Vaccination has long been recognized as one of the most effective and cost-efficient methods available in preventing disease, yet a number of barriers exist that prevent its worldwide implementation. To meet these challenges, multiple organizations and individuals are brainstorming cutting-edge technologies to provide innovation in vaccine delivery.
At the end of February, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, more commonly known as Gavi, announced the continuation of its INFUSE initiative from 2016. The program, the name of which is an acronym for Innovation for Uptake, Scale and Equity in immunization, serves as an invitational challenge to ambitious entrepreneurs, inventors and businesses worldwide to envision and develop brand new ways to provide life-saving vaccines to people living in poverty across the globe.
“This platform brings together global problem solvers who can find new ways to accelerate immunization coverage and reduce inequities in access to vaccination for the world’s poorest children,” said Marie-Ange Saraka-Yao, Gavi’s Managing Director of resource mobilization and private sector partnerships.
Currently, global immunization rates hover at around 80 percent, and approximately 19 million children do not have access to a full course of vaccines to prevent death from preventable afflictions such as pneumonia and diarrhea.
INFUSE has already made a difference in its first year of existence by generating a partnership between Nexleaf Analytics and Google, now actively working toward solving the problem of safely packaging and storing vaccines at cool temperatures in order to keep them functional. The CEO and Co-Founder of Nexleaf Dr. Martin Lukac stated in Gavi’s press release: “Becoming an INFUSE pacesetter helped us improve vaccine cold chains in low-income countries, and to significantly increase our impact.”
Rethinking Traditional Delivery Methods
One Seattle organization, PATH (Plan for Appropriate Technology in Health), has proposed a multitude of new concepts and products to improve on vaccine delivery worldwide. Its innovations include chemical formulas that can be mixed with existing vaccines to keep them stable, even in extreme temperatures, as well as alternative methods of administering vaccines without the need for needles and syringes.
As a group leader for vaccine technologies at PATH, Debra Kristensen outlines on the group’s website, “Called a sublingual gel, [the vaccine dose] begins as a liquid solution, but when it’s dropped under the tongue, it turns into a gel. The vaccine is easily absorbed by the thin tissue under the tongue. Another important area of research is intradermal delivery…technologies we’re investigating range from jet injectors to microneedles, which could potentially allow for self-administration of a vaccine.”
These exceptional ideas and many more, likely to come from initiatives like INFUSE, are ongoing examples of how innovation in vaccine delivery saves lives worldwide.
– Dan Krajewski