“Afghanistan is intensifying efforts to eradicate polio by the end of next year, but security remains a major challenge especially in the southern provinces where the virus is localized, says” Arshad Quddus, head of the WHO polio program in Afghanistan, IRIN reports. Polio remains endemic in Afghanistan, according to the WHO, IRIN notes, adding that Afghan “[g]overnment data show that 85 percent of the population now live in polio-free areas, but the virus is still circulating in 13 districts, including the seven where  recent cases have been detected.” In addition to security issues, “low literacy rates, poor hygiene practices and low awareness of the benefits of vaccination” are hindering campaigns, according to IRIN (9/15).
Officials in Pakistan on Monday “announced targeted, three-day anti-polio campaigns in affected areas, which include Karachi and districts in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas,” the Wall Street Journal’s “India Real Time” blog reports. According to the Global Eradication Initiative, led by the WHO, 84 cases of type 1 polio have been reported in Pakistan so far this year, nearly twice as many cases as the country had recorded by this time last year, according to the blog.
The U.N. Foundation on Monday launched Shot@Life, “a new campaign to expand access to life-saving vaccines for children in developing countries” that “will educate, connect and empower Americans to champion vaccines as one of the most cost-effective ways to save children’s lives around the world,” according to a U.N. Foundation…
“Polio has broken out in China for the first time since 1999 after being imported from Pakistan, and there is a high risk of the crippling virus spreading further during the annual Haj pilgrimage, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday,” Reuters reports (9/20). Nine cases of wild poliovirus type 1 have been recorded in China’s western province of Xinjiang, which borders Pakistan, WHO spokesperson Oliver Rosenbauer said, according to Daily News and Analysis, GlobalPost notes (9/21). A genetic link has been confirmed between the virus detected in China and a strain circulating in Pakistan, according to the Associated Press/USA Today (9/20). BBC News reports that “Chinese authorities are now investigating the cases, and a mass vaccination campaign has been launched in the region” (9/20).
Encouraged by early results of a study of an experimental malaria vaccine involving 45 children in Burkina Faso, researchers led by Pierre Druilhe at the Pasteur Institute in Paris are set to expand the clinical trial, resulting in a larger study involving 800 children in Mali, BBC News reports. The initial trial aimed “to test the safety of the vaccine but this follow up study found that children who received it had an incidence of the disease three to four times lower than children who did not,” BBC writes.
The Geneva-based GAVI Alliance, a fund backed by governments, the World Bank, the WHO and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said in an e-mailed statement on Tuesday that it will purchase more than $1 billion in vaccines against rotavirus, pneumococcal and other diseases through deals made with GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer Inc. and Merck & Co. to immunize children in 37 of the poorest nations, Bloomberg reports. “Wealthy nations donated $4.3 billion to purchase the vaccines as part of a plan to immunize 250 million children by 2015,” the news service notes (Bennett, 9/27).
Recent findings on HIV vaccine research, some presented recently at the AIDS Vaccine 2011 conference in Bangkok, “show that the science of an AIDS vaccine is vibrant and vital,” Mitchell Warren, executive director of AVAC-Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention, writes in a “Science Speaks” guest blog post. “Now is exactly the…
New York Times reporter Lawrence Altman recounts his experience in the mid-1960s with a measles immunization campaign in Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) during his time with the Epidemic Intelligence Service of the CDC in a “Doctor’s World” perspective piece in the newspaper. Altman says that although the effort to expand the immunization campaign from a small field trial to a regional program “failed miserably,” the “lessons learned from these blunders led to a new program that wiped out smallpox, still the only human disease to have been eradicated from the planet.”
Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, arrived in Nigeria on Tuesday, where he held talks with government officials and traditional leaders to discuss polio eradication efforts in the country’s worst-hit northwestern region, Agence France-Presse reports (9/27). During the three-day trip, Gates, along with the foundation’s CEO, Jeff Raikes, will “follow up … on the Abuja Commitments to Polio Eradication, in which Nigerian federal and local government officials committed in 2009 to have at least 90 percent of children immunized against polio toward its eradication,” Daily Times Nigeria writes.
In this post in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog, Orin Levine, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center at Johns Hopkins University, responds to the GAVI Alliance’s announcement on Tuesday that it will supply more than $1 billion in childhood vaccines to 37 of the world’s poorest countries, writing, “As the Alliance takes perhaps the most significant step ever toward increasing access to lifesaving immunization with this new and exciting round of country approvals, the challenge will be to ensure that every piece of the puzzle is in place to deliver on GAVI’s tremendous promise.”