Over the last few years, vaccines have made headlines. Polio is on the cusp of global eradication, advances in technology offer the promise of new vaccines, and social media have contributed to the spread of pseudoscience and conspiracy theories. And despite vaccine safety and efficacy, some parents have refused to vaccinate their children. But vaccinations have been and continue to be one of the greatest public-health achievements in history—and there are huge opportunities to do even better. That’s why the Institute’s Health, Medicine and Society Program, in partnership with the Sabin Vaccine Institute, launched the Sabin-Aspen Vaccine Science and Policy Group. Modeled on the Aspen Health Strategy Group, the initiative is co-chaired by Harvey Fineberg, the president of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and former Princeton University president Shirley Tilghman, a professor of molecular biology and public affairs.
The group—a who’s who from the world of vaccines as well as a range of other big thinkers, like mathematicians, ecologists, and venture capitalists—focuses on one priority a year. For its first, in commemoration of the 1918 flu pandemic, the group took a fresh look at vaccine research and development, setting its sights on a universal influenza vaccine. At its inaugural meeting, the group agreed that the effort should be a concerted, coordinated, and integrated “end-to-end” effort with a singular mission of developing a universal influenza vaccine that can take the looming threat of seasonal and pandemic influenza off the table. “I’ve wanted to do this since I first arrived at Aspen,” Ruth Katz, the director of the Health, Medicine and Society Program, says. “Vaccines prevent disease and save lives. We need a resource to tackle the challenges we face so we can ensure vaccines will continue to do such monumental societal good.” Now there will be.