This year, like every year, CVD-Mali is immensely proud to add its voice and experience to the global celebration that is WHO’s World Immunization Week.
This year’s theme, ‘The Big Catch-Up’, is particularly relevant to us in Mali – and, I suspect, to a great many countries like ours, for whom routine immunization and the extended programme of immunization (EPI) are staples of public health provision and a crucial element in ensuring that our communities are able to build up resistance to a number of common, dangerous but preventable diseases which continue to wreak havoc throughout entire communities and regions.
This is particularly true this year, of course.
Restoring the balance
The COVID-19 crisis caused untold damage to communities in Mali, as it did throughout the world. That damage – to millions of lives – was both direct, as a result of infection with SARS-CoV-2, and also indirect: so many routine health interventions, on which the fragile balance of people’s health is based, particularly in low-income and remote or isolated communities, were upended.
Solidarity Trial Vaccines, an international clinical study of candidate COVID-19 vaccines coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO) and administered in Mali by CVD-Mali, is now recruiting for its exciting new phase.
COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on our lives in ways many of us have never experienced before. Millions of people across the world have died from the disease, and although remarkable scientific work has led to the development of a number of successful vaccines, many countries, including Mali, still do not have access to them. This is why it is still so important to find vaccines that can protect people from existing and emerging variants of COVID-19 which, two and a half years after the start of the pandemic, is still a major global problem.
Recruiting 150,000 new participants
Almost 9 000 participants have already taken part in the trial in Mali. Now, a new candidate vaccine has been introduced. Developed by Codagenix and the Serum Institute of India, the vaccine is conveniently delivered as a single-dose nasal spray. We are now recruiting a further 150,000 participants in districts around Kita, Djoliba and Siby to help us evaluate the effectiveness of this new vaccine.
All candidate vaccines in the trial have been carefully selected by leading international experts, after first trial phases showed their potential to be safe and effective.
CVD-Mali Director General, Professor Samba Sow, said:
Every participant and community in the trial has made a contribution to finding new, safe and effective vaccines for Mali and for the world, and we are grateful for your support.
Prof. Samba O Sow
To find out more, and to take part in this important trial, please email STV@cvd-mali.org, or phone CVD-Mali on +223 20 23 60 31.
Here at CVD-Mali, vaccine development is our bread and butter and we welcome every opportunity, and World Immunization Week in particular, to shine a light on the amazing, life-changing power and potential of vaccines and vaccination.
In all our work, over the course of 20 years trialling, developing, and introducing vaccines into public policy for the Malian population, we keep coming back to a few core principles in relation to vaccines.
The first, and by far the most important, is that vaccines work. As the WHO says,
Vaccines have been indiscriminately saving lives since 1796. The first Smallpox immunization was a fight back against disease. For the first time, it gave everyone a chance. And hundreds of vaccines later, across two and a quarter centuries, billions of people have lived longer lives.
Closely related to that point, however, is the fact that vaccines can only work if they are administered to people and, as we have seen with COVID-19 vaccines, getting doses into people’s arms can be a complicated process.
Some complications arise from people’s reticence to receive vaccines. They may think that a vaccine contains “live virus”, and that there is a chance of them being infected with the very disease it is meant to protect them from. Or they may simply be reluctant to be administered with something that sounds threatening or, more simply, unknown.
Communities and trust
The truth is, of course, that vaccines administered to the public have undergone the most rigorous testing possible, and that has always been a core element of CVD-Mali’s work. We want to be absolutely sure that treatments are as safe as they are effective.
And that introduces another core aspect of our mission – to communicate effectively with communities and encourage them to see for themselves the benefits of vaccination.
I am proud to say that our relationships with communities across Mali have led to exceptional take-up of vaccines, particularly in the case of mothers with young children, who know that routine vaccines help protect their loved ones against a whole host of diseases which may well have led to severe disability or even death just a few generations ago.
We must fulfil vaccine commitments
But administering vaccines is not only a question of trust. It is also a question of logistics and infrastructure – and this is, to my mind, is a far more pressing issue than vaccine hesitancy.
In the specific case of COVID-19 vaccines, and with the pandemic no longer dominating headlines and front pages as it once did, it may be tempting to think that the worst is behind us, even that the need for vaccines has lessened.
My firm belief, which I reiterate here during World Immunization Week 2022, is that we still have solemn commitments, as a world community, that we are yet to fulfil.
When the pandemic was at its height, we heard repeatedly that vaccination would only have the desired effect if stocks were distributed equitably across the world, including to the poorest countries and communities.
Now it seems highly likely that the world will fail to keep its promise to vaccinate 70% of the global population by June 2022.
And vaccination rates in African countries are among the most disappointing of all.
Vaccination for all
Underlying problems related to inadequate health infrastructure in low-income countries remain, of course, but increasingly it seems that the wider world has simply forgotten that commitments made are also commitments that need to be honoured.
For one simple truth about vaccines remains: they are most effective when enough of the target population receive their benefits.
Today, in pandemic terms, that target population is very easy to define: it is everybody, every human being on the planet, wherever they live.
The benefits of invention, of the ingenious human technology that is vaccination, ought to be felt by all.