From the Economist’s Babbage blog…
FOR those in rich countries, diarrhoea is a nuisance. For those in the poor, though, it is a killer. About 1.3m children a year die from the dehydration it causes, and even those who survive may have their development stunted by the loss of nutrients it entails. One of the main causes of diarrhoea is rotavirus, so the development, four years ago, of a vaccine against this virus might have been thought good news for the poor world. It was not, though, because the trials were carried out only in rich countries and aid agencies were unwilling to subsidise the distribution in the poor world of a vaccine whose efficacy was unproven there.
That has just changed with the publication in the Lancet of clinical trials that tested the efficacy of rotavirus vaccine in Bangladesh, Ghana, Kenya, Mali and Vietnam. These trials, organised by Merck (the vaccine’s manufacturer) and the Programme for Appropriate Technology in Health (a medical charity based in Seattle), showed that although the new vaccine is not as efficacious in the poor world as it is in the rich, it is good enough to make a difference. In the wake of these studies another medical charity, the GAVI Alliance, has agreed to subsidise the vaccine. That will allow countries in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa to purchase the product at 10-30 cents a dose, compared with a market price of around $10. According to the trials’ organisers, injecting the vaccine into the immunisation programmes of the world’s poorest countries could save 2m children’s lives over the next decade.
Filed under: Commentary on news & events, Public health, Uncategorized Tagged: | diarrhoea, GAVI Alliance, global health, least-developed countries, Public health, research-based pharmaceutical industry, vaccine