Global Vaccine-Development Fund Could Save Thousands of Lives, Billions of Dollars

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Ebola is a preventable disease, and yet a safe and effective vaccine has not been deployed. As with many vaccines, financial barriers persist: pharmaceutical companies see high costs with limited market potential, and government support is lacking. But there may be a solution to this vaccine crisis with the ability to save at-risk populations, according to a perspective piece written by physicians based at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania and the Wellcome Trust.

The article, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, proposes the creation of a $2 billion global vaccine-development fund – supported by governments, foundations and pharmaceutical companies – that would carry promising vaccines through development to deployment. With initial support, the global vaccine fund could help make vaccines available for emergency use.

In the case of Ebola, vaccine candidates were available well before the time of the outbreak, but there were no funds to test them. Had one been tested, public health workers could have vaccinated people from the start, saving thousands of lives.

“Preventing infectious diseases should not be held back by a lack of funds. And the economic reality today is that strategic support from government and other investors is needed to address the most difficult infectious disease problems,” said essay author Adel Mahmoud, professor at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and Department of Molecular Biology.

The writers – who also include Jeremy Farrar, director of the U.K.-based Wellcome Trust, and Stanley Plotkin, emeritus professor at the University of Pennsylvania – liken their proposal to that of the antibiotic-resistance fund supported by President Barack Obama’s 2016 budget. The two funds could work in tandem to address some of the world’s most pressing global health issues, the authors write.

“The fundamental challenges facing the discovery and development of new vaccines are growing in significance and can no longer be ignored,” Farrar said.

Source: EurekAlert! (link opens in a new window)

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Health Care
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global health, pharmaceutical industry, vaccines