In this editorial in the International Herald Tribune’s “Express Tribune,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon examines the global push to eradicate polio, highlighting progress in the “world’s war on polio” since it was declared nearly a quarter century ago but warning that “we are in danger of falling victim to our own success,” as “the world is now populated by a generation which has either never been exposed to polio or has been inadequately vaccinated.” However, “[w]ith a determined push, the international community can wipe out polio once and for all,” Ban continues, adding, “To do so, … it must organize and commit the required financial resources.” Ban highlights two upcoming meetings — the G8 summit at Camp David this week, and a meeting of World Health Assembly in Geneva the following week — as opportunities for world leaders to push for polio eradication on the international agenda.
In this post in USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) President and CEO Margaret McGlynn discusses new modeling data from IAVI and the Futures Institute, with support from USAID, which “illustrates how a safe, preventive HIV vaccine that is accessible and affordable can help us end the AIDS pandemic.” The information, released in recognition of World AIDS Vaccine Day, also known as HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, “is available in a series of publications and an interactive web tool,” according to McGlynn. She writes, “The world must continue to scale up and improve the response to HIV by using powerful prevention tools that are currently at our disposal. … Our new models show that a vaccine can build on these existing tools and take us down the last mile to the end of the AIDS pandemic” (5/18).
In this post in PSI’s “Healthy Lives” blog, Deputy Editor Tom Murphy examines routine vaccination solutions in Nigeria, where “[t]he Decade of Vaccines Economics projects 90 percent vaccine coverage against Hib, pneumococcal disease, rotavirus, measles and pertussis can save 600,000 lives and $17 billion in Nigeria over the next 10 years.” Murphy highlights a “new report [.pdf] by the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC) at Johns Hopkins University [that] identifies the challenges and solutions to increasing routine vaccinations in” the country, noting it also “identifies supply, human resource and demand solutions to increasing vaccination access” (5/8).
“A vaccine against one of the most neglected yet fatal tropical diseases is being tested for the first time in a clinical trial in India and the U.S.,” IRIN reports. Visceral leishmaniasis (VL), “also called kala-azar or black fever, infects an estimated half million persons or more annually,” and “[i]t is found most commonly in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Brazil and Sudan,” the news service notes. “A total of 72 volunteers are participating in the trial, but scientists say it will take years of testing to roll out an affordable vaccine to the 200 million people globally at risk of VL infection,” IRIN writes, adding, “The WHO has warned that VL is spreading to previously unaffected countries due to co-infections of HIV and leishmaniasis, while the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said climate change can also spur the spread of the disease” (5/9).
Millennium Villages Project Research Yields Positive Results, But Some Researchers Question Methods Used
“Death rates among children under five at the [Millennium Villages Project (MVP)] — set up in Africa to demonstrate what is possible if health, education, agriculture, and other development needs are tackled simultaneously — have fallen by a third in three years compared with similar communities, according to the project’s first results,” published in the Lancet on Tuesday, the Guardian reports (Boseley, 5/8). The study “offers quantitative evidence of the success of the MVP model at nine Millennium Village sites in sub-Saharan Africa,” Nature News writes, adding, “Between 2006 and 2009, mortality in under-fives fell by an average of 22 percent, reaching a level roughly two-thirds of that in control villages not involved with the project, where child mortality seemed to rise.”
“The world is facing two immediate health crises concerning drugs and vaccines: affordable and reliable access to life-sparing medicines and the safety and reliability of those medicines,” Laurie Garrett, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), writes in the council’s Policy Innovation Memorandum No. 21, titled, “Ensuring the Safety and Integrity of the World’s Drug, Vaccine, and Medicines Supply.” According to the memorandum, “Unless this issue is addressed, millions more lives and the credibility of medicines and vaccines will be lost. The Groups of Eight (G8) and Twenty (G20) countries should take the lead, as a matter of urgency, in promoting cooperation among national safety regulators, tougher legal frameworks, and regional networks of surveillance and prosecution” (May 2012).
In a guest post on the Global Health Technologies Coalition’s “Breakthroughs” blog, Jamie Elizabeth Rosen, media and communications manager at Aeras, interviews Steven Reed, founder, president, and chief scientific officer of the Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI), “a 120-person non-profit biotech committed to applying innovative science to the research and development of products to prevent, detect, and treat infectious diseases of poverty.” Aeras, “a non-profit biotech focused on developing vaccines against TB,” has partnered with IDRI to develop a novel tuberculosis (TB) vaccine candidate, Rosen notes and summarizes Reed’s responses to questions regarding TB vaccine development (Taylor, 5/29).
“The CIA’s vaccination gambit put at risk something very precious — the integrity of public health programs in Pakistan and around the globe” and has “also added to the dangers facing nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in a world that’s increasingly hostile to U.S. aid organizations,” opinion writer David Ignatius writes in a Washington Post opinion piece. Noting that attention in the U.S. has focused on a 33-year prison sentence given to Shakil Afridi, a doctor convicted of treason for helping the CIA track down Osama bin Laden through a vaccination program, Ignatius says, “Afridi and his handlers should reckon with the moral consequences of what they did. Here’s the painful truth: Some people may die because they don’t get vaccinations, suspecting that immunization is part of a CIA plot.”
In this Atlantic opinion piece, Rachel Hills, a freelance writer based in London, examines the WHO’s decision on May 25 to declare polio a public health emergency, “calling for the 194 member states to fully fund the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, and fill the currently $945 million gap in its budget for 2012-13.” She writes, “Few people probably associate the phrase ‘global health emergency’ with polio, a disease that has been around for 5,000 years and is on a decades-long decline so steep that there are less than a thousand recorded cases left on Earth,” but “polio’s threat is still very real, and the mission to finally stamp it out forever is a crucial one for reasons even bigger than the disease itself.”
“The cholera strain in Haiti is evolving, researchers reported Thursday, a sign that it may be taking deeper root in the nation less than two years after it appeared and killed thousands of people,” the Associated Press/USA Today reports. “The study released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that the bacterium is changing as survivors acquire at least some immunity to the original bug, which apparently was imported from Nepal,” the news service writes (Daniel, 5/5). “The evolution of the cholera strain was expected and typical of the disease, according to the CDC,” CBS Miami notes (5/4).