As the BRIC countries — Brazil, Russia, India, and China — invest more in innovations in health technologies and other areas, “many are looking to these countries to correct the global health research and development (R&D) imbalance that leaves the poor without needed products such as an improved tuberculosis (TB) vaccine or tests to help diagnose patients in remote rural settings,” David de Ferranti, president of Results for Development Institute (R4D), writes in the Huffington Post Blog. Writing that “India, which has already played such an important role in manufacturing affordable antiretroviral drugs, vaccines, and other essential health commodities for developing countries,” de Ferranti asks whether India “is … ready to play a leading role in health R&D?”
“Bavarian Nordic A/S (BAVA), the largest vaccine maker in Denmark, will need to fire hundreds of workers and shut down a factory if it doesn’t receive an order for a smallpox vaccine from the U.S. government by January, the company’s chief executive officer said,” Bloomberg Businessweek reports. “Company officials said they don’t know why the Department of Health and Human Services hasn’t made the order, which they had expected by June,” the news service writes, noting, “The vaccine is meant for people with atopic dermatitis and compromised immune systems, who are at risk of severe adverse reactions to the regular smallpox vaccine.”
In a series of “News Focus” articles in Science, the magazine examines the global effort to eradicate polio. One article examines the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) — a partnership of the WHO, Rotary International, UNICEF, the CDC, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — and recent reports on the program by an Independent Monitoring Board (IMB), “an oversight body” that provides feedback and guidance. A second and third article look at efforts to vaccinate children against polio in Pakistan, which “is the perfect case study for why it is so hard to eradicate poliovirus from its last few strongholds — and what it might take to pull it off.” The WHO’s Chris Maher “and others attribute the explosion of cases last year to a perfect storm of all the problems that are Pakistan: poverty and illiteracy; a health system in tatters; ethnic and sectarian violence; a government struggling to deal with corruption and dysfunction; huge population movements; and, especially since 9/11, rising extremism and anti-Western views — not to mention the natural attrition that accompanies any program that has dragged on for so long,” according to Science (Roberts, 8/3).
Noting that this week’s issue of the Lancet explores the theme of “[a]ccess to beneficial health technology, including essential medicines and medical devices, for those most in need,” a Lancet editorial states, “Maximizing use of current health technologies (drugs, devices, biological products, medical and surgical procedures, support systems, and organizational systems) is essential to improving global health.” Collaboration between the journal and Imperial College London has resulted in a new Commission on technologies for global health, which examines different ways to broaden the use of new technologies, from bringing down cost to making them more culturally acceptable, the editorial notes.
A Lancet editorial discusses the agenda of the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) in Washington last month and asks how the success of the conference will be judged at the XX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014), to be held in Melbourne, Australia. “The return of the conference to the U.S. after 22 years, [was not only] a focus for celebration, but also provided a platform for vocal objection to the ban on injecting drug users and sex workers from entering the U.S.,” the editorial states, adding that “the absence of these groups from the meeting is rightly seen by many as a hindrance to developing approaches to combat the epidemic in regions where the disease is concentrated in these populations.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for the establishment of a global stockpile of the cholera vaccine to respond to outbreaks like the one that has gripped Haiti since an earthquake hit the country in 2010, NPR’s “Shots” reports (Knox, 8/17). “On Thursday, experts meeting in Washington endorsed the use of the vaccine to control the continuing outbreak in Haiti and the Dominican Republic,” the New York Times writes, adding, “Studies conducted by medical charities there showed that up to 90 percent of people who had received one dose of the vaccine returned for a second dose and were therefore protected” (McNeil, 8/17). “The WHO’s technical advisers cited the recent Haiti vaccination project, involving 100,000 people in Port-au-Prince and a rural area, as evidence that cholera vaccination can work in the midst of an outbreak,” “Shots” notes. According to the blog, “the WHO is seeking funds to launch the stockpile, which would initially contain enough doses to vaccinate a million people and cost $10 million a year to maintain” (8/17).
The New York Times reports on efforts by the GAVI Alliance to deliver vaccines for children in war-torn and secretive countries. According to the newspaper, the non-profit group “sold to North Korea a vaccine against five diseases, and has announced plans to roll out other vaccines soon in Yemen, the Republic of Congo and Pakistan.” The newspaper notes that the alliance “does not do the vaccinating, but negotiates low prices from manufacturers and resells the vaccines at prices on a sliding scale, depending on a country’s gross national income per capita.” According to the New York Times, “[F]irst the group studies whether the country can use the vaccine — whether officials can keep it refrigerated even in rural villages, for example, and whether there are enough trained vaccinators” (McNeil, 7/30).
“Rain-battered Haiti is at risk of a fresh cholera outbreak” after “[t]ropical storm Isaac ripped through the impoverished Caribbean island [Saturday],” children’s charity Plan International warns, according to AlertNet (8/26). “The 400,000 people living in camps in the capital Port-au-Prince, such as Jean Marie Vincent, as well as those living in towns to the south of the island, including Les Cayes and Jacmel are among those at risk, following heavy rains and flooding,” Oxfam writes in a press release (Brinicombe, 8/26). “With a reported total of 10 deaths for the island of Hispaniola, which is shared by [Haiti and the Dominican Republic], the scale of devastation was less than many people had feared,” but “the capital and countryside of disaster-prone Haiti did suffer sporadic flooding, fallen poles and scores of toppled tents that housed people who lost their homes in the massive 2010 earthquake,” the Associated Press/Washington Post reports. “Across Haiti, the number of people evacuated due to flooding rose over the weekend,” the news service notes, adding, “The World Food Program had distributed two days of food to 8,300 of the people who had left their houses for 18 camps” (Blanco, 8/26). “Aid groups have prepared clean water and hygiene kits to help prevent the spread of cholera, which Haiti has struggled to control since the earthquake,” according to VOA News (8/25).
“It seems public health is the latest casualty of Pakistan’s fight against homegrown militants and extremist groups,” Huma Yusuf, a columnist for the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, writes in this post in the New York Times’ “Latitude” blog, highlighting a recent ban on polio immunization campaigns by the Taliban. “After a period of retreat, the polio virus has recently been detected in sewage samples from several Karachi localities,” she notes, writing, “Today, 22,000 children may be at risk in Karachi, and as many as 250,000 in the tribal areas where Bahadur is based.” She continues, “The resurgence of polio in Karachi is especially worrying because the city is an incubator of disease.”
“In April, Partners In Health [PIH] responded to Haiti’s cholera epidemic by providing oral vaccinations to 45,000 people living in the country’s Artibonite region — specifically, to two rice-farming communities hit hard by cholera,” Louise Ivers, senior health and policy adviser at PIH, reports in an article on the organization’s webpage. “In partnership with Haiti’s Ministry of Health, hundreds of community health workers fanned out across the rural, flood-prone area, delivering two doses to each person by the end of May,” she writes, and discusses the impact of the campaign (8/1).