December 14, 2009

Bloomberg School establishes International Vaccine Access Center

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has established the International Vaccine Access Center to increase availability of lifesaving vaccines by overcoming many of the obstacles that often delay their usage and distribution. IVAC will also serve as a source of vaccine policy information and analysis and will develop and use evidence to advocate for improved global health policies and their implementation. Projects undertaken by IVAC are supported by grants from the GAVI Alliance and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“For too long, access to lifesaving vaccines has been delayed by the lack of evidence-based policies to support their use and delivery. The cost of these delays is measurable in lives lost, particularly in developing countries,” said Orin Levine, director of IVAC and associate professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of International Health. “IVAC will aim to turn that situation around by using policy-focused evidence to assure equitable vaccine access globally.”

IVAC researchers have credited a lack of evidence for decision making and a failure to turn evidence into policies for contributing to the lag in vaccine access. In many cases, it takes nearly 20 years from the time a vaccine is developed until it reaches the masses, and most developing countries struggle with limited financial resources and policy guidance.

Bringing together faculty from the Bloomberg School, IVAC will advance vaccine access through research, training and public health practice. Its work will include documenting the burden of vaccine-preventable diseases and the safety, efficacy and cost-effectiveness of vaccines and programs that improve health and save lives.

“The International Vaccine Access Center is the first of its kind and was created in response to the urgent need for evidence to drive global access for vaccines,” said Michael J. Klag, dean of the school. “The research and work conducted at the Bloomberg School has documented the burden of disease and demonstrated the safety, efficacy and cost-effectiveness of vaccine interventions. This effort epitomizes the mission of our school by improving health and saving countless lives.”

“Preventing disease by increased access to childhood vaccines is one of the greatest success stories in public health,” said Tachi Yamada, president of the Global Health Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “But more must be done for the millions of children who do not receive the necessary immunizations. Better evidence-based policies will help make sure that all children, everywhere, have access to the lifesaving vaccines they need and deserve.”

IVAC will build upon the Hib Initiative and PneumoADIP programs, which were supported by the GAVI Alliance and have helped accelerate uptake of Hib and pneumococcal conjugate vaccines. Researchers estimate that increased uptake of these vaccines could prevent more than 7 million deaths in young children by 2030.