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BBC News Examines HIV Microbicide Research

BBC News examines ongoing efforts to develop a female-controlled microbicide to prevent HIV infection. But so far, “efforts … have presented a great deal of frustration in the fight against this global epidemic,” the news service writes, detailing the history of some failed experiments. “According to the Microbicide Trials Network, there are currently nine different microbicide products in clinical trials,” BBC notes. Angela Obasi of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine said, “In many parts of the world — especially in the parts of the world where HIV is most prevalent — there are gender status issues that make it very tricky for a woman to control the circumstances under which she is exposed to HIV. … So methods that are controlled by women give them a critically important power over the safety of their own bodies,” according to the news service (Gill, 12/8).

Vaccines Serve As ‘Engine For Economic Growth’

Vaccines “save lives by protecting people against disease,” but they “also are an engine for economic growth — far beyond their health benefits,” GAVI Alliance CEO Seth Berkley writes in a CNN opinion piece. GAVI and its “many partners, including prominent companies,” “recognize that in addition to the humanitarian need, countries such as Tanzania are emerging markets that can fulfill their economic ambitions only if they also can ensure good health for their citizens,” he states. Berkley describes efforts to increase vaccination rates in Tanzania, and he writes, “[W]e know for a fact that vaccines — in addition to saving lives and improving health — are the cornerstone of a vibrant economy, fuel growth and serve as a magnet for foreign investment. Indeed, research has shown vaccines to be among the most cost-effective investments in global development.”

Vodafone Partners With GSK, GAVI To Use, Study Mobile Technology To Improve Vaccination Rates

“British mobile phone group Vodafone and drug maker GlaxoSmithKline are joining forces on a novel project to increase childhood vaccination rates in Mozambique using text messaging,” Reuters reports. With the aim of increasing the proportion of children covered by vaccination by five to 10 percent, a one-year pilot project supported by Save the Children “will register mothers on a ministry of health database, alert them to the availability of vaccinations and allow them to schedule appointments by text,” the news agency notes. In addition, a three-year partnership between Vodafone and the GAVI Alliance, supported by the British government, will “study how health ministries across sub-Saharan Africa can use mobile technology to improve their immunization programs,” Reuters notes, adding, “Britain will match Vodafone’s contribution of technology and services with a $1.5 million cash contribution to GAVI” (12/10).

GAVI Alliance To Support 30M HPV Vaccinations Among Girls By 2020

“In an effort to fight the human papillomavirus (HPV), the leading cause of cervical cancer, more than 30 million girls will be immunized against HPV by 2020 with GAVI support, the global health alliance announced on Thursday,” Xinhua/Global Times reports. “Rwanda and Uganda have been conducting HPV pilot projects through donations from vaccine manufacturers and are expected to roll out the vaccine nationwide with GAVI support in 2014,” the news service writes, adding, “By 2015, GAVI plans to immunize approximately one million girls with HPV vaccines and a large number of other countries are expected to run HPV pilot projects, and by 2020, more than 30 million girls will be immunized against HPV, [GAVI Alliance CEO Seth] Berkley said” (12/7).

WHO’s Decision To ‘Monitor’ R&D ‘Deeply Disappointing’

In this PLoS “Speaking of Medicine” blog post, Julien Potet and Katy Athersuch of Medecins Sans Frontieres’ (MSF) Access Campaign say that the WHO’s decision last week to “simply continue monitoring” the medical research and development (R&D) industry’s ability to address the needs of people living in developing countries “by creating a global R&D ‘observatory'” is “a deeply disappointing outcome that will not help re-shape priorities, increase funding or catalyze development of urgently needed new medical tools; at best it will only underscore further how badly these actions are needed.” They discuss how access to new tools, technologies, and treatments “can save lives” and some of the progress made in expanding R&D. Advocates’ “pressure will be critical for engaging governments and mobilizing the public leadership needed to support the research for cures that millions of neglected patients await,” they conclude (12/6).

Strengthen Health Systems To Integrate Polio Vaccinations Into Routine Childhood Immunizations, Save The Children Report Says

Speaking at the GAVI Partners Forum in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, David Olayemi, senior program adviser at Save the Children in Abuja, Nigeria, said fewer than half of children in Nigeria are receiving routine immunizations for diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough (DTP), and the rate is dropping, Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley reports in her “Global Health Blog.” Launching a Save the Children report that “calls on GAVI to step up efforts to reach the last 20 percent of children across the developing world who are not getting routine immunization,” Olayemi said part of the reason for the lack of coverage are large efforts to vaccinate children against polio, which offer incentives to health care workers to leave clinics to go into the field, leaving no one to perform routine immunizations, the blog notes.

Health Workers Face ‘Severe Logistical Challenges’ To Vaccinating Maasai Tribes In Tanzania

Chris Endean of the GAVI Alliance writes ahead of the GAVI Partners Forum in a CNN opinion piece about efforts to vaccinate members of the Maasai tribes in Tanzania’s Arusha National Park. Noting Maasai tribes are “constantly on the move searching for water and fresh pasture for their cattle,” he describes “severe logistical challenges” health workers face when trying to reach their patients and notes, “The need to get to hard-to-reach people like the Maasai and the rest of the estimated eight percent of Tanzania’s population that do not receive basic life-saving vaccines has taken on a new urgency with the country’s recent launch of a five-year development plan” called the “One Plan.” Endean notes the forum is taking place in the country’s capital, Dar es Salaam, and that during the event, “the health ministry will launch two new vaccines into the national immunization program — pneumococcal and rotavirus — tackling the primary causes of pneumonia and diarrhea — two of the leading killers of under-fives in Tanzania” (12/5).

MSF Expresses Concerns Regarding Global Vaccination Efforts Ahead Of GAVI Forum

“This week, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) is holding a forum in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania,” Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley writes in her “Global Health Blog,” noting, “Invited are 700 experts from all the organizations and countries GAVI works with, funding immunization programs across the globe and in some of the poorest places on the planet.” One of the groups, Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), “says it is deeply concerned that the current vaccination strategy is not paying enough attention to the one in five babies who go without the most basic immunization, such as DTP (diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough) from two months and then measles vaccine, which babies should have at the age of nine months,” Boseley writes, noting the group also says vaccines need to be better designed for use in Africa (12/4). In a press release, MSF notes that three new issue briefs outlining the organization’s “main concerns” are available online (12/4). The first discusses vaccine pricing; the second discusses the development of “easier-to-use” vaccines, and the third discusses vaccine supply and procurement practices (12/4).

Vaccine-Derived Polio Outbreak Shows Gaps In Immunization Coverage In Pakistan

Though “Pakistan has made a lot of progress this year in wiping out polio,” a “recent outbreak of polio there has health officials concerned about the overall effectiveness of the effort to eliminate polio in that country,” NPR’s “Shots” blog reports. According to the WHO, “10 cases of so-called vaccine-derived polio were reported in Pakistan between the end of August and the end of October,” the blog notes, adding this is the first time vaccine-derived polio has been detected in the country and it is a sign of gaps in immunization coverage. “WHO officials say the outbreak, involving a variety of the virus called type 2 polio, illustrates that vaccination campaigns in the area are failing to reach sufficient numbers of people,” the blog writes. “The government of Pakistan launched an aggressive campaign this year, in partnership with international health organizations, to vaccinate children and carefully monitor the virus’s spread,” according to “Shots” (Beaubien, 12/4).

Yellow Fever Kills 164 In Sudan’s Darfur; Agencies Working To Vaccinate People In Region

“Yellow fever has killed 164 people over the last three months in Sudan’s Darfur, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday,” Reuters reports. According to a joint statement, “Between 2 September and 29 November, the total number of suspected yellow fever cases has reached 677, including 164 deaths,” the news agency writes. Aid agencies provide almost all available health care in Darfur, “where rebels took up arms in 2003 complaining of neglect by the central government,” according to Reuters. Sudan’s health ministry and the WHO have vaccinated more than half of a targeted 3.6 million people in the region for the disease, the news agency notes (Dziadosz, 12/3).

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