Hanoi Update!

Hello everyone!


I am currently at the GAVI Partners’ Forum in Hanoi, Vietnam, learning tons and networking with some incredible individuals (yes, writing an email in the middle of a workshop – shhh!).  What an innovative partnership between various partners and countries.  The Asia and Pacific Alliance to Eliminate Viral Hepatitis (APAVH), my little global health baby, has a lot to learn from the successes, lessons learned and future challenges.  It’s with mixed feelings that I am learning and understanding that GAVI will not longer be providing eligible member countries financial support for the monovalent hepatitis B vaccine.  On one hand, it keeps me employed so yes, I will still have a full-time job, but on the other hand, it’s really unfortunate that the GAVI Advisory Board has eliminated the funding of the monovalent hepatitis B vaccine, which essentially is the only link to providing timely birth dose that will protect over 90% of children from contracting hbv from an infected mother to child (40% of hbv transmission).  This funding is disappearing because hbv vaccine prices have come down so dramatically within the past years to 20-23 cents (US) per dose.  GAVI is assuming that countries will be able to provide their own funding to take care of this vaccination, however, a number of other issues arise: countries may not be able to afford the vaccines, countries may not be currently giving timely birthdose (within 12-24 hours of birth), data only reflects 3-dose completion, but not birthdose, which is essential in highly endemic areas to eliminate transmission, countries believe that they can just use the pentavalent vaccine to take care of hbv vaccination, but this is not given at birth, and a lack of education among health care workers, pregnant women and the general public.  Whew!  So yes, we still have a lot of work to do!  And this meeting is just proving how important and essential APAVH is to eliminating new hbv transmission and reducing the global burden of hbv and liver cancer, especially in Asia.


Ok, ok, now that you know more than you ever wanted to about what I am working on and will continued to work on, I can talk about some of the more “fun” things in Vietnam….like the food!  Delicious!  I seriously cannot get over how amazing the pho is, chicken, beef, noodles and spices, om nom nom.  Simply cannot get enough!  And the fresh fruit!  I’m seriously obsessed with good dragon fruit (that one that’s pink on the outside and white and black seeds like a kiwi on the inside).


Last night was the opening ceremony for the GAVI Partners Forum, which was held at the Hanoi Opera House, a beautiful building, where they had all of these cute kids dancing around and singing in their traditional garb – super cute!  There is supposed to be this awards dinner/gala tonight so maybe there will be more cultural performances!


I’ve also bought my little vacation getaway to Ha Long Bay!!  I leave on Saturday to spend 1 night on a boat and 1 night on this island in the middle of the bay!  There are supposed to be these beautiful karst formations and kayaking and caves and beaches…wooooweee!  It will be a nice mini-vaca after these endless meetings, presentations, dinners, etc.


More to come soon!