Nine Indian companies produce vaccines prequalified for use by the World Health organisation; yet in India and the world over, the very success of vaccines is contributing to rising vaccine hesitancy, said Dr Trevor Mundel, President, Global Health Division, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Monday. According to WHO, vaccine hesitancy refers to delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite availability of vaccination services.
“You have to rectify the situation of complacency that seems to have gotten into both at the policy level and among medical specialists who have seen and understand the huge population(level) benefits of vaccination. Take something like measles vaccination, it seems that its very success in eliminating measles has made people forget about the problems of disability and deaths caused by the disease. People forget about those aspects because the vaccine has been so successful. There needs to be a counter view from policy makers and the medical field,” Dr Mundel told The Indian Express on the sidelines of the Leadership Dialogue Series organised by the department of biotechnology and AIIMS. In his talk on Monday, Dr Mundel spoke about India’s leadership role in solving global health challenges.
India since last year has seen a resurgence of diphtheria in big cities including Delhi despite the fact that vaccine for the disease is among the oldest in the public health programme. The comeback of the disease caused the Union Health Ministry to commission a study on vaccine hesitancy.
Vaccine hesitancy is a growing problem the world over. The US too has been grappling with it as some time back cases of polio like illness created panic.
In his speech at AIIMS, Dr Mundel spoke about India’s vaccine industry and his foundation’s eagerness to partner with it. ” Nine Indian companies produce vaccines that are prequalified for global use by the WHO. The Gates Foundation actively partners with three of these companies – Serum Institute, Bharat, and BioE – each of which is playing a critical role in developing safe, effective, and affordable vaccines for the leading infectious causes of death and disability in low- and middle-income countries. The Gates Foundation is eager to work with India’s biotechnology ecosystem to develop new and better vaccines for the next generation,” he said. India’s strength, he said, is its ability to supply quality vaccines at an affordable price.
He also spoke about the possible lead India can take on research related to undernutrition and help develop interventions that can prevent stunting and wasting in children. “We know that frequent exposure to severe diarrhea and infectious diseases can severely damage the gut lining of young children, preventing their bodies from taking up essential nutrients and limiting healthy brain and body development. Indian researchers are now working on innovative ways to test for irregularities in gut development using non-invasive endoscopes that can be gently inserted through the nose and directed through the stomach and into the small intestine. We are also collaborating on early phase research to identify supplements that can restore healthy growth and development to damaged gut linings,” he said in his talk.