Anirban Chatterjee, chief of health and nutrition for UNICEF in Ghana, said the country “is doing a lot” to fight child mortality — referring to a recently launched vaccination campaign and an initiative to educate mothers about nutrition — but “I don’t think it’s enough” to reach the fourth U.N. Millennium Development Goal (MDG) to reduce the under-five mortality rate by two thirds by 2015, Inter Press Service reports. “I think there is definitely scope and need for more improvement,” he added, according to the news service. A GAVI Alliance-supported campaign to provide vaccines against rotavirus and pneumococcal disease is underway, but Chatterjee added that efforts to improve nutrition need to be provided simultaneously because he “said malnourishment can sometimes double or triple the chances of dying from a condition like diarrhea or pneumonia,” IPS writes.
“A vaccine against one of the most neglected yet fatal tropical diseases is being tested for the first time in a clinical trial in India and the U.S.,” IRIN reports. Visceral leishmaniasis (VL), “also called kala-azar or black fever, infects an estimated half million persons or more annually,” and “[i]t is found most commonly in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Brazil and Sudan,” the news service notes. “A total of 72 volunteers are participating in the trial, but scientists say it will take years of testing to roll out an affordable vaccine to the 200 million people globally at risk of VL infection,” IRIN writes, adding, “The WHO has warned that VL is spreading to previously unaffected countries due to co-infections of HIV and leishmaniasis, while the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said climate change can also spur the spread of the disease” (5/9).
In this post in PSI’s “Healthy Lives” blog, Deputy Editor Tom Murphy examines routine vaccination solutions in Nigeria, where “[t]he Decade of Vaccines Economics projects 90 percent vaccine coverage against Hib, pneumococcal disease, rotavirus, measles and pertussis can save 600,000 lives and $17 billion in Nigeria over the next 10 years.” Murphy highlights a “new report [.pdf] by the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC) at Johns Hopkins University [that] identifies the challenges and solutions to increasing routine vaccinations in” the country, noting it also “identifies supply, human resource and demand solutions to increasing vaccination access” (5/8).
Millennium Villages Project Research Yields Positive Results, But Some Researchers Question Methods Used
“Death rates among children under five at the [Millennium Villages Project (MVP)] — set up in Africa to demonstrate what is possible if health, education, agriculture, and other development needs are tackled simultaneously — have fallen by a third in three years compared with similar communities, according to the project’s first results,” published in the Lancet on Tuesday, the Guardian reports (Boseley, 5/8). The study “offers quantitative evidence of the success of the MVP model at nine Millennium Village sites in sub-Saharan Africa,” Nature News writes, adding, “Between 2006 and 2009, mortality in under-fives fell by an average of 22 percent, reaching a level roughly two-thirds of that in control villages not involved with the project, where child mortality seemed to rise.”
“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.”