- As the world fights pandemic- in order to be prepared for a health crisis, should priority be given to R&D for identifying new diseases and vaccine development?
Over the past 35 years, around 30 new infectious agents affecting humans have emerged. Most of these infective viruses are zoonotic and their origin significantly correlates with socioeconomic, environmental, and ecological factors. As these factors continue to increase contact with the disease-causing pathogens, there is concern that infectious diseases may continue to present a formidable challenge in the future as well. Constant awareness and pursuance of effective strategies for controlling infectious diseases and disease emergence thus remain crucial.
Vaccination is and will continue to be the most important intervention for prevention of infectious disease. Hence, investing in R&D for identifying new diseases and vaccine development remains the top priority.
As seen in the past, India time and again faces the outbreak of bird flu. What measures should the poultry industry take in order to minimize the risk of this disease?
Over the years, vaccines have been used in avian influenza (AI) control programs to prevent, manage, or eradicate AI from poultry and other birds. It has been observed that the best protection is produced from the humoral response against the hemagglutinin (HA) protein.
A variety of vaccines have been developed and tested under experimental conditions, a few of which have received approval for the use of following field demonstration of purity, safety, efficacy, and potency. Current licensed vaccines have predominately inactivated whole AI vaccines, which is typically produced from low pathogenicity (LP) AI virus strains, or occasionally from high pathogenicity AI virus strains.
Recently, reverse genetic procedures have been developed that allow construction of vaccine strains using a genetically altered HA and a backbone of internal gene segments for safe, high growth production. Other licensed AI vaccines include recombinant fowl poxvirus vector with an AI H5 insert and a recombinant Newcastle disease virus vector with an AI H5 gene insert. The latter vaccine can be mass administered via aerosol application. So regular and timely AI vaccination can definitely minimize the risk of disease in poultry and prevent outbreak of Avian influenza of Pandemic potential.
What steps should be taken to curb these diseases?
As mentioned, there are a lot of advantages of AI vaccination and hence, intensive practice of regular and timely AI vaccination should be considered. Furthermore, it is important to include this as a part of Good Poultry Practices (GPP).
What are your thoughts about Adult Immunization? Do you think a vaccination program for adults will help to reduce the disease burden of the country?
With advance in modern healthcare and increase in number of elderly populations worldwide and in India, there is a definite urgent need to revisit the National Immunization Program. The program should also include vulnerable elderly population and the one’s living with co-morbid conditions for regular vaccination as part of planned health visits.
Adults living with comorbidities and those above 50 years should take seasonal Influenza vaccine as they are at high risk of severe Influenza. Studies over the years have demonstrated that, in the period of 2 weeks, followed by an Influenza infection, they are at extreme high risk of developing stroke (by 12 times) and Myocardial Infarction (by 6 times).
India falls in the southern hemisphere season and the ideal time for a taking a flu vaccine will fall between April and June. CDC says getting vaccinated too early, is likely to be associated with reduced protection later in the flu season, particularly among older adults, so timely vaccinations are essential for sustained protection during the peak season.
As per one of the study, which was conducted in Delhi among healthy adults, reported that 53% of adults were unprotected; 22% were seen to have only a basic protection against diphtheria; 25% were protected against both diphtheria or pertussis diseases and 47% were susceptible to tetanus.
What initiatives will help to bridge the gaps in order to achieve WHO’s mission of universal health coverage?
Universal health coverage means ensuring, all people have access to needed health services – including prevention, promotion, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliation of sufficient quality to be effective. It also means to ensure that the use of these services does not expose the user to financial hardship.
Hence, the need of the hour is a holistic approach, wherein we see changes in health policy by government and changes in the insurance sector with emphasis on preventive health.