Climate change is a global health issue, exacerbating environmental degradation, food shortage, water contamination, migration of disease-bearing mosquito vectors, and forced displacement of populations, among other precarious conditions with serious health implications.
Vaccination, reinforced by other public health measures such as Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) campaigns, saves lives and constitutes an integral part of holistic action against climate change.
To help achieve health equity and mitigate the impacts of climate change, among other global imperatives outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), IVI focuses on vaccine research and development (R&D) and delivery against infectious diseases that predominantly afflict low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
In an increasingly globalized world, new and emerging infectious diseases have become threats of major global health concern while endemic diseases like cholera continue to devastate livelihoods, economies, and social systems. Communities vulnerable to emerging and endemic diseases are often those who are also most directly impacted by the existential crisis of climate change, which may lead to environmental degradation, food shortage and contaminated water, migration of disease-bearing mosquito vectors, and forced displacement of peoples.
According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:
The most effective measures to reduce vulnerability in the near term are programs that implement and improve basic public health measures such as provision of clean water and sanitation, secure essential health care including vaccination and child health services, increase capacity for disaster preparedness and response, and alleviate poverty.
Wide-spread vaccination plays a key role in mitigating the risks of climate change, most evidently by protecting against diseases potentially made worse by warmer temperatures and manipulated rainfall patterns. In 2015, for instance, a major flooding event in Malawi’s Nsanje District internally displaced hundreds of thousands of people and exposed them to a rapidly spreading cholera outbreak. An emergency deployment of IVI’s oral cholera vaccine helped control the outbreak and contain its further spread.
The distribution and prevalence of other water-borne diseases like schistosomiasis, and viral infections transmitted by mosquitos like chikungunya and dengue, may also be shifted or exacerbated by changing climates and precipitation patterns. Our epidemiology and clinical research teams are conducting clinical trials for vaccine candidates with the ultimate goal of developing and delivering long-term protection against these debilitating diseases.
Vaccines protect against infectious diseases, reducing the need for health services, travel to medical facilities, and use of other medicines and interventions that may have significant negative impact on the environment.
While millions of doses of IVI’s oral cholera vaccine (OCV) have been used to protect vulnerable populations in outbreak and emergency settings, we’re at work to continue simplifying its formula and increase its accessibility. A three-year study is underway to explore a reformulation of OCV that could lower the cost of production by 25% and increase capacity of Euvichol-Plus® by 35%. If successful, this simplification would reduce vaccine cost across manufacturers and maximize supply.
Additionally, IVI continues to collaborate with OCV manufacturers to support vaccine delivery beyond cold chain transportation, which requires significant resources to maintain temperature-controlled storage and unfortunately, can result in vaccine waste. We’ve worked with Eubiologics to incorporate a heat-sensitive Controlled Temperature Chain label on Euvichol-Plus®, an OCV which has been recognized for its lightweight plastic tubing, to support out-of-cold-chain vaccine delivery to people in remote locations or during outbreaks.
IVI has also pilot tested a renewable energy-based vaccination supply management system to expand the cold-chain in settings with limited power infrastructure. The system includes an off-grid renewable-energy power supply and an electric cooling mechanism within a vaccine carrier to enable secure and efficient vaccine delivery to remote or high-altitude locations. Sustainable solutions to vaccine storage and delivery will ultimately ensure broader vaccine coverage and increased protection against infectious diseases.
Vaccination against water-borne diseases like cholera, typhoid, and schistosomiasis reduces the threat posed by the use of unsafe water in resource-poor communities. In addition to vaccine R&D, technical transfer, and support for national regulatory authorities in LMICs, a key and complementary aspect of IVI’s work is building local capacity and facilitating training and education for sustainable disease prevention.
IVI’s vaccination and disease surveillance programs in Madagascar, Malawi, and Mozambique integrate WASH campaigns and community engagement to support the groundwork for safer hygiene practices that help protect against diseases in conjunction with vaccination. For instance, our WASH campaigns in Madagascar facilitated the construction of new toilets and shower facilities, and a new water system that provides safe water for schools and healthcare centers. Access to safe water and amenities significantly reduces the risk of water-borne diseases like schistosomiasis and protects children and adults from other medical treatments and costs.
IVI develops and delivers vaccines against infectious diseases with limited commercial potential, yet high public health importance. We bridge this gap by partnering with vaccine manufacturers, governments, and philanthropies, and by mobilizing resources and funding to develop and license vaccines for the public-sector market.
Achieving these institutional goals enables IVI and our partners to protect more people in LMICs from deadly and disruptive infectious diseases. In this pursuit, IVI commits to work as sustainably as possible to limit our harm to the environment and therefore increase our impact on global health.
As a first step, IVI conducted an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) with the help of Goodpoint AB, a Swedish sustainable development consultancy, to map out our significant impacts on the environment and identify tangible goals to address them. IVI has additionally greatly benefited from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency’s (Sida) support, and currently follows Sida’s Green Procurement Policy to avoid purchasing resources that are harmful to the environment.
Looking ahead, IVI will adopt and integrate its own environmental management system to reduce our carbon footprint. We strive to integrate environmental criteria in more core operations, such as in the assessment of potential work sites for clinical trials; improvement and implementation of internal policies, including procurement of goods and services and travel; and regular monitoring and communication to improve our environmental impacts. An internal Eco Committee has been tasked with identifying department-specific goals and setting guidelines to reduce the institute’s direct and indirect negative impacts on the environment.
IVI fully supports the SDGs and the Paris Agreement’s aim to strengthen concerted global action against climate change. We strongly believe that mitigating the effects of climate change requires international collaboration and resolve, and that international organizations and development agencies play a crucial role. We commit to doing our part to achieve a healthier, more equitable and prosperous future for all.