NPR’s “Shots” blog reports on efforts to eradicate polio in Nigeria. “[N]orthern Nigeria is the only place in the world where polio cases are increasing,” the blog writes, noting, “As of Sept. 1, it had recorded 90 polio cases in 2012 — or nearly three times as many as in the same period last year.” The blog highlights the city of Kano in northern Nigeria, which “has been called the ‘epicenter’ of the current polio outbreak,” and where “remnants of the paralyzing disease are visible even on its streets.” “Vaccination campaigns are regular fixtures here,” the blog writes, adding, “In the past few years, religious leaders in this region have gone from opposing vaccination to requiring it.”
“Pakistan is set to become the first country in south Asia to introduce the pneumococcal vaccine to protect children against pneumonia, one of the biggest killers of children under five in the developing world,” the Guardian reports, noting, “The program is due to be announced by the country’s prime minister, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, on Tuesday, signaling clear political commitment from the Pakistani government in rolling out the vaccine.” The country’s expanded program on immunization (EPI) is introducing the vaccine in conjunction with the GAVI Alliance, UNICEF, and WHO, the newspaper adds. “In Pakistan, more than 423,000 children die before reaching their fifth birthday, and almost one in five of these deaths is due to pneumonia,” according to the Guardian, which notes, “The new pneumococcal vaccine is expected to prevent a significant proportion of pneumonia cases, and has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives” (Tran, 10/9).
The Financial Times has published a special report (.pdf) on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) featuring 10 articles examining issues including prevention, research, and treatment.
Writing in the Global Bioethics Blog, Stuart Rennie, a bioethics researcher and professor, notes another polio worker was killed in Pakistan last week and describes Taliban opposition to U.S.-supported polio vaccination efforts in Pakistan. “For its part, the Taliban argues that U.S. efforts to eradicate polio in Pakistan contradict U.S. efforts to combat terrorism in the region, more specifically its campaign of drone strikes,” he states, adding, “As Taliban officials argue, many more Pakistanis — including women and children not involved in terrorist activity — have died or been injured (psychologically and otherwise) from drone strikes than have died or are likely to die from polio.” He continues, “When you can see the point in a Taliban ethical argument, the world is a dark place.” Rennie concludes, “The eradication of polio is of global interest: it is important that it joins smallpox in the tiny category of eliminated infectious diseases, while we still have the chance” (10/21).
“Over 70,000 health workers and community volunteers were combing the streets and jungle paths in Sierra Leone Friday at the start of a vaccination program targeting young children in the West African country,” Agence France-Presse reports. “The four-day vaccination drive dubbed ‘Kick polio out of Sierra Leone’ is focusing on some 1.3 million children under the age of five,” the news service writes, adding, “The health ministry’s program manager, Dr. Thomas Samba, who is coordinating the initiative told AFP: ‘The vaccination exercise in Sierra Leone is being undertaken simultaneously with eight other ECOWAS states — Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Niger, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Mali’” (10/20).
Reuters reports on efforts to develop a vaccine for dengue fever, writing that “victory over … the intensely painful ‘breakbone fever’ … may be in sight.” Paris-based firm Sanofi “hopes for positive results in September from a key trial among children in Thailand that would set it on course to market a shot in 2015, which would prevent an estimated 100 million cases of dengue infection each year,” the news service writes, noting, “Of 20,000 annual deaths, many are of children.” According to Reuters, “Results from that clinical study, in what is known as the Phase IIb of the international standard three-stage process of assessment, are expected in the third quarter” and “will also be presented for scientific scrutiny at the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in Atlanta in November.”
“Ten years after Europe was declared polio-free, the world stands tantalizingly close to eradicating the disease for good,” but “[t]he world’s chances of achieving this once unthinkable goal of ending polio are being jeopardized by a funding gap of $945 million,” Sir Liam Donaldson, chair of the Independent Monitoring Board of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, writes in this EurActiv.com opinion piece. “This shortfall means vaccination campaigns for 2012 will face cancellations in 33 countries, leaving 94 million children under-immunized,” Donaldson notes, and continues, “This is not just unacceptable: it is also highly damaging and will make our efforts to eradicate polio more expensive and challenging in years to come.”
“International health experts say the global campaign to eradicate polio has reached a critical stage, with Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria the only countries where the crippling and potentially deadly virus is still prevalent,” VOA News reports. “Health officials in Pakistan say they are redoubling efforts to vaccinate every child against polio after 198 new cases were reported in the country last year, the largest number anywhere in the world,” the news service notes. It goes on to highlight several challenges to the efforts, including “an ongoing insurgency and the influx of millions of Pakistani and Afghan refugees” and public opposition to the vaccinations resulting from misperceptions and concerns about safety (Padden, 6/9).
AllAfrica.com/Guardian examine efforts to prevent and treat cervical cancer among women in Kenya, where an estimated 3,400 women die of the disease each year and only five percent receive screening. “Kenya’s national reproductive health strategic plan has addressed cervical cancer largely through the roll-out of a low-cost screening tool known as VIA (visual inspection of the cervix using ascetic acid),” but experts agree that more widespread use of cervical cancer vaccines and public education campaigns about the disease would be more effective at preventing and catching cases earlier, the news service reports. “Once the public owns this problem and pushes for it, … then the government would be forced to implement [a vaccine] strategy in full,” Lucy Muchiri, a pathologist specializing in cervical cancer at Kenyatta National Hospital and the University of Nairobi, said, the news service notes (Njoroge, 6/12).
“Research funded by the Dengue Vaccine Initiative (DVI) involving an economic analysis of producing a tetravalent dengue vaccine shows that the cost could be as low as $0.20 per dose with an annual production level of 60 million doses packaged in 10-dose vials,” a Sabin Vaccine Institute press release reports. The study, published in the July 6 issue of the journal Vaccine, “used data on a vaccine developed by U.S. NIH and the facilities of the Instituto Butantan in Sao Paulo, Brazil,” the press release notes, adding the findings “should provide confidence to ministries of health that they can aggressively plan for the inclusion of dengue vaccine in their immunization programs, as the vaccine should be available at a cost that even middle-income and developing countries can afford” (6/27).