By Anthony Isibor
MUHAMMAD Ali Pate, coordinating minister of health and social welfare says that lack of access to vaccines, lack of confidence in vaccines and the absence of equity are some of the challenges that have continued to hinder full utilization of vaccines for global health.
He noted that although the world is confronted by an array of multiple crises ranging from increasing infectious threats that culminated into the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, to rising geopolitical tensions that are rapidly undermining the world order, to huge economic uncertainties facing rich and poor countries alike, worsening inequities within and between countries, and the wicked problem of climate change that is threatening the survival of human species, the development of vaccines seem to be a rallying point for addressing the multiple challenges in our world.
Speaking at the first Asia Pacific Summit on Infectious Diseases and Immunization, organized by the Asia Pacific Immunization Coalition, APIC on the theme: “Vaccination for All: Access, Confidence, and Equity (ACE),” he called on governments, private sector, civil society, healthcare professionals, and researchers to unite to make sure that no one is left behind.
Pate disclosed that in such a complex and interconnected world, where the environment, infectious agents, animals and human beings are constantly interacting and evolving, where pathogen spillovers are increasingly likely, the role of vaccines is very strategic.
He said: “First, as you outlined in the themes of this conference, we must work together, beyond borders and boundaries, to prioritize equitable access, rebuild confidence, and champion the cause of global health equity.
“Second, in this ever-evolving landscape, we should also strengthen platforms whose primary focus is on childhood vaccines, and begin to move them in the directions of a life-course vaccination approach, with many vaccines available for older age groups and in the events of major epidemics where vaccines are effective. In other words, we should reassess our health services delivery platforms in the light of the evolving landscape of vaccines.
“Third, we need to rethink vaccines research and development, in this era where biology is met by chemistry in discovery. This means the era of large vaccines manufacturing plants in only a few wealthy countries is ending.
“As such, further distribution of research and development capacities in networks, across different geographies is now more practical.
“The capacities for product development, clinical trials to regulations, manufacturing, post-marketing surveillance, distribution, and integration within health systems and communities must be domesticated in regions and diverse countries.
“Fourth, we must not forget that the progress made so far is fragile. To protect the gains, we must revitalize existing multi-stakeholder partnerships, or create new ones where necessary, to extend the benefits of vaccination across the life-course and ensuring access for the poorest and most vulnerable populations.
“This especially can serve as a means for governments and multilaterals to re-energize the social contract with citizens, strengthening primary healthcare systems and enhancing health security for everyone.
“Fifth, we should, especially in this era of polycrisis, seek innovative approaches to mobilize global, regional, and local financing, shape global, regional, and local markets, enable collaborations for decentralized vaccine manufacturing and tech transfers, and rebuild resilient and equitable delivery mechanisms capable of responding to public health crises. With frontline health workers at the center.
“Sixth, we should rethink our approaches to science communications considering the much better organized anti-science, anti-vaccines movement.
“Instead of scientific communications focused on the elites, are there ways to further democratize relevant scientific communications in local languages and systematically engaging respected, influential community, national, or regional voices to enhance confidence of people on the benefits of vaccinations?
“Given that infectious diseases respect no borders, or countries, or ethnicity, or religion, discovery, financing, and delivery of potent, safe vaccines, can provide a basis for unifying the world to address infectious diseases.”