Vaccines costs, fears, creating double whammy on world health

Vaccines costs, fears, creating double whammy on world health

July 7, 2014

July 7, 2014

Vaccines have been heralded by the prestigious British Medical Journal as one of the greatest medical advances of the past 160 years. Since their invention by Edward Jenner 200 years ago (who prevented a young English boy from getting smallpox), vaccines have saved hundreds of millions of lives since their introduction.

Any yet, despite this success, world public health is now under threat from an intersection of two alarming trends:
 
1)    Due to rise in public fears concerning the safety of vaccines, there has been a major rise in preventable outbreaks. A major anti-vaccine movement that is literally giving diseases asecond life. A recent interactive map from the Council of Foreign Relations shows the growth in the number of cases of measles, mumps, polio, rubella, and lastly, whooping cough, which in the U.S. has reached epidemic proportions.  The LA Times’ Monte Morin reported that California counties have reported 3,458 cases of the disease this year, including two infant deaths. The average number of whooping cough cases is 80-100 a month. Here in Arizona, we were hit hard with 12,000 cases in 2013, but now, cases are down to about 305 for May, 2014, compared 800 cases from the same period in 2013.  
 
2)   Vaccines costs are skyrocketing, and according to a recent article in the New York Times, “costs have gone from single digits to sometimes triple digits in the last two decades, creating dilemmas for doctors and their patients as well as straining public health budgets.”
 
“Old vaccines have been reformulated with higher costs. New ones have entered the market at once-unthinkable prices. Together, since 1986, they have pushed up the average cost to fully vaccinate a child with private insurance to the age of 18 to $2,192 from $100, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even with deep discounts, the costs for the federal government, which buys half of all vaccines for the nation’s children, have increased 15-fold during that period. The most expensive shot for young children.....is Prevnar 13, which prevents diseases caused by pneumococcal bacteria, from ear infections to pneumonia. Like many vaccines, Prevnar requires multiple jabs. Each shot is priced at $136, and every child in the United States is required to get four doses before entering school. Pfizer, the sole manufacturer, had revenues of nearly $4 billion from its Prevnar vaccine line last year, about double what it made from high-profile drugs like Lipitor and Viagra, which now face generic competitors.”
 
With these societal factors, is it any wonder that we are seeing resurgence in infectious diseases? Infectious disease remains the leading cause of death in the world, and what the world needs is a new generation of safe, low-cost vaccines that do not even require refrigeration.
 
That’s why our infectious disease research remains one of the largest efforts at Biodesgin. And this need is what drives and inspires the researchers at Biodesign’s Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology. There, scientists like Roy Curtiss are leading a team to try and one-up Prevnar 13. His group is taming salmonella, the source of food-borne illness, and “teaching it to dance” as Curtiss likes to say, to “turn a foe into a friend” and develop a next-generation vaccine effective against the majority of bacterial pneumonia strains.
 
Colleagues including Melha MellataCharles ArntzenQiang “Shawn” ChenBert Jacobs and many others have devoted their careers to bringing new vaccines to the marketplace. They’ve come a long way in their efforts, from basic research to proof-of-concept and validation, and now, many of their efforts are reaching the critical clinical trial stage---but there is still much work to be done.
 
Their ultimate hope is that these low-cost vaccines will help turn the tide of recent global health trends, and save countless lives, particularly for the developing world. 

 

Written by: Joe Caspermeyer