“The cholera strain in Haiti is evolving, researchers reported Thursday, a sign that it may be taking deeper root in the nation less than two years after it appeared and killed thousands of people,” the Associated Press/USA Today reports. “The study released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that the bacterium is changing as survivors acquire at least some immunity to the original bug, which apparently was imported from Nepal,” the news service writes (Daniel, 5/5). “The evolution of the cholera strain was expected and typical of the disease, according to the CDC,” CBS Miami notes (5/4).
Ghana’s recent “rollout of the rotavirus vaccine and, to much acclaim, a new vaccine against pneumococcal infections, [makes it] the first country in sub-Saharan African to introduce two new vaccines at the same time,” the Guardian reports. The immunization campaign, organized by the Ghanaian government and the GAVI Alliance in partnership with other international agencies, philanthropies and the private sector, is “expected to save thousands of lives,” the newspaper notes. “That GAVI has deemed Ghana able to introduce rotavirus and pneumococcal vaccines together is a vote of confidence in the country’s ability to establish a ‘cold chain,'” a refrigeration network necessary to keep the vaccines viable, according to the Guardian.
“Chagas disease — a parasitic infection transmitted through an insect commonly known as the ‘kissing bug’ — is one of the most common infections among pregnant women in the Western Hemisphere,” Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and director of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. “It can be found all over Latin America, from Mexico and Central America to Paraguay and Argentina,” he writes, adding, “For expectant mothers, what makes Chagas disease especially harmful is that it can be passed to their unborn children, causing highly lethal congenital infections.”
Some Public Health Advocates Disagree With Indian Government’s Decision To Roll Out Pentavalent Vaccines, IPS Reports
“Ignoring widespread concern over the safety, efficacy and cost of pentavalent vaccines” — which provide protection against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis B and haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) — “India’s central health ministry has, this month, approved inclusion of the prophylactic cocktail in the universal immunization program in seven of its provinces,” Inter Press Service reports. Pentavalent vaccines have “had a history of causing adverse reactions and deaths in India’s neighboring countries like Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan,” the news service writes, noting that India’s National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) in 2010 “recommended limited introduction of pentavalents in southern Kerala and Tamil Nadu and evaluation of results over a year before extension to other states.” Despite this recommendation and outstanding public interest litigation, the government on April 16 announced the vaccines would be introduced in five additional states, IPS reports.
In a Huffington Post Blog opinion piece, Orin Levine, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC), describes watching the suffering of an infant with severe pneumonia and his parents while in Ghana on Thursday, writing that the experience was “a personal reminder as to why our work to prevent disease is so perilous, and why disease control so promising in Africa.” Noting that last year in Ghana, “approximately 50,000 young children — nearly seven out of every 100 — died before their fifth birthday,” Levine adds, “I also saw the promise of prevention in Ghana,” with the launch of an immunization campaign to provide both pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines. With support from the GAVI Alliance, Ghana is the first country in Africa to introduce two new vaccines against pneumonia and diarrhea at the same time,” he notes.
“[S]tarting this week, Ghana will vaccinate the first babies in a new campaign against rotavirus — a cause of severe diarrhea — and pneumococcal disease, which causes pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis,” Reuters reports. The GAVI Alliance is supporting Ghana’s Expanded Programme on Immunisation in launching the campaign, the news service notes, adding, “While the immediate benefits of vaccinating children against these killers are clear in terms of saving lives and reducing disease, Ghana is also looking at long-term pay-back.”
“For too long, there has been an unwritten rule that it can take 15 years or more before children in the poorest nations benefit from new life-saving vaccines in use in rich countries,” Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI Alliance, writes in this post in the Independent’s “Notebook” blog. “But national celebrations in Ghana this week show how this shameful gap is rapidly being closed,” he continues, noting, “This week the rotavirus vaccine to protect against severe diarrhea and the pneumococcal vaccine which targets the primary cause of pneumonia — the two biggest killers of children — are being introduced” in the country, making it the first in Africa to roll these vaccines out simultaneously.
“President Obama and his GOP challenger Mitt Romney have both prioritized deficit reduction, which, of course, is a worthy goal,” former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), chair of the non-profit Hope Through Healing Hands, writes in an opinion piece in The Week. “[M]any surveys put global health at the top of the list of things to slash. That’s a mistake,” he continues and lists five reasons why global health programs “ought to be spared the chopping block.”
“Seeing a child die from pneumonia, diarrhea or a mosquito bite is simply unimaginable to most parents. But that is the sad reality for many families each day,” USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah writes in a Huffington Post Blog opinion piece, noting, “Last year over seven million children under five died of largely preventable causes.” He continues, “Today, the global community has the knowledge and the affordable tools to change the course of history,” including bednets, vaccines, and childbirth assistance. “At the current annual rate of decline of 2.6 percent, the gap in child death between rich and poor countries would persist until nearly the end of this century. But we are capable of much more. By working closely with countries and continuing our results-oriented investments in global health, we can bring the rate of child mortality in poor countries to the same level it is in rich countries,” he states.
“A ‘final push’ is needed toward eradication of polio worldwide, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control said” in an online update on the agency’s polio eradication efforts, United Press International reports. “Polio incidence dropped more than 99 percent since the launch of global polio eradication efforts in 1988 and no polio cases have been reported since January 2011 in India, one of the four remaining endemic countries, a CDC report said,” UPI writes. “‘Nevertheless, poliovirus transmission is ongoing in the other three endemic countries — Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan — and travelers have carried the infection back to 39 previously polio-free countries over the last several years,’ [the update] said,” according to UPI.