One can always debate the utility of vaccination. Looking at demographics however it is difficult to deny that human populations across the globe are growing steadily. There are many factors to this growth. One that sticks out in my mind is medical advancement. Large scale vaccination campaigns have contributed to eradicate many infectious diseases. Agricultural advancement is another one, although not the subject of this chronicle.
Take my children for example, from birth on they have been vaccinated on a regular basis, as I have. This build up of immunity against diseases in human populations is a key service to human and animal health and global well being. I for one wouldn't want to loose loved ones to the hands of an infectious disease, when given the choice that is. Neither do you, I am sure. That choice usually is called vaccination.
We just need to look back a few years ago when we were all so worried about the consequences of avian influenza. I happened to be heavily involved at the time (2006), not with finding cures to the disease but with the transportation of vaccines by air and pandemic preparedness. Refer to this avian flu guidelines cargo june2006 pdf.
When diseases reach the pandemic stage, based on criteria set forth by the World Health Organization (WHO), many questions do come to mind for those that carry both passengers and live animals that may or not be vectors in spreading the disease. Not only may carriers carry sick passengers or live animals but their staff too could quickly be exposed to the disease if it has the ability to spread easily. In these cases having an emergency response plan is vital, not only at the state or country level but also at the international level, hence the WHO involvement. Economic operators such as air carriers need to have their own plans as well.
In addition, once a vaccine has been elaborated and manufactured, which in and by itself are huge tasks, there remains the transportation thereof to roll out an effective vaccination campaign. Vaccines are more difficult to transport than inert substances, because they are more complex biological substances. Often as a result of stability data studies and the need to preserve effectiveness, they will require transportation within given temperature ranges. Offering an effective temperature controlled environment is achieved by both active or passive means. Some containers used by airlines or shippers, now offer the capacity to maintain contents within temperature ranges . That was not the norm fifteen years ago. Advances in packaging's too make maintaining the temperature controlled environments possible, through better use of insulation, as do phase change materials.
Fundamentally speaking however, nothing of the above would be possible if there weren't research centers available to find the solutions through research. Using animal models that is. Welcome to the world of bio containment level facilities, viral pathogenesis and vaccine development, molecular mechanisms and reverse genetics. A world where people like Dr Sylvia Van den Hurk work towards promising technologies that are potentially leading to balanced long-lived immune responses benefiting both humans and animals.
Collectively, let us not forget what matters most and what it takes to get there. It is the least we can do to thank those that spend their lives finding cures or delivering them!