“[P]articipants at a symposium held last week by the U.K. Consortium on AIDS and International Development warned that [progress on HIV and tuberculosis (TB) vaccines] could be jeopardized by the recent downturn in global health funding,” BMJ reports. The journal summarizes comments made at the meeting by researchers and advocacy group representatives, who stressed that successful vaccines for HIV and TB would save millions in existing research investments and long-term treatment costs (Moszynski, 5/22).
“This week in Geneva, health ministers from governments around the world will meet at the 65th World Health Assembly (WHA) for their annual meeting to discuss health issues that affect everyone everywhere,” Orin Levine, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC), writes in this post in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog. “Among the resolutions they will consider is one supporting the Global Vaccine Action Plan, a road map to ensure that by the end of this decade, every child, everywhere enjoys the full benefits of immunization,” he notes.
“[P]eople everywhere have a stake in eradicating polio, as we have stamped out smallpox,” a Bloomberg View editorial states, adding, “Immunizing the last unvaccinated children on the planet is an expensive and complex undertaking, and worth it in the long run.” The editorial notes, “If polio transmission could be stopped by 2015, the net benefit from reduced treatment costs and productivity gains through 2035 would be $40 billion to $50 billion, according to a 2010 study.”
Anirban Chatterjee, chief of health and nutrition for UNICEF in Ghana, said the country “is doing a lot” to fight child mortality — referring to a recently launched vaccination campaign and an initiative to educate mothers about nutrition — but “I don’t think it’s enough” to reach the fourth U.N. Millennium Development Goal (MDG) to reduce the under-five mortality rate by two thirds by 2015, Inter Press Service reports. “I think there is definitely scope and need for more improvement,” he added, according to the news service. A GAVI Alliance-supported campaign to provide vaccines against rotavirus and pneumococcal disease is underway, but Chatterjee added that efforts to improve nutrition need to be provided simultaneously because he “said malnourishment can sometimes double or triple the chances of dying from a condition like diarrhea or pneumonia,” IPS writes.
In this post in the Huffington Post Blog, Dagfinn Hoybraten, vice president of the Norwegian Parliament and chair of the GAVI Alliance Board, examines a nationwide vaccination campaign in Haiti, through which “[h]ealth officials are targeting measles, rubella and polio and [are] also introducing pentavalent vaccine, one shot against five diseases.” He writes, “Questions have been raised, understandably, about whether the international community has done enough to help” after an earthquake devastated the country in 2010, but “the nationwide vaccination campaign is a powerful sign of Haitians helping themselves.”
GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog reports on a potential public-private partnership that aims to bring tuberculosis (TB) vaccine trials to the gold mines of Southern Africa, where, “[f]or every 100,000 workers …, 3,000 have tuberculosis, and many have often-fatal, drug-resistant strains of TB.” The blog writes that mining company “Anglo American announced Tuesday at the GBCHealth Conference [in New York] that it has agreed in principle to make its mines available for TB vaccine trials organized by Aeras, a non-profit that has 12 TB vaccine candidates now in various stages of research,” noting, “No formal agreement has been reached, but Anglo American’s spokesman vowed to make it happen.”
“Every year, millions of people die from preventable and treatable diseases, especially in poor countries,” World Bank Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate, writes in this BusinessDay opinion piece. “In many cases, life-saving medicines can be cheaply mass-produced, but are sold at prices that block access to those who need them,” and “many die simply because there are no cures or vaccines, because so little of the world’s valuable research talent and limited resources is devoted to addressing the diseases of the poor,” he continues, arguing, “This state of affairs represents a failure of economics and law that urgently needs to be corrected.” Stiglitz continues, “The good news is that there are now opportunities for change, most promisingly through an international effort headed by the World Health Organization that would begin to fix the broken intellectual-property regime that is holding back the development and availability of cheap drugs.”
“U.N. aid agencies are under attack from doctors working with refugees who have been displaced by fighting in Sudan, with claims that they are not doing enough to get medical supplies through to children in desperate need,” the Guardian’s “The Observer” reports. According to the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, some doctors working in the area say that UNICEF-provided supplies of vaccines against childhood diseases “dried up nearly a year ago in areas of conflict around the Nuba mountains,” the newspaper writes.
In this video report, Al Jazeera examines polio eradication efforts in Pakistan, writing, “[I]n an unusual effort to eliminate the disease, health workers are stopping vehicles at a busy toll booth outside Islamabad to administer free polio vaccination drops to children under the age of five.” The video recounts a “promise” made by Pakistan’s prime minister last month to eliminate new polio infections in the country by the end of the year and provides commentary by Shahnaz Wazir Ali, assistant to the prime minister on social affairs, and Dennis King of UNICEF Pakistan about the target, current infection rates, and ongoing eradication efforts (Tyab, 2/6).
Following an outbreak of the mosquito-borne yellow fever virus in Cameroon that has infected at least 23 people and killed at least seven people, U.N. and local officials are working to vaccinate “1.2 million people considered at high risk of contracting yellow fever, which has no cure,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “The U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), the International Coordinating Group on Yellow Fever Provision (YF-ICG) — which includes WHO and the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) — and the public-private partnership known as the GAVI Alliance are funding the vaccination campaign,” the news service writes. In Ghana, YF-ICG is working with the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) to plan a vaccination campaign after at least three cases of yellow fever have been reported in the north of the country, the U.N. News Centre notes (2/3).