History is shaped by innovation and human ingenuity. From light bulbs to laptops, each major breakthrough has changed the way we live – and in many cases made our world a healthier place. Vaccines are a perfect example of this.
In 1796, Edward Jenner announced a novel vaccine that would go on to eradicate smallpox from the planet; and in the 1950s, Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin developed the first two vaccines to fight the scourge of polio. Soon, polio will be consigned to history as well. These innovators laid the foundation for future efforts to help prevent the spread of some of the world’s deadliest diseases.
However, these life-saving tools can’t benefit people around the world if they’re sitting on a shelf. Vaccines need systems and people in-place to safely and reliably deliver them to the communities who need them. The Gates Foundation created the Gates Vaccine Innovation Award to honor innovations that enable this critical work.
We are excited to celebrate one of those innovations by announcing Agence de Médecine Préventive (AMP) as the 2014 Gates Vaccine Innovation Award for EPIVAC, an on-the-job training program for district medical officers (DMOs) to improve immunization program performance in 11 Francophone African countries.
Vaccines protect children for a lifetime from debilitating diseases. By improving health programs at the local level, EPIVAC is helping ensure children receive the life-saving vaccines they need.Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
EPIVAC blends classroom and field work to strengthen DMOs project management capacity. While students work toward their master’s degree in public health management or applied vaccinology, they continue to work on the ground. This allows them to continue to provide critical life-saving health services to their communities and apply lessons in real time.
EPIVAC graduates are unsung heroes of global immunization efforts. Due to their leadership, community health workers are further empowered to reach children with lifesaving vaccines. In fact, each EPIVAC graduate serves an average of 30,000-200,000 people, which means EPIVAC graduates have positively impacted an estimated 6 million lives. Further, data shows that districts with EPIVAC graduates have significantly higher immunization coverage than those without.
EPIVAC is a model program that helps vaccines make it the final mile to the children who need them most. Worldwide, more than 22 million children still don’t receive the vaccines they need, and 1.5 million children die from vaccine-preventable diseases. EPIVAC is helping to reduce these numbers each day, and history will mark it as having made a real and lasting impact on the communities its graduates serve.
We have the tools we need to prevent diseases like measles, pneumonia and rotavirus, but we are still striving to ensure that every child, no matter where they live, has access to vaccines. Now, we need more programs like EPIVAC to help ensure our past innovations can help today’s children live long and healthy lives well into the future.