality. An official pledge in January affirmed their commitment to realizing the goal of universal access to immunization by the year 2020.

African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma stated in a press release following the Addis Declaration on Immunization (ADI) summit: “With political support at the highest levels, we are closer than ever to ensuring that all children in Africa have an equal shot at a healthy and productive life.”

This announcement marks the continuation of ongoing efforts to provide immunizations to citizens of 40 separate countries by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. To date, Gavi has saved more than 4.5 million lives by providing vaccines.

“African leaders are making a sound economic investment in future generations,” Dr. Seth Berkley, the CEO of Gavi, said in response to the announcement.

Berkley’s comment is not figurative. According to a 2016 study by Johns Hopkins University, when factoring in quality of life and reduction in economic disease burdens, every one dollar invested by the U.S. in vaccination among the 94 poorest countries on Earth yields a staggering 44 dollars in returns. In those countries directly supported by Gavi, the figure rises even higher, to 48 dollars.

The extensive list of diseases prevented by such immunizations includes polio, whooping cough, tetanus, yellow fever, diarrhea, cervical cancers and the most deadly of all, measles. Due to its highly contagious nature, measles alone was the cause of nearly 40,000 deaths in Africa in 2013, based on a survey by the World Health Organization.

The African government is not alone in supporting immunization efforts for children. Africa United, a platform for raising awareness of global health issues, has enlisted star football athletes to provide public service adverts during this year’s Total Africa Cup of Nations tournament. “Football unites people from all across Africa and beyond,” stated Issa Hayatou, the President of the Confederation of African Football, the governing body of professional football for Africa. “Together we can help ensure millions of African children are immunized by 2020.”

Though great strides have been made during the past 15 years, approximately one in five young people in Africa still do not have access to vaccines that prevent these life-threatening diseases. This pledge may mark the first step in reducing that number to zero by providing universal access to immunization.

Dan Krajewski

Photo: Flickr

 Childhood ImmunizationImmunization is among the most effective public health interventions available and, in recent decades, vaccines have contributed to significant reductions in the childhood disease burden globally, saving up to three million children a year.

More children than ever before now live healthy lives because of immunization. Four out of five children around the world receive vaccinations against deadly diseases like tuberculosis, polio, measles, diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.

Coverage with the third dose of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine (DTP3) is commonly used to measure the strength and reach of routine childhood immunization programs because this requires reaching children with the vaccines three times at appropriate intervals. Since 2010, 85 percent of the world’s children received the required three doses of DTP3 and in 2015 this figure rose to 86 percent. The results show major successes in immunization programs in many countries.

However, several countries are still lagging behind. An estimated 19.4 million children are still missing out on basic vaccines and 1.5 million of these children die each year from preventable diseases. Of the children not reached by immunization in 2015, 60 percent lived in 10 countries: Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and Ukraine. Iraq and Ukraine entered the list due to the result of conflict on their health systems.

While national immunization coverage rates are high in most countries, there are still gaps in coverage within countries between the richest and the poorest populations. A recent WHO report found that several countries have a DTP3 coverage gap of more than 20 percentage points between poor and rich children.

In many countries, vaccine coverage varies according to geographical, socioeconomic or demographic factors of children. Children living in impoverished areas of cities or remote rural regions, as well as children of mothers with a low-level of education, are less likely to receive vaccines. Increasingly, childhood immunization efforts are being refocused to reduce inequalities that exist between countries, as well as inequalities that exist between the poorest and wealthiest populations within countries.

In 2012, the Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) was approved by all 194 member states of the World Health Assembly (WHA). GVAP is a roadmap to prevent millions of deaths by 2020 through more equitable access to vaccines for people in all communities.

GVAP aims to extend immunization to everyone during the so-called Decade of Vaccines (2011-2020) by ensuring adequate resources, developing supportive health systems and infrastructure, training health workers to reach remote and marginalized populations and developing new and improved vaccines and technologies that will maximize the benefits of immunization.

Childhood immunization rates have improved greatly over the last few decades, with renewed focus on closing the remaining gap in access to vaccines between countries and within national populations.

-Helena Jacobs

Photo: Flickr