A “key problem” in reaching the goal of polio elimination “may well be that organizers of the global anti-polio initiative, and of other global health programs, are not listening to the people they want to help — or to each other,” Thomas Abraham, an associate professor in the Journalism and Media Studies Center at the University of Hong Kong, writes in a New York Times opinion piece. “As a result, in many communities targeted by [polio immunization] programs, people perceive a gulf between global programs like polio eradication and more immediate local health needs,” he continues, adding, “It is cold comfort to save a child from polio if the child later succumbs to malaria or diarrhea from dirty drinking water.”
“Sudan has launched a massive vaccination campaign to immunize 2.4 million people against an outbreak of yellow fever in the restive region of Darfur, the U.N. said Monday,” according to the Associated Press. “The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Khartoum’s health ministry received an initial shipment of 800,000 doses of vaccine on Friday to battle the outbreak, which began in September after a heavy rainy season created additional breeding sites for disease-carrying mosquitoes,” the news service writes, adding, “As of Saturday, Sudan had reported 116 deaths out of 459 suspected cases” (Osman, 11/19).
The Washington Post reports on polio eradication efforts in Pakistan, writing, “[O]verall trends in Pakistan, where nearly 30 million children have been vaccinated in recent years, are encouraging.” The newspaper writes, “Last year’s cases numbered 198 nationwide,” adding, “This year’s tally is 54.” However, “the intractability of other social ills, including insurgency, poverty, illiteracy and inadequate sanitation, have conspired to ensure that the country remains years away from meeting its goal of polio eradication by the dawn of 2013,” the newspaper notes. The Washington Post discusses a number of challenges to vaccination efforts, