Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) last week cut short a three-week measles vaccination campaign intended to reach 35,000 children in the Daynile area near the Somali capital Mogadishu, after intense fighting erupted between the militant group al-Shabab and forces of Somalia’s Transitional National Government, backed by the African Union Mission in Somalia, VOA News reports. Only 4,831 children had been reached in six days, according to the news agency.
With the RTS,S malaria vaccine trial results showing “moderate” success, helping to reignite “optimism about eradicating malaria entirely,” “there are other big hurdles still to surmount,” a New York Times editorial states. “There are hints that the protection may wane over time and results from administering a booster shot won’t be known until 2014,” and side effects could be a concern, the editorial writes.
Though the number of new polio cases has dropped by 99 percent over the past 20 years, World Polio Day is recognized “because we havenâ€™t done enough yet,” Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, writes in his blog, “The Gates Notes.” He continues, “The last one percent is the hardest percent, and we have to do even more than weâ€™ve already done if we hope to finish the job on polio. The day the world is declared polio free is the day we can really begin celebrating” (10/21).
Scientists, WHO Warn Of Public Health Implications Of Proposed Mercury Ban Due To Its Use In Vaccines
“Scientists are warning officials negotiating a global treaty on mercury that banning the deadly chemical completely would be dangerous for public health because of the chemical’s use in vaccines,” the Associated Press reports. “The ban option is one of several proposals on the table for a [United Nations Environment Programme, or UNEP] meeting later this month in Nairobi, but a final treaty isn’t expected until 2013,” the news service writes.
“India has not had a case of polio in nine months, raising hopes the country is on the verge of defeating the disease, health officials said Monday,” the Associated Press reports. “India remains one of only four countries in the world where polio is still endemic, and the nine months that it has been without a case is the longest since eradication efforts were launched nearly two decades ago,” the AP writes, adding, “A country is declared polio free when no cases of the disease are reported for three years, according to the World Health Organization.”
“An outbreak of polio in three children from the south of Madagascar has raised concerns over a possible resurgence of this crippling disease,” BBC News reports, adding, “UNICEF spokesman Daniel Timme says three cases of polio without symptoms have been identified … during UNICEF’s Mother and Child Health week following tests and urine samples” (Healy, 10/22). “Although the children are currently not showing symptoms of polio, [Timme] said symptoms of the disease could make itself known at any time” Examiner.com writes (Herriman, 10/22).
Positive results announced this week from a large clinical trial testing the efficacy of the RTS,S malaria vaccine are “encouraging,” but they are also “a reminder of how much work remains to be done,” an Economist editorial reports. The WHO abandoned its first efforts to eradicate the disease 14 years after setting out to do so in 1955, but “a new wave of enthusiasm,” beginning in 1998 with the establishment of the Roll Back Malaria partnership and culminating with Bill Gates’s call for malaria eradication four years ago, “has helped to lower the number of malaria deaths by 20 percent over the past decade,” the editorial states.
Working in conjunction with the Haitian Ministry of Health and the Haitian aid group GHESKIO, Boston-based Partners In Health (PIH) will begin an immunization campaign in January aimed at providing two doses of the oral cholera vaccine Shanchol “to 100,000 Haitians living in two vulnerable communities: a neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, where potable water and latrines are luxuries, and to an isolated rural village in the lower Artibonite Valley region,” the Miami Herald reports.
The Guardian features an interview with Moncef Slaoui, now chair of research and development at GlaxoSmithKline, who discusses his 23-year involvement in the research leading to the RTS,S malaria vaccine that has shown to halve the risk of malaria among African children. Slaoui said cellular immunity is the key to the vaccine’s success and research on the vaccine has advanced the company’s knowledge of adjuvants, substances that stimulate the immune system, which has allowed the development of other vaccines (Boseley, 10/19).
“Vaccines are among the most successful and cost-effective health investments in history,” Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI Alliance, writes in this post in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog. Because vaccines have saved millions of lives, “donors, the global health community and developing countries themselves [must] stay focused on immunization,” he writes.