“A yellow fever outbreak in Sudan’s Darfur region has killed 67 people so far,” and “the number of cases has more than doubled since the start of the epidemic last month,” the WHO said in a statement on Wednesday, the U.N. News Centre reports. The report “stated that the outbreak has now affected 17 localities in central, south, west and north Darfur, with 194 cases reported — a significant increase from the 84 initial cases reported at the start of the outbreak,” according to the news service (11/7). “WHO announced in the report a plan of action to counter the spread of the disease, including a vaccination campaign and training of medical cadres,” the Sudan Tribune writes. The Ministry of Health “said it needs four million vaccine units to counter the outbreak,” according to the newspaper (11/7). “The report’s recommendations also include strengthening disease surveillance in eastern Darfur, continuing laboratory testing of patients from newly affected localities, and finalizing a vaccination plan that identifies resources available as well as partners to implement it,” the U.N. News Centre writes (11/7).
“Sudan has launched a massive vaccination campaign to immunize 2.4 million people against an outbreak of yellow fever in the restive region of Darfur, the U.N. said Monday,” according to the Associated Press. “The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Khartoum’s health ministry received an initial shipment of 800,000 doses of vaccine on Friday to battle the outbreak, which began in September after a heavy rainy season created additional breeding sites for disease-carrying mosquitoes,” the news service writes, adding, “As of Saturday, Sudan had reported 116 deaths out of 459 suspected cases” (Osman, 11/19).
A “key problem” in reaching the goal of polio elimination “may well be that organizers of the global anti-polio initiative, and of other global health programs, are not listening to the people they want to help — or to each other,” Thomas Abraham, an associate professor in the Journalism and Media Studies Center at the University of Hong Kong, writes in a New York Times opinion piece. “As a result, in many communities targeted by [polio immunization] programs, people perceive a gulf between global programs like polio eradication and more immediate local health needs,” he continues, adding, “It is cold comfort to save a child from polio if the child later succumbs to malaria or diarrhea from dirty drinking water.”
“Afghanistan is taking steps to improve its routine immunization coverage, after a drop in coverage led to a sharp increase in measles outbreaks last year, killing more than 300 children,” IRIN reports. “Experts say nearly 30 percent of the population has no or very poor access to primary health care, including immunization, and the percentage is estimated to be as high as 70 percent in areas of conflict in the south,” the news service writes, adding “decreasing vaccination coverage [is] due to rising insecurity, decreased access, difficult terrain and harsh winters,” as well as last year’s severe drought. “In the National Priority Programmes, which outline government priorities until 2015, the government admits many vaccinators lack initial training, and that budget shortages in past years prevented supervisory and monitoring visits by provincial level management teams,” IRIN states, adding that the WHO this year has implemented training programs and, along with UNICEF and the Ministry of Health, has combined the measles and polio vaccination campaigns to better utilize resources (11/1).
IRIN examines how the WHO’s recent declaration that the MenAfriVac meningitis A vaccine can be transported or stored for up to four days without refrigeration will affect immunization campaigns in Africa’s meningitis belt, which runs from Senegal to Ethiopia. “As a result, very remote populations will access the vaccine more easily, the logistics of vaccine campaigns will be simpler, and vaccine campaign costs will drop both for partners and for national governments, said Michel Zaffran, coordinator of WHO’s Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI), and Marie-Pierre Preziosi, director of the Meningitis Vaccine Project, a partnership between international NGO PATH and WHO,” IRIN writes. Zaffran said, “I am quite confident that within the next year or two, we’ll have one or two more [vaccines] re-licensed in this way,” according to the news service. “Analysis on the heat stability of hepatitis B and HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccines is under way; next on the list are yellow fever, rotavirus and pneumococcal disease,” IRIN notes (11/20).
