“A long-planned project to find out whether vaccination is feasible in the midst of an ongoing cholera outbreak in Haiti has been stymied — temporarily, its proponents insist –” after “a Port-au-Prince radio station reported that the impending vaccination effort was actually a ‘medical experiment on the Haitian people’ — a potentially incendiary charge,” NPR’s health blog “Shots” reports.
“Measles has killed 126 children in Yemen since mid-2011, a consequence of the breakdown of basic health services during the year-long political crisis,” and “[i]n response … , the Yemeni government has appealed for international assistance and an outbreak-response vaccination campaign will begin in the hardest-hit regions on 10 March,” IRIN reports. Since mid-2011, “3,767 cases of measles have been confirmed, resulting in 126 deaths,” according to the Ministry of Health, whereas “in the three years from the beginning of 2007 until the end of 2009, the ministry reported a total of 211 cases and no deaths due to measles,” the news service notes.
In anticipation of World Tuberculosis (TB) Day, commemorated on March 24, this Lancet editorial examines TB control and elimination efforts in 2012 and beyond. “Tuberculosis killed 1.45 million people in 2010 and about 500,000 people have drug-resistant disease,” the editorial states, adding, “Despite a woeful funding gap in 2012 of $1.7 billion, tuberculosis incidence is falling (from 9.4 million in 2009 to 8.8 million in 2010).” The editorial notes, “Ten new or repurposed tuberculosis drugs are in Phase II or III trials, which hopefully will reduce treatment times to about four months, compared with present multidrug-resistant tuberculosis regimens lasting 18-24 months,” adding, “Faster treatment will greatly improve adherence, reduce transmission, and cut costs.”
Several blog posts recently commented on the upcoming World Tuberculosis (TB) Day, commemorated on March 24. “Despite a clear legislative mandate, the U.S. Global Health Initiative (GHI) has consistently failed to live up to the goals of” the Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis (TB), and Malaria Reauthorization Act, a landmark legislation passed by Congress in 2008, John Fawcett, legislative director for RESULTS, writes in the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog. He continues, “Current GHI TB treatment goals are less than 60 percent of what was mandated in the Lantos-Hyde Act,” and concludes, “As the final authorized fiscal year of the Lantos-Hyde Act is debated, there’s still time to embrace its mandate: a bold effort to confront the worldâ€™s leading curable infectious killer” (Mazzotta, 3/22). “As people across the globe celebrate World TB Day this week, several groups are highlighting the fact that the current tools to prevent, test, and treat tuberculosis (TB) are greatly outdated,” Ashley Bennett, senior policy associate at the Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC), writes in the GHTC “Breakthroughs” blog. She commends GHTC members for their efforts to develop new technologies (3/22).
PSI’s “Healthy Lives” blog presents global health-related excerpts of USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah’s annual letter that was published on March 9. Shah touches on programs to improve infant and child health; water, sanitation and hygiene; malaria prevention; HIV/AIDS care; and health care in several countries, including Afghanistan, Ghana and Ethiopia, according to the blog (3/9).
InterAction Sends Letter To CIA Head Protesting Use Of Vaccination Plot To Find Bin Laden In Pakistan
“An alliance of 200 U.S. aid groups has written to the head of the CIA to protest against its use of a doctor to help track Osama bin Laden, linking the agency’s ploy to the polio crisis in Pakistan,” the Guardian reports, noting Pakistan recorded the highest number of polio cases in the world last year. The CIA used a “fake vaccination scheme in the town of Abbottabad … in order to gain entry to the house where it was suspected that the al-Qaida chief was living, and extract DNA samples from his family members,” the newspaper writes. But the plan “provided seeming proof for a widely held belief in Pakistan, fuelled by religious extremists, that polio drops are a western conspiracy to sterilize the population,” according to the Guardian.
Instability and insecurity in some West and Central African nations are threatening the success of a 20-country polio vaccination campaign, which aims to immunize 111.1 million children against the disease, IRIN reports. Ongoing insurgent attacks threaten the campaign in Nigeria, the region’s only polio-endemic country and home to 57.7 million of the children targeted, the news service notes. Parts of Mali, Niger, and Chad also pose security problems for health care workers trying to access children in remote or disputed areas, according to IRIN. “Human error and weak health systems also play an important role in sub-optimal immunization reach,” the news service writes, noting so far, “only Ghana, Cape Verde, Burkina Faso, Gambia, and Togo have achieved the required 90 percent coverage, according to UNICEF” (3/23).
A planned mass cholera vaccination project in Haiti continues to be “bogged down in bureaucratic red tape,” as spring rains begin and the number of cholera cases starts to rise, NPR’s health blog “Shots” reports. The Haitian medical group GHESKIO and international health organization Partners In Health are organizing the vaccination campaign, which “is awaiting approval from a national ethics committee, which wants assurance that the vaccine is no longer considered experimental,” according to the news service, which notes the “WHO last November approved the dollar-a-dose vaccine that’s ready to be used in Haiti.”
“Eradicating polio and improving the health of millions of children in Pakistan depend quite heavily on assuring that all children have access to life-saving vaccines,” but “[t]he most recent policy prescription from the Pakistani parliament to improve immunization coverage, however, misses the mark, and badly,” Orin Levine, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center, writes in this Huffington Post “World” blog post. “A draft bill being finalized in the Pakistani parliament would require compulsory vaccination of all children, and would introduce tough penalties — including fines and imprisonment — for parents of unvaccinated children,” Levine says. However, supply issues may prevent some parents from being able to vaccinate children, and the threat of punishment may force some to falsify immunization records, he notes.
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) says the spread of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) — “a form of tuberculosis that does not respond to standard treatment and can kill in a matter of months” — “is much greater than previously thought,” VOA News reports. “‘Wherever we’re looking for drug-resistant TB we’re finding it in very alarming numbers. And that suggests to us that the current statistics that are being published about the prevalence of MDR-TB are really just scratching the surface of the problem,’ said Dr. Leslie Shanks, medical director for the group,” the news service writes (DeCapua, 3/21).