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NLM Director’s Comments Transcript
Gates: Immunization A Key to Global Health – 12/09/2013
Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.gov
Regards to all our listeners!
I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D. senior staff National Library of Medicine for Donald Lindberg, M.D, the Director of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
While disease prevention access has improved in lower income nations, immunization efforts need to remain a global public health priority, said Bill Gates in a recent address to National Institutes of Health (NIH) staff members.
Gates, a corporate leader and philanthropist, noted recent progress in increasing public access to vaccines for measles/rubella as well as some other preventable diseases in lower income nations. For example, Gates reported collaborative efforts by NIH, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and other public health agencies helped reduce international deaths from measles/rubella from 2.6 million in 1980 to about 158,000 persons in 2011.
Gates added an increased international use of the measles/rubella vaccine was accelerated by efforts from foundations and international public health agencies to reduce the cost of a measles/rubella shot to the current subsidized price of about 12 cents per dose.
To maintain progress, Gates said the cost of vaccinations needs to remain low. For instance, he cited recent progress in the cost of a vaccine to prevent rotavirus (a viral disease where symptoms sometimes include severe diarrhea), which is about $1 today compared to $7.50 several years ago. He pledged the Gates Foundation will remain active in reducing vaccination and other preventive medication costs for nations that need funding assistance.
Interestingly, Gates said the founding of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation partially was inspired in the 1980s when he and his wife learned to their dismay that a vaccine to prevent 250,000 international deaths from rotavirus was available mostly in what he called (and we quote) the ‘rich world’ (end of quote).
Overall, Gates (who is chairman of the board of Microsoft and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) said about 20 million children died before age five in 1960 compared to about 6.6 million in recent years. Gates said the reasons for recent improvements include: better medical research to develop vaccines to prevent some common diseases, an improved immunization delivery system in some nations, support from the pharmaceutical industry, as well as a tiered price system that reduces the cost to provide vaccinations in the nations where few residents can afford them.
Gates emphasized health prevention and improved quality of life will remain the Gates Foundation’s priorities. Regarding his Foundation’s philanthropic perspective, Gates writes in a recent edition of Wired (and we quote): ‘We take a double-pronged approach: 1) Narrow the gap so that advances for the rich world reach the poor world faster, and 2) turn more of the worlds IQ toward devising solutions to problems that only people in the poor world face’ (end of quote).
Gates suggested some of his Foundation’s specific, future efforts will include: the elimination of polio, reduction of TB, meningitis A, pneumonia, and malaria, the development of a vaccine and availability of medications to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS, as well as improving international childhood survival rates. Gates noted his Foundation’s public health efforts also will continue to improve sanitation and invest in health and agricultural educational technology.
Among other memorable remarks, Gates noted the success of international vaccination efforts sometimes results in surprising paradoxes. For example, he said the percentage of the candidate population who received the human papillomavirus vaccine (to prevent some types of cervical cancer) is significantly higher in Rwanda than it is in the U.S.
In his speech, Gates thanked NIH for (and we quote) ‘the basic science research that made vaccines possible’ (end of quote). Gates noted NIH and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are the two major sources of funding for global health prevention research and the two organizations see themselves as partners. Both Gates and NIH director Francis Collins M.D. told the audience the Gates Foundation funds about 17 percent while NIH provides about 45 percent of global health prevention research funding.
Collins also praised Gates’ commitment to public health research and disease prevention during an introduction to the crowd of about 300 live and 3,700 Internet attendees. Collins lauded the Gates Foundation’s contributions to public health and remarked Bill Gates’ second career may turn out to be even more impressive than his first.
Meanwhile MedlinePlus.gov’s international health health topic page contains a link to two websites that provides overviews about global issues (from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention – the CDC) within the ‘overviews’ section. A website also from the CDC outlines international immunization coverage within the ‘prevention/screening’ section.
A website about building global health research capacity (provided by NIH’s Fogarty International Center) is provided in the ‘research’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s international health health topic page.
MedlinePlus.gov’s international health health topic page also provides links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the ‘journal articles’ section. You can sign up to receive updates about international health as they become available on MedlinePlus.gov.
To find MedlinePlus.gov’s international health health topic page type ‘global health’ in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov’s home page. Then, click on ‘international health (National Library of Medicine).’
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