The global pandemic reminded us that vaccines are one of the most successful public health technologies ever developed. They save millions of lives annually, can offer significant economic benefits, and have eradicated several deadly diseases.
Despite these benefits, significant challenges remain, including factors related to vaccine access and uptake. An answer to overcoming challenges is increased cooperation and partnership among researchers, manufacturers, regulatory agencies, and vaccine distributors and providers, and the delivery of public education resources to overcome skepticism.
“Responding to public health needs can be challenging, and sometimes daunting,” said John Herrmann, executive vice president and chief legal officer at biotechnology company Novavax. “Building strategic alliances between biotechnology companies and industry partners whose strengths complement our own allows us to quickly and efficiently scale up operations to meet emerging public health needs — such as vaccine manufacturing and rapid delivery to global markets.”
Value of vaccines
The most obvious benefit of effective, widely available vaccines is the lives saved through their use. For example, it’s estimated that vaccines prevent 3.5-5 million deaths every year.
Vaccines are also among the most cost-effective public health interventions ever developed. On a macro scale, vaccines save billions in healthcare costs each year by lowering rates of infection and reducing morbidity and mortality — and thus hospitalizations — for diseases worldwide. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates the vaccination of children born between 1994 and 2018 will save almost $1.9 trillion in total societal costs, which is more than $5,000 for each American.
From an individual perspective, being vaccinated reduce out-of-pocket healthcare costs, helps prevent income loss from extended time off work, and may help personal insurance premiums from rising.
Global approach to vaccine delivery
All vaccines authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration and other regulatory agencies go through multiple phases of testing before authorization and distribution and remain under post-authorization monitoring for any rare side effects.
Despite these safety measures, vaccine hesitancy which can be based on non-medical reasoning is on the rise. “With millions of people affected by infectious diseases, there is an urgent need to increase vaccination uptake globally to prevent the spread of serious illness and deaths. One important way to address this need is to equip communities with accurate vaccine information so that individuals can make well-informed decisions about their own vaccination,” said Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, Executive Director, American Public Health Association. Vaccine hesitancy, can stem from misinformation, lack of information, and medical mistrust, increases the danger that infectious diseases pose to communities and puts increased economic pressure on entire societies, often with disastrous consequences.
“As we work to decrease rates of morbidity and mortality from the world’s most infectious diseases, Novavax is dedicated to understanding the drivers of vaccine acceptance in communities where vaccine uptake is low,” said Dr. Gregory M. Glenn, president of research and development at Novavax.
Limited health literacy is created when organizations or people give health information that is too difficult to understand or expecting patients to figure out health services that are unfamiliar or confusing. It affects people of all ages, races, incomes, and education levels globally and has been linked to poor health outcomes and higher costs due to healthcare expenditures. Education and “vaccine literacy” are essential, according to Lori Rose Benson, executive director and chief executive officer at Hip Hop Public Health. “By providing culturally responsive, evidence-based health communications via trusted messengers, we can help bridge gaps in vaccine uptake, drive confidence, and positively impact the larger footprint of infectious diseases, particularly for young adults.” According to Benson, “Deepening health literacy through the transformative power of music, art and culture can inspire positive health choices for young people and their families, especially in underserved communities of color.”
Vaccine equity is another barrier. Worldwide vaccination coverage continues to lag, especially in lower-income areas of the world that lack sufficient healthcare infrastructure, education, and trained healthcare professionals. Finding practical ways of delivering more vaccine doses to more people who want them is paramount to protecting from vaccine-preventable disease.
Value of partnerships
Novavax is an innovator in vaccine research, but innovation alone can’t overcome challenges in vaccine confidence, access, and uptake. Developing vaccines is a complex process that requires partnerships at every stage: research, testing, manufacturing, and distribution. Novavax has actively pursued global partnerships to expand access around the world.
“Our partnership with Serum Institute of India (SII) is an important example of collaboration that can expand access to vaccines in areas of the world where vaccination rates are well below public health targets,” Hermann said. “It is through strategic partnerships like this that rapid scale up of manufacturing capabilities could help ensure no country is left behind in the race to deliver vaccines, which ultimately decrease the financial burden lower vaccine uptake places on our global economy.”
The pandemic may be receding from the public consciousness, but vaccines remain as vital as ever to protect our tomorrow. To learn more, visit Novavax.com.