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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Milken receives $5 million grant to bolster routine immunization in countries facing conflict

Milken Institute School of Public Health officials announced a partnership with global health organization PATH last month to enhance immunization in countries with conflict that decreases their population’s access to routine vaccinations.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded Milken and PATH $5 million to establish learning consortiums with universities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger, Pakistan and Somalia to collect data on the effectiveness of the countries’ immunization programs. Wolfgang Munar, the program’s co-principal investigator, said researchers will share their findings with government officials and organizations that provide vaccines to improve local immunization programs and increase vaccination rates in the countries.

“There is a lot that needs to be learned about how to manage immunization policies and programs in any country where conflict happens,” Munar said in an email.

About 2 billion people globally have never received a vaccine. Individuals are often unable to access necessary immunizations in areas with war because health services may be dangerous to travel to or are destroyed in the conflicts.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is facing a humanitarian crisis due to decades of civil unrest and an unstable government and a military coup took over Niger’s government last year. Pakistan faces tensions near its border with Taliban-ran Afghanistan, while Somalia has experienced decades of civil war.

Munar, an associate professor of global health, said conflict can prevent local officials from distributing and delivering life-saving vaccines in the program’s focus countries. He said program researchers are collecting evidence on what allows safe distribution of vaccines and to understand why certain immunization programs are more effective than others.

He said immunization efficacy research intends to show local officials and organizations how to enact vaccine policies to lower the rate of disease-related deaths.

“These are the main areas of the world where vaccine-preventable deaths remain the highest,” Munar said.

Munar said researchers established the learning consortiums in September and have begun collecting evidence on the functionality of immunization programs’ methods to deliver vaccinations and breaking down data from immunization programs like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance to identify vaccine distribution problems.

“To accomplish this, we are working together with global actors that have the necessary reach to decision-makers in those countries,” Munar said.

Rory Quealy contributed reporting.

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