By Dr. Dagna Constenla and Samantha Clark
For many people throughout the world, the bite of a mosquito is nothing more than a common annoyance. But for individuals living in dengue endemic countries such an annoyance can quickly turn into a life threatening condition. Patients who get sick with dengue fever often experience excruciating headaches, skin rash, and debilitating muscle and joint pains. In severe cases, it can lead to circulatory failure, shock, coma, and death. Though early and effective treatment can ease symptoms, there is no specific cure available for dengue. Efforts to control dengue through preventing mosquito bites and breeding have proven to be largely ineffective due to the mosquito’s tendency to feed throughout the day and ability to breed in even small bits of stagnant water.
The good news is a vaccine is forthcoming. After more than 60 years, the development of dengue vaccines has accelerated dramatically. Today, several vaccines are in various stages of advanced development, with clinical trials currently underway on five candidate vaccines. While it is difficult to predict the introduction date of a new dengue vaccine, it is expected that one will be available by 2017.
Unlike a new iteration of an existing vaccine, this is uncharted territory. Even if a dengue vaccine is successfully developed, a number of issues remain. How do we predict its use? Its costs? Its cost-effectiveness and affordability? How will countries introduce it?
Perhaps the greatest challenge facing countries will be how to finance the addition of a dengue vaccine to the national vaccine schedule. Vaccine price, availability of funding, and ability to negotiate pricing will all play a critical role in the ability of a country to finance a dengue vaccine. In the Americas, one of the regions where dengue is endemic, a key mechanism for introducing new vaccines has been PAHO’s Revolving Fund. This, along with other options such as pooled procurement, regional and domestic taxes, and low interest multilateral loans are all potential sources of funding.
These and other funding topics will be on the agenda at a workshop starting today and hosted by IVAC, a core partner in the Dengue Vaccine Initiative, in partnership with the International Vaccine Institute, the Sabin Vaccine Institute and the Pan-American Health Organization. The dengue finance workshop will bring together more than 30 experts from the Latin America and Caribbean region, including academics, representatives from bilateral organizations, international public health agencies, nonprofit organizations, international financial institutions, and government agencies. They will convene in Washington, D.C. on July 22-23, 2013 to discuss the challenge of vaccine finance in countries throughout the region.
This workshop will be critical to laying the groundwork for countries to establish a viable financing plan that can be immediately implemented following the introduction of a dengue vaccine. Stay tuned to the IVAC website for more information following the workshop.
Dagna Constenla, PhD, is the Director of Economics & Finance at IVAC.
Samantha Clark is a Health Economist at IVAC.