From the Pacific Health Summit: Vaccines Equity Could Be a Possibility

Ed note. Esther Nakkazi is freelance science journalist based in Uganda. She is attending the Pacific Health Summit, underway in Seattle this week.

By Esther Nakkazi

The 2011 Pacific Health Summit opened yesterday with a goal to have every child in the world get access to life saving vaccines on time and using better technologies.

The theme for this year’s conference is vaccines and the major focus about them is equity. All constituents; science, industry, policy and politics have come together to ensure equity.

The conference seeks for collaborations to have tangible efforts to create new bonds and partnerships in the vaccines and immunization field at the 2011 summit and beyond

While countries have a duty to provide infrastructure for delivering vaccines to the people, scientists have to explore different vaccine products and their packaging designs that get more vaccines to more people.

The statistics mentioned in the conference about vaccines and immunization are okay but still need progress. There are certainly not enough vaccines for all the people who need them. For instance only 80 percent of the world’s children have access to vaccines, 20 percent do not.

6 percent of all children have been opted out of vaccines and this where communication and engagement of the communities are important. There are suggestions of having influential people like religious leaders play a leading role.

But there is need to be innovative approaches to increase immunization coverage through for example private sector opportunities, community-built solutions, and increased acceptance of immunization by healthcare workers and parents.

Another important issue that cropped up was pricing of vaccines for Middle-income countries, which are not served by GAVI. They argue that they do not want GAVI money but want GAVI prices to avail vaccines to all children in the Middle East.

The annual conference is deliberately kept small so that participants engage each other. It has about 250 people in attendance. It is the 7th conference since the idea of the Pacific Health Summit was conceived. The Summit seeks to catalyse change through the connection of science, policy and industry.

It is the first time that journalists from Africa like me have been invited to this conference and hopefully it has set a precedent to have us attend because vaccines largely a part of developing countries.