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A social justice perspective on access to human rabies vaccines

Abstract

Rabies kills tens of thousands of people every year despite being entirely vaccine preventable. Key global health actors have launched a country-driven plan to achieve zero human deaths from dog-mediated rabies by 2030 worldwide. This partnership has recently been strengthened by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance's decision to invest in human rabies vaccines for post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). While nation states are key to rabies elimination, the importance of Gavi's role cannot be understated. Unlike any other actor, Gavi can directly address an otherwise intractable market failure in the inadequate supply of rabies PEP. In this commentary, we employ the Capabilities Approach to identify the barriers to PEP access that lead to this market failure and, as a result, unnecessary deaths and suffering. We show the role that Gavi can play in reducing exposure of PEP supply to market forces as a matter of social justice, and hence redress the inequity underlying human rabies deaths.

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