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The Decade of Vaccines—A Plan to Extend Vaccine Benefits to the Whole World

Vaccine and needle.
Vaccine and needle.
Credit: CDC

In May 2012, Ministers of Health from 194 countries meeting at the 65th World Health Assembly endorsed a bold plan: extend the benefits of immunization to everyone, regardless of where they live. The Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) endorsed by the health officials is a key milestone in the Decade of Vaccines, which began in 2010 and is guided by a vision in which people everywhere enjoy lives free from vaccine-preventable illnesses.

More than 100 vaccine and public health experts developed the first version of the GVAP in 2011. The plan was refined through a global consultation effort, which included input from more than a thousand individuals representing such fields as government, research, civil society, non-governmental organizations, and manufacturers.

The plan has four related goals:

  1. Strengthen existing routine immunization programs to meet vaccination targets
  2. Accelerate control of vaccine-preventable diseases, with the specific aim of polio eradication as a first milestone to achieve
  3. Introduce new and improved vaccines
  4. Spur research and development of next-generation vaccines and vaccine technology

Value of Vaccines

Immunization programs throughout the world have already yielded remarkable gains in health for tens of millions of people. Polio cases, for example, have fallen by 99 percent since 1988, and the world is on the verge of eradicating this crippling disease. Vaccination has reduced measles deaths by nearly 75 percent, while routine immunization for diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) reached 109 million children in 2010. All told, immunizations are responsible for preventing some 2.5 million deaths and countless cases of illness each year.

Bridging Gaps, Adding New Weapons Against Disease

Despite progress on many fronts, there remain sizable global disparities in immunization rates. For example, nearly 15 percent of newborns do not receive DTP vaccines; of these, 96 percent live in low- or middle-income countries. In some countries, children in urban areas are more likely to be vaccinated against measles than those in rural regions. The GVAP challenges countries to meet vaccination coverage targets of 90 percent at the national level and 80 percent coverage at the state or district level. The Decade of Vaccines Collaboration estimates that, over the course of ten years, 24 to 26 million deaths could be averted if target immunization coverage is achieved in 81 countries.

Adding to the arsenal of existing vaccines is another primary goal of the GVAP. In recent years, new rotavirus and pneumococcal vaccines have started to be administered more widely even in the poorest countries and are helping to prevent cases of diarrhea and pneumonia, two leading causes of deaths among children. On the horizon are new or improved vaccines to combat dengue, tuberculosis, hookworm, group A streptococcus, influenza, and malaria. Beyond the vaccines themselves, the GVAP asks for continued efforts on development of new vaccine production technologies and formulations (such as the development of vaccines that do not need refrigeration).

NIAID Role in the Decade of Vaccines Effort

NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., served on the Leadership Council of the Decade of Vaccines Collaboration, a collection of leading figures from the international vaccine community. Others on the six-member leadership council included: World Health Organization Director General Margaret Chan, M.D.; Chief Executive Officer of the GAVI Alliance Seth Berkley, M.D.; President of the Global Development Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Christopher Elias, M.D.; UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, M.D., and Executive Secretary of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance Joy Phumaphi. The Leadership Council launched the Decade of Vaccines Collaboration and provided oversight and guidance to the Collaboration’s four working groups during the development of the GVAP.

Each working group included members from a wide array of international governmental, academic, industry, and non-governmental organizations. Their areas of focus are: Vaccine Delivery, Global Access, Public and Policy Support, and Research and Development (R&D). The members of the R&D working group included the director of the NIAID Vaccine Research Center, Gary Nabel, M.D., Ph.D. The working group’s mandate was to find ways to “strengthen the vaccine discovery and development pipeline to harness cutting edge science for new vaccine solutions and associated technologies, as well as accelerate the development and approval of affordable “next-generation” vaccines in order to extend the full benefits of immunization to all people.”

Activities of the four working groups are coordinated through a steering committee. Lee Hall, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the NIAID Parasitology and International Programs Branch within the Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, served as an at-large member of the steering committee.

NIAID will play a lead role in one of the strategic objectives outlined in the GVAP: Maximize benefits of immunization through global vaccine R&D efforts. Specifically, in the area of developing new vaccines, NIAID activities will support research on fundamental aspects of the human immune response; on immunological and molecular characteristics of disease-causing microbes; as well as research aimed at an improved understanding of how populations as a whole respond to vaccines.

Additional Information

The Global Vaccine Action Plan is available in English and five other languages.

The Decade of Vaccines Collaboration

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Last Updated December 18, 2012