Decade of Vaccines Collaboration Q&A with David Gold
Why was it important to you to participate in Decade of Vaccines Collaboration effort?
Early in my career, my work for the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, and as a treatment activist with ACT UP, taught me how important advocacy is in maximizing global health R&D. I co-founded the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (AVAC) in 1995 with a number of activists because we realized that vaccines were not being prioritized by policymakers, NGOs, and other stakeholders.
As I started to work more broadly in vaccines, I saw a tremendous challenge in advocacy efforts. There was not the same organized community as there had obviously been in HIV/AIDS. Immunization efforts received very little attention, and it was harder to get people to fight for prevention and protection vs. treatment.
We’ve made a lot of progress in recent years, but efforts like the Decade of Vaccines Collaboration are vitally important in taking awareness and advocacy to the next level.
In your opinion, what are some of the biggest advocacy challenges for advancing the Decade of Vaccines vision? The biggest opportunities?
It remains a challenge to get people excited about disease prevention, especially with current financial constraints. Of course, every health investment needs to be more sustainable and demonstrate value of money. But vaccines are so extraordinarily cost-effective and we need to need to keep demonstrating that fact to decision-makers.
We are, however, at a historic time in terms of vaccines – new manufacturers are scaling up, and vaccines are now reaching new countries. It’s really an exciting time. New players are also emerging as global powers for immunization, such as Brazil and India, with both becoming important new vaccine suppliers. Additionally, countries such as China and India are increasingly investing in early R&D, like we saw in the development of the new meningitis vaccine launched in 2010, MenAfriVac.
Anything else you would like to share about the Political and Public Support Working group?
Our work with the Southern Vaccine Advocacy Challenge has been very exciting, showing that it only takes a few smart, creative and passionate people to get a government to take action in protecting the health of their citizens. Coming back to my experience in HIV/AIDS advocacy, that is what happened in Brazil – a few focused activists, with a strong evidence case, had a big impact and got their government to agree to guarantee AIDS treatment to all citizens. I’m very optimistic that we can take these lessons and also build on the exciting new vaccine advocacy efforts that have emerged. Together, I am certain we can create a groundswell of support for extending the full benefits of immunization to all people, regardless of where they are born, who they are, or where they live.