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Vaccine-Derived Polio Outbreak Shows Gaps In Immunization Coverage In Pakistan

Though “Pakistan has made a lot of progress this year in wiping out polio,” a “recent outbreak of polio there has health officials concerned about the overall effectiveness of the effort to eliminate polio in that country,” NPR’s “Shots” blog reports. According to the WHO, “10 cases of so-called vaccine-derived polio were reported in Pakistan between the end of August and the end of October,” the blog notes, adding this is the first time vaccine-derived polio has been detected in the country and it is a sign of gaps in immunization coverage. “WHO officials say the outbreak, involving a variety of the virus called type 2 polio, illustrates that vaccination campaigns in the area are failing to reach sufficient numbers of people,” the blog writes. “The government of Pakistan launched an aggressive campaign this year, in partnership with international health organizations, to vaccinate children and carefully monitor the virus’s spread,” according to “Shots” (Beaubien, 12/4).

Three More Polio Workers Shot In Pakistan

“Three workers in a polio eradication campaign were shot in Pakistan on Wednesday, and two of them were killed, the latest in an unprecedented string of attacks over the past three days that has partially halted the U.N.-backed campaign,” Reuters reports (Ahmad, 12/19). “Earlier on Tuesday, five health workers involved in the vaccination drive were killed in the cities of Karachi and Peshawar,” News Pakistan notes (12/19). Another health care worker was killed on Monday, according to a statement issued Tuesday by the WHO, UNICEF and the Pakistani and provincial governments, which condemned the multiple attacks. “We call on the leaders of the affected communities and everyone concerned to do their utmost to protect health workers and create a secure environment so that we can meet the health needs of the children of Pakistan,” the statement said (12/18). The Associated Press reports the WHO suspended the vaccination campaign in two of the country’s provinces (Khan, 12/19). However, CNN reports the “attacks prompted authorities to suspend the campaign throughout the country” (Khan, 12/19). “Under the canceled program, Pakistani health officials planned to administer millions of ‘polio drops’ to immunize people,” according to International Business Times, which adds, “The program involved 25,000 workers targeting more than 30 million children” (Ghosh, 12/18).

Strengthen Health Systems To Integrate Polio Vaccinations Into Routine Childhood Immunizations, Save The Children Report Says

Speaking at the GAVI Partners Forum in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, David Olayemi, senior program adviser at Save the Children in Abuja, Nigeria, said fewer than half of children in Nigeria are receiving routine immunizations for diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough (DTP), and the rate is dropping, Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley reports in her “Global Health Blog.” Launching a Save the Children report that “calls on GAVI to step up efforts to reach the last 20 percent of children across the developing world who are not getting routine immunization,” Olayemi said part of the reason for the lack of coverage are large efforts to vaccinate children against polio, which offer incentives to health care workers to leave clinics to go into the field, leaving no one to perform routine immunizations, the blog notes.

CSIS Paper Examines U.S. Role In Global Polio Eradication

The Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) has published a paper (.pdf), titled “The U.S. Role In Global Polio Eradication,” that “provides an overview of the global polio eradication effort, emphasizing the U.S. role,” according to the paper’s summary. The paper, authored by CSIS Global Health Policy Center Fellow Nellie Bristol, aims “to explain how the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) came to where it is today and discuss plans for moving it forward.” The summary continues, “The focus on the United States is not meant to detract from the enormous international investments or essential contributions of individuals from other countries. But by highlighting American involvement, the paper aims to help U.S. policymakers understand the costs, benefits, and challenges of polio eradication and plans to complete eradication and transition GPEI methods and resources into other programs” (12/17).

Five Polio Vaccination Workers Killed In Pakistan

“Gunmen killed five Pakistani women working on a [three-day] U.N.-backed polio vaccination campaign in two different cities on Tuesday, officials said,” the Associated Press reports, adding, “The attacks were likely an attempt by the Taliban to counter an initiative the militant group has opposed.” According to the news agency, “The attacks came a day after an unknown gunman killed a male volunteer for the World Health Organization’s anti-polio campaign in Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi” (Jawad, 12/18). “In Karachi, provincial Health Minister Saghir Ahmed said the government had told 24,000 polio workers it was suspending the anti-polio drive in the province,” Reuters reports. “Some Islamists and Muslim preachers say the polio vaccine is a Western plot to sterilize Muslims,” while “[o]ther religious leaders have taken part in campaigns aimed at debunking that myth,” the news agency notes, adding, “There have been at least three other shootings involving polio eradication workers this year” (Shah et al., 12/18).

Also In Global Health News: Clinical Trial Participants Abroad; PMTCT Project In Malawi; Congo Polio Outbreak; Global Fund Zambia Grant; Women, Girls In Afghanistan

Lancet World Report Examines Protections In Place For Clinical Trial Participants Abroad Lancet World Report, in a follow-up on the revelations over the U.S.’s role in medical experiments conducted on Guatemalan prisoners in the 1940s writes: “A thorough review of the safeguards in place to protect modern human trial participants…

News Outlets Report On Polio Outbreaks In Central, East Africa

“Bad immunisation strategy has been blamed for an outbreak of polio, which has killed nearly 200 and is believed to have caused paralysis in more than 2,000 others across Angola, Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC),” the Mail & Guardian writes in a story examining the emergence of the disease in the three countries and efforts to control it.

Guardian Examines Difficulty Of Delivering Polio Vaccines In War-Torn Parts Of Africa, Like DRC

UNICEF is calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) so that polio vaccinators can access millions of children in an effort to beat back the re-emergence of the disease in several African nations, the Guardian reports. “We are calling on all parties to the conflict to respect the vaccination days and cease fighting,” said Pierrette Vu Thi, UNICEF’s representative in the DRC. “All children have the same right to health,” Vu Thi said.

Science Magazine Examines Efforts To Improve Disease Eradication Programs

Years after deadlines for polio and guinea worm eradication came and went without achieving their intended goals Science magazine examines efforts to strengthen disease eradication. The topic was front and center of a meeting of public health experts earlier this year in Frankfurt, Germany, that “sought a new way forward” on disease eradication, the magazine reports. “The participants, many of them involved in past and current eradications, believed that eradication campaigns should continue. But ‘proceed with caution’ could have been the motto” of a report the group drafted during the meeting, according to Science.

Also In Global Health News: Global Fund; MDGs, Women; Polio Eradication

Radio Australia Interviews Global Fund Executive Director Radio Australia examines the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria’s push for more funding from Australia and China. Global Fund Executive Director “Michel Kazatchkine is currently touring the world’s capitals seeking renewed government pledges to build on an already impressive record…

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