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Hulu TV has several short documentaries dedicated to vaccines and increasing education and awareness about them. Outer Limits The Vaccine was produced by MGM and is a 45-minute video about a city where a deadly virus has killed most people, but a vaccine becomes available. The plot thickens when only a limited number of vaccines are available.
The other documentary that intrigued Vaccine Watch was The Vaccine According to Bill Gates. This 50-minute presentation that was released in 2013 talks about the search for a malaria vaccine and public health being funded by private funds. One of Bill Gates’ personal goals is to eradicate malaria from the planet. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has invested over $200 million into funding the research of the RTS,S malaria vaccine with the goal of protecting millions of children and saving thousands of lives.
Research into a malaria vaccine is not new, and has been going on for the last twenty-five years. Other researchers are also developing several other malaria vaccines. Malaria is a difficult vaccine to develop because of the radically different stages of the disease, both morphologically and physiologically. It also mutates once in the bloodstream and builds resistance to drugs. The different vaccines are targeting different stages of malaria in humans; MSP3 is another of the vaccines being developed. Both RTS,S and MSP3 are still developing the best way to increase efficacy rates of their respective vaccines, which have been well below expectations.
Bill Gates notes, “…vaccines are a great technology and investment.” The Gates Foundation is the second largest contributor to the World Health Organization (WHO) behind the United States Government. Some have questioned private funds in the realm of public health – and noted that the Gates Foundation began in 2000 while Microsoft was facing an anti-trust lawsuit from the U.S. Government. Questions about the price of the malaria vaccine when it is developed have also arisen, and the correlation was made that the price of the vaccine will be related to the patent. Those who believe that private funds shouldn’t be involved in public health state it’s a citizen’s right to have access to a vaccine. Even at a profit of five percent, the development and sale of a malaria vaccine will be very lucrative for the company that manufactures it. Gates counters that technology should not just be for the richest, and that the vaccine will be available for everyone.
The definitive results of the RTS,S vaccine will not be known until 2014. The other vaccines continue to be researched as well. Vaccine Watch supports the development of life-saving vaccines. In this situation, private funds have allowed decades-long research to progress more quickly.