“A campaign to introduce new childhood vaccines to Haiti will save tens of thousands of lives over the next decade, [CDC Director] Dr. Thomas Frieden told [NPR’s health blog ‘Shots’] at the end of a two-day tour of the beleaguered country,” the blog reports. “Frieden was part of a delegation to Haiti that included his boss, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius,” according to the blog, which notes, “When the U.S. delegation arrived, a different vaccination campaign had just gotten started — a pilot project to immunize against cholera” (Knox, 4/17). According to another article in “Shots,” “U.S. health officials have been cool to that pilot project behind the scenes,” but Sebelius expressed support for the project.
Large Childhood Immunization Campaign Begins In Haiti, With Support From U.S., Other International Partners
Haiti, the U.S. and other international partners on Monday launched “a nationwide vaccination campaign in the Caribbean country that seeks to curb or prevent infectious diseases, health officials said,” the Associated Press/Fox News reports. The campaign will include immunizations against measles, rubella and polio, as well as the pentavalent vaccine, which is effective against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenza type b, according to the news agency. Immunization rates are low in Haiti, with the WHO reporting slightly more than half of the population immunized for measles and polio, but the current campaign aims to vaccinate 90 percent of Haiti’s youth population, according to Health Minister Florence Duperval Guillaume, the news agency notes.
In this post in the Huffington Post Blog, Orin Levine, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC), reports on the Nigerian Vaccine Summit, where Nigeria’s leaders will meet this week to discuss children’s health in the country. “With the world’s second largest number of child deaths each year, many of which are due to diseases that could be prevented with vaccines, yet with immunization coverage rates that are lower than many other countries in the region, Nigeria has a major opportunity to save lives by raising immunization coverage and introducing new vaccines against pneumonia and diarrhea, the leading killers of children worldwide,” he writes. Levine recounts progress made in recent years to address immunization and child mortality, but notes that “more remains to be done.”
“A year and a half after cholera first struck Haiti, a tiny portion of the population on Thursday began getting vaccinated against the waterborne disease that has infected more than 530,000 Haitians and killed more than 7,040,” the New York Times reports (Sontag, 4/12). The pilot project, which will reach only one percent of Haiti’s population, “aim[s] … to show that it’s possible to give the required two doses over a two-week period to desperately poor and hard-to-reach people,” NPR’s health blog “Shots” writes. “If it works, the plan is to convince the Haitian government, deep-pocketed donors and international health agencies to support a much bigger campaign to vaccinate millions of Haitians at highest risk of cholera,” according to the blog (Knox, 4/12).
In this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Oshinsky examines the development of the world’s first polio vaccine, noting that the vaccine, developed by Jonas Salk of the University of Pittsburgh, turned 57 on Thursday. “Now, with an eye on the endgame, scientists and researchers are developing even better vaccines,” Oshinsky writes, concluding, “The fight to end polio will not be easy, but it surely can be done. … We must seize this historic opportunity, fulfilling the promise we made to our children — to all children — 57 years ago today” (4/12).
The GAVI Alliance “has struck a deal for bulk buying rotavirus shots from GlaxoSmithKline and Merck, which cuts the price by two-thirds and will allow poorer countries access to them at around $5 per course,” Reuters reports. The vaccines “combat the main cause of diarrhea — the second-largest killer of children under the age of five worldwide,” according to the news agency. GAVI “said on Tuesday its cut-price deal would allow it ‘to respond to ever-increasing demand from developing countries’ and provide the shots this year for three million children in eight poor countries,” working toward immunizing more than 70 million children in 30 million countries by 2016, Reuters notes (Kelland, 4/10). According to a GAVI press release, “This price drop is the result of an acceleration of GAVI’s market shaping activities and discussions with manufacturers carried out together with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Supply Division of UNICEF, key Alliance partners” (4/10).
Inexpensive Female Genital Schistosomiasis Prevention Could Help Reduce Women’s Risk Of HIV Infection
In this Huffington Post “Global Motherhood” blog post, Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, describes female genital schistosomiasis (FGS), which affects more than 100 million women and girls in Africa and “causes horrific pain and bleeding in the uterus, cervix and lower genital tract, not to mention social stigma and depression.” According to studies, women affected by FGS “have a three- to four-fold increase in the risk of acquiring HIV/AIDS,” but a low-cost drug called praziquantel may prevent FGS “and therefore also serve as a low-cost AIDS prevention strategy if it is administered annually to African girls and women beginning in their school-aged years,” he notes.
“The GAVI Alliance has announced that it will include human papillomavirus (HPV) and combined measles-rubella vaccines in its portfolio for the first time” to help protect women from cervical cancer and children from disability or premature death, Africa Science News reports. GAVI already supports the funding of several childhood vaccines in developing countries, including the five-in-one pentavalent vaccine, yellow fever vaccine, meningitis A vaccines, and pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines, according to the news service (Mwaura, 4/5).
“South Sudan officials are hopeful the country will soon be declared polio-free,” if the nation can go another four months without recording a polio case, VOA News reports. “Before 2008, the area that is now South Sudan had been considered free of polio,” but “[t]hat year the country was re-infected through an imported strain that originated in Nigeria,” the news service writes. The country has not recorded a new case in more than 32 months, Abdi Aden Mohamed, head of the WHO in South Sudan, said, adding, “We are very cautious in the sense of there are a number of countries surrounding South Sudan that cases might be here and there,” according to VOA. Volunteers working to vaccinate every child under the age of six recently concluded the country’s 24th immunization campaign since polio reappeared in the nation, the news service notes (Green, 3/30).
The New York Times examines the global response to Haiti’s cholera epidemic, writing that while “[m]any health officials consider the cholera response ‘pretty remarkable,’ as John Vertefeuille, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s director in Haiti, said … [o]thers … believe the bar for success was set too low and more lives could have been saved.” The newspaper continues, “[A]s the deaths and continuing caseload indicate, the world’s response to this preventable, treatable scourge has proved inadequate.”