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Afghan President Karzai Urges Taliban To Allow Polio Vaccination Teams Into Insurgent-Controlled Areas

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday “urg[ed] the Taliban to allow teams conducting a polio vaccination campaign access to areas under their control” and “said that whoever hampers the medical workers ‘is the enemy of our children’s future,'” the Associated Press/Washington Post reports (1/17). “A total of 80 cases of the crippling disease were reported in Afghanistan last year — a three-fold increase over 2010, the health ministry said on Tuesday, marking a major setback in the drive to eradicate polio worldwide,” Agence France-Presse writes, adding that “Karzai appealed to religious and community leaders to persuade the insurgents to allow the immunization teams to vaccinate children” (1/17).

HHS Secretary Sebelius Helps India Mark One Year Since Last Recorded Polio Case

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius “administered polio vaccination drops to children in New Delhi on Friday as India marked one year since its last case of the crippling disease,” the Associated Press reports (1/13). The Hill’s “Healthwatch” reports that “[o]fficials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] say U.S. funding and experience were key to beating back the disease,” but “[t]he news comes as federal funding for global health programs now faces sharp cuts from Tea Party lawmakers and others worried about the deficit” (Pecquet, 1/12). “­Globally, the U.S. government has provided $2 billion for the polio eradication campaign, Rotary International has raised about $1 billion from its members, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has donated more than $1 billion,” and the CDC “weighed in with crucial expertise,” the Washington Post writes (Denyer, 1/12).

Despite One Year Without Polio Cases, Threat of Disease Still Looms In India

T. Jacob John, a former professor of clinical virology an the Christian Medical College in Vellore, India, who has served on several Global and National Committees on Immunization and Polio Eradication, writes in this opinion piece in India’s Hindu, “While one year has passed without polio caused by natural poliovirus, we can claim complete eradication only after we ensure the absence of wild and vaccine polioviruses in the population.” He provides a brief history of polio eradication efforts, globally and in India, and continues, “For certification of eradication, two more years should pass without any case of wild virus polio. … We must continue working as if we still have poliovirus lurking somewhere, only to show up when least expected” (1/8).

Al Jazeera Examines Candidate Malaria Vaccine, Other Ongoing Efforts To Thwart The Disease

Al Jazeera reports on the candidate malaria vaccine known as RTS,S, which “has been heralded as one of the Top 10 Scientific Breakthroughs of 2011 by Time and Science magazines, Doctors Without Borders and the Lancet.” The news service recaps the history of the vaccine’s development, outlines a number of existing prevention strategies and details ongoing efforts in the global fight against malaria (Dalal, 1/11).

Bangladesh Works To Vaccinate 500K Children Against Polio In Annual Immunization Drive

“Mobile health teams in Bangladesh are conducting ‘child-to-child’ searches to reach the remaining half million children not vaccinated during a nationwide polio immunization campaign launched on 7 January,” IRIN reports. With a goal of vaccinating 22 million children, health workers are heading into hard-to-reach and high-risk areas to vaccinate the remaining 560,791 children, the news service writes. “Since a polio outbreak in 2006 of an imported viral strain, the government has not reported any infections, pledging annual polio vaccinations until [neighboring] India is declared polio-free,” IRIN notes, adding the next round of polio vaccinations in Bangladesh is scheduled for February 11 (1/11).

India Marking Health Achievement In Polio-Free Year But Cautious Optimism Remains Among Some Experts

“On Friday, India marks a huge public health milestone — a year since a case of polio was found in the country — a critical step in being declared polio-free and an achievement that many experts long argued was impossible,” the Globe and Mail reports (Nolen, 1/11). “The achievement gives a major morale boost to health advocates and donors who had begun to lose hope of ever defeating the stubborn disease that the world had promised to eradicate by 2000,” the Associated Press/Seattle Post-Intelligencer writes (Nessman, 1/12).

International Health Groups Ally To Fight Cholera In Haiti; Officials Emphasize Need For Sanitation Infrastructure

“Unless steps are taken to eliminate cholera from Haiti and the neighboring Dominican Republic, the disease will likely resurge and could even spread to other parts of the Caribbean, international health officials said Wednesday,” CQ HealthBeat reports (Bristol, 1/11). Officials from the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), UNICEF and the CDC “said they would join with the Haitian and Dominican governments to develop a plan to eradicate cholera from the island the two countries share by extending clean water and sanitation to stricken areas,” Reuters writes, adding, “The effort faces a daunting financial challenge if it is to meet a goal of reaching at least two-thirds of the Haitian population by 2015, a task that could cost $1.1 billion” (Morgan, 1/12).

Nigerian Leaders Sign Onto Gates Immunization Challenge

“Nigeria’s 36 Executive Governors and the Federal Capital Territory have signed up to the Nigeria Immunization Challenge launched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation last year,” a Gates Foundation press release states. “The Nigeria Immunization Challenge sets specific objectives that need to be met during each quarter of 2012. If met, Nigeria will significantly improve its chances of stopping polio and protecting more children against vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles and whooping cough,” the release adds, noting, “As of December 30, 2011, 51 cases of wild poliovirus had been reported in eight Nigerian states” (1/5).

New HIV Vaccine Candidates Show Promise In Monkeys

“The quest for a vaccine against AIDS is gaining momentum, with research published Wednesday identifying promising new candidates that protected monkeys against a powerful strain of the virus and that soon could be tested in humans,” the Wall Street Journal reports (McKay, 1/5). Researchers treated different groups of rhesus monkeys with several different two-stage vaccine combinations and then exposed them to a simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) that was different than the one used to make the vaccines, according to Nature (Callaway, 1/4).

UNICEF To Ramp Up Global Vaccination Program

“UNICEF is preparing ambitious plans to update, strengthen and vastly expand its global vaccination program,” and “is gearing up to triple its capacity over the next five years,” according to a UNICEF news story. “A more effective and wide-reaching vaccination program will also help UNICEF fulfill its commitment to reaching the most vulnerable,” the story reports (Niles, 1/3).