NPR’s “Shots” blog reports on an update about the polio situation in Nigeria, published Thursday in the CDC’s latest issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), writing, “Despite beefed-up efforts to vaccinate kids and a flood of new resources, … [t]here have been twice as many polio cases as last year, and a few communities, where kids chronically miss vaccines, are serving as ‘sanctuaries’ for the poliovirus, giving it a place to replicate and survive” (Doucleff, 11/8). “Ninety-nine new cases of polio have been reported in Nigeria in 2012 so far — more than in the rest of the world combined, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative,” GlobalPost notes, adding, “[W]hile the rest of the world celebrates the near-extinction of the disease, health officials warn the rise of polio in Nigeria this year could lead to a surge in other countries” (Murdock, 11/9). Although “[m]ore kids have been vaccinated this year compared to 2011, and health workers are now using modern satellite tools to track vaccinators and target kids who often get overlooked,” the “Shots” blog notes, “If the virus isn’t stopped in these communities by the middle of next year, the authors [of the MMWR update] call for ‘additional innovative vaccination strategies to interrupt all WPV (Wild Polio Virus) transmission’ in Nigeria” (11/8).
In a post in the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Global Health Policy” blog, Owen Barder, a senior fellow and director for Europe at the CGD, reports on the results of a large Phase III clinical trial conducted in Africa on the malaria vaccine candidate RTS,S, published online in the New England Journal of Medicine on Friday. “The study of the phase III trials finds that in babies (aged 6-12 weeks) the vaccine only reduces malaria by less than a third. This is disappointing because this is less than half the effectiveness that had been suggested by the phase II clinical trials,” he writes. “The RTS,S vaccine demonstrates that it may, in principle, be possible to develop a vaccine against malaria, even if this particular candidate vaccine is not eventually successful,” Barder states and highlights an Advance Market Commitment approach proposed by the CGD, under which “donors would not choose research programs to fund” but would instead “contract to pay for a successful vaccine, if and when it is developed” (11/10).
U.N., Partners Call For Greater Efforts To Fight Number One Killer Of Children On World Pneumonia Day
On World Pneumonia Day (WPD), recognized on November 12, “[t]he United Nations and its partners … called for greater efforts to eradicate pneumonia, the number one killer of children under the age of five,” the U.N. News Centre reports. According to the WHO, “pneumonia, which is a form of acute respiratory infection that affects the lungs, kills an estimated 1.2 million children under the age of five years every year — more than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined,” the news service notes (11/12). In a statement recognizing WPD, USAID said, “Thankfully, we have in our possession the tools needed to change the tide on these statistics. Now we need new ways to deliver badly needed health services and new ways to stimulate demand in the most rural pockets of the world” (11/12). “The Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia, a partnership of more than 140 government, international and philanthropic organizations, sponsors WPD,” IIP Digital adds (Porter, 11/9).
“An experimental vaccine based on a molecule related to DNA protects animals against influenza and may one day offer an ultra-rapid way to develop new shots for humans, German scientists reported on Sunday,” Reuters reports (Hirschler, 11/25). “In a first for any infectious disease, a vaccine against flu has been made out of messenger RNA (mRNA) — the genetic material that controls the production of proteins,” New Scientist writes, adding, “Unlike its predecessors, the new vaccine may work for life, and it may be possible to manufacture it quickly enough to stop a pandemic” (Mackenzie, 11/25).
“Polio will never be eradicated in Pakistan until a way is found to persuade poor Pashtuns to embrace the vaccine, according to a study released by the World Health Organization” in its November bulletin, the New York Times reports. A survey of 1,017 parents of young children living in “Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and the only big city in the world where polio persists, … found that 41 percent had never heard of polio and 11 percent refused to vaccinate their children against it,” according to the newspaper. Some parents from poor families “cited lack of permission from family elders,” Anita Zaidi, a professor at the Aga Khan University in Karachi, said, adding some wealthy parents said the vaccine was “harmful or unnecessary,” the newspaper notes. “Pashtuns account for 75 percent of Pakistan’s polio cases even though they are only 15 percent of the population,” the newspaper adds, noting poorer children are at a higher risk because they are more likely to be exposed to raw sewage, where the virus travels. According to the New York Times, “the eradication drive is recruiting Pashtuns as vaccinators and asking prominent religious leaders from various sects to make videos endorsing the vaccine” (McNeil, 11/5).