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).
“The leading candidate to become the world’s first vaccine against dengue fever was only 30 percent effective in its first large clinical trial, dealing at least a temporary setback to efforts to control a disease that threatens half the world’s population,” the New York Times reports. “Still, the study marked a milestone in the 70-year quest to develop such a vaccine, demonstrating that a safe and effective inoculation against dengue is feasible, researchers reported in a paper published online Monday in the Lancet,” the newspaper adds (Pollack, 9/10). “Tested among just over 4,000 children in rural Thailand who were badly exposed to the mosquito-borne fever, the vaccine had no side effects but only worked against three out of the four dengue strains,” Agence France-Presse writes (9/10).
“Cholera vaccine gives indirect protection to unvaccinated people in communities where a substantial fraction of the population gets the vaccine,” according to a study from the island of Zanzibar in East Africa, published in the Lancet on Tuesday, NPR’s “Shots” blog reports. “The effect is called ‘herd immunity,’” the blog notes. According to “Shots,” “half the people in six rural and urban areas received two doses of oral cholera vaccine,” and “[f]or those who got it, the vaccine was 79 percent protective against the disease” while “their neighbors who didn’t get vaccinated had almost as much protection.”
The Coca-Cola Company and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria have announced the expansion of a pilot project, called “Project Last Mile,” that uses Coca Cola’s “‘expansive global distribution system and core business expertise’ to help deliver critical medicines to remote parts of the world, beginning in rural Africa,” Pharma Times reports. “The public-private partnership was established in 2010 to help Tanzania’s government-run medicine distribution network, Medical Stores Department, build a more efficient supply chain by using Coca-Cola’s” delivery system model, the news service writes, adding, “The latest phase of the partnership, developed in cooperation with the likes of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Accenture and Yale University, will increase the availability of critical medicines to 75 percent of Tanzania and expand the initiative to Ghana and Mozambique” (Grogan, 9/26).
Most Asian Countries Fail To Include Rotavirus Vaccine In National Immunization Programs Citing Cost As Barrier
“Most countries in Asia have yet to make the rotavirus vaccine part of their national immunization program (NIP), despite a World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation to do so,” IRIN reports. “Worldwide, rotavirus accounts for 37 percent of all diarrhea deaths in children under five with 95 percent of those deaths occurring in developing countries,” the news service states, noting, “There are no antibiotics or any other drug to fight the infection and since 2009 WHO has recommended the global use of the rotavirus vaccine.” Forty-one countries worldwide include rotavirus vaccine in their NIPs, but “only two countries in Asia — Philippines and Thailand — are vaccinating (or are about to) children against rotavirus,” according to IRIN. An email to IRIN from WHO’s Manila office stated, “Price continues to be an important barrier to introducing rotavirus vaccine,” the news service notes (9/7).
“The government of Uganda has launched a vaccination campaign against cervical cancer — the most common type of cancer among Ugandan women — but there are already fears a nationwide rollout might be jeopardized by lack of funds,” IRIN reports. “‘We have begun the pilot vaccination exercise [targeting] cervical cancer. The exercise will continue for the next two years in the selected districts before we roll it [out] countrywide,’ Health Minister Christine Ondoa said,” the news service writes, noting, “An estimated 460,000 doses of Gardasil, the vaccine against the human papillomavirus (HPV), will be used.” “The campaign is being supported by Merck, the company that manufactures Gardasil,” the news service continues, adding, “But Asuman Lukwago, a senior ministry health official, told IRIN, ‘We have a challenge [getting the] money to complete this program and roll it out throughout the country’” (9/6).
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?”
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).