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Pakistan Reports 9th Death In Polio Worker Attacks, Resumes Vaccination Campaign Under Police Escort

“Another victim from attacks on U.N.-backed anti-polio teams in Pakistan died on Thursday, bringing the three-day death toll in the wave of assaults on volunteers vaccinating children across the country to nine, officials said,” the Associated Press reports (Khan, 12/20). “Four female health workers were killed in Karachi, shot dead by masked men on motorbikes. The other five victims, including a 17-year-old volunteer, were slain in Peshawar and Charsadda,” Inter Press Service notes (Yusufzai/Ebrahim, 12/20). The attacks “indicate a threat not only to workers but also to the effort to eradicate the disease — locally and globally,” Scientific American’s “Observations” blog adds (Harmon, 12/20).

International Community Condemns Attacks On Polio Workers In Pakistan

“U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling the killing of health workers trying to vaccinate Pakistani children against polio in a U.N.-backed campaign ‘cruel, senseless and inexcusable,'” the Associated Press reports, noting, “Ban said at his year-end news conference [on Wednesday] that the eight killed were among thousands across Pakistan ‘working selflessly to achieve the historic goal of polio eradication'” (12/19). Similarly, “[t]he World Health Organization and UNICEF in their statements have expressed their strong commitment and support to the Government of Pakistan and the people of Pakistan in their efforts to rid the country of polio and other diseases,” Pakistan Today writes (12/19).

Nigeria Can Eradicate Polio With International Support

“Nigeria is one of only three countries — along with Afghanistan and Pakistan — that remains blighted by polio,” Aliko Dangote, founder and CEO of the Dangote Group and chair of the Dangote Foundation, writes in a Project Syndicate opinion piece. He notes Nigeria is “one of Africa’s most developed countries,” “the largest recipient of foreign direct investment in Africa,” home to “thriving Nigerian businesses,” and “will soon surpass South Africa to become Africa’s largest economy.” However, “Nigerians cannot hope to lead Africa, economically or otherwise, while neglecting to eliminate preventable diseases like polio,” he writes.

MSF Expresses Concerns Regarding Global Vaccination Efforts Ahead Of GAVI Forum

“This week, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) is holding a forum in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania,” Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley writes in her “Global Health Blog,” noting, “Invited are 700 experts from all the organizations and countries GAVI works with, funding immunization programs across the globe and in some of the poorest places on the planet.” One of the groups, Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), “says it is deeply concerned that the current vaccination strategy is not paying enough attention to the one in five babies who go without the most basic immunization, such as DTP (diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough) from two months and then measles vaccine, which babies should have at the age of nine months,” Boseley writes, noting the group also says vaccines need to be better designed for use in Africa (12/4). In a press release, MSF notes that three new issue briefs outlining the organization’s “main concerns” are available online (12/4). The first discusses vaccine pricing; the second discusses the development of “easier-to-use” vaccines, and the third discusses vaccine supply and procurement practices (12/4).

Vaccine-Derived Polio Outbreak Shows Gaps In Immunization Coverage In Pakistan

Though “Pakistan has made a lot of progress this year in wiping out polio,” a “recent outbreak of polio there has health officials concerned about the overall effectiveness of the effort to eliminate polio in that country,” NPR’s “Shots” blog reports. According to the WHO, “10 cases of so-called vaccine-derived polio were reported in Pakistan between the end of August and the end of October,” the blog notes, adding this is the first time vaccine-derived polio has been detected in the country and it is a sign of gaps in immunization coverage. “WHO officials say the outbreak, involving a variety of the virus called type 2 polio, illustrates that vaccination campaigns in the area are failing to reach sufficient numbers of people,” the blog writes. “The government of Pakistan launched an aggressive campaign this year, in partnership with international health organizations, to vaccinate children and carefully monitor the virus’s spread,” according to “Shots” (Beaubien, 12/4).

Three More Polio Workers Shot In Pakistan

“Three workers in a polio eradication campaign were shot in Pakistan on Wednesday, and two of them were killed, the latest in an unprecedented string of attacks over the past three days that has partially halted the U.N.-backed campaign,” Reuters reports (Ahmad, 12/19). “Earlier on Tuesday, five health workers involved in the vaccination drive were killed in the cities of Karachi and Peshawar,” News Pakistan notes (12/19). Another health care worker was killed on Monday, according to a statement issued Tuesday by the WHO, UNICEF and the Pakistani and provincial governments, which condemned the multiple attacks. “We call on the leaders of the affected communities and everyone concerned to do their utmost to protect health workers and create a secure environment so that we can meet the health needs of the children of Pakistan,” the statement said (12/18). The Associated Press reports the WHO suspended the vaccination campaign in two of the country’s provinces (Khan, 12/19). However, CNN reports the “attacks prompted authorities to suspend the campaign throughout the country” (Khan, 12/19). “Under the canceled program, Pakistani health officials planned to administer millions of ‘polio drops’ to immunize people,” according to International Business Times, which adds, “The program involved 25,000 workers targeting more than 30 million children” (Ghosh, 12/18).

Rwanda Implementing Programs To Prevent Cancer

In a Huffington Post “Impact” blog post, Tom Murphy, founder of the development blog “A View From The Cave,” examines Rwanda’s efforts to reduce cancer incidence by implementing screening programs for breast and cervical cancers and vaccinating girls and young women for human papillomavirus (HPV), the leading cause of cervical cancer. Discussing the new programs, Minister of Health Agnes Bingawaho said, “We are a government that is evidence-based and result-oriented. … We always go for a policy first — the science in front of everything. We develop a strategy plan, followed by an implementation plan and then fundraise,” according to Murphy. He discusses Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s push for accountability within the government, the U.N. General Assembly’s resolution recognizing non-communicable diseases as a global problem, and efforts by Merck and the GAVI Alliance to vaccinate more girls against HPV (12/18).

Health Workers Face ‘Severe Logistical Challenges’ To Vaccinating Maasai Tribes In Tanzania

Chris Endean of the GAVI Alliance writes ahead of the GAVI Partners Forum in a CNN opinion piece about efforts to vaccinate members of the Maasai tribes in Tanzania’s Arusha National Park. Noting Maasai tribes are “constantly on the move searching for water and fresh pasture for their cattle,” he describes “severe logistical challenges” health workers face when trying to reach their patients and notes, “The need to get to hard-to-reach people like the Maasai and the rest of the estimated eight percent of Tanzania’s population that do not receive basic life-saving vaccines has taken on a new urgency with the country’s recent launch of a five-year development plan” called the “One Plan.” Endean notes the forum is taking place in the country’s capital, Dar es Salaam, and that during the event, “the health ministry will launch two new vaccines into the national immunization program — pneumococcal and rotavirus — tackling the primary causes of pneumonia and diarrhea — two of the leading killers of under-fives in Tanzania” (12/5).

Strengthen Health Systems To Integrate Polio Vaccinations Into Routine Childhood Immunizations, Save The Children Report Says

Speaking at the GAVI Partners Forum in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, David Olayemi, senior program adviser at Save the Children in Abuja, Nigeria, said fewer than half of children in Nigeria are receiving routine immunizations for diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough (DTP), and the rate is dropping, Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley reports in her “Global Health Blog.” Launching a Save the Children report that “calls on GAVI to step up efforts to reach the last 20 percent of children across the developing world who are not getting routine immunization,” Olayemi said part of the reason for the lack of coverage are large efforts to vaccinate children against polio, which offer incentives to health care workers to leave clinics to go into the field, leaving no one to perform routine immunizations, the blog notes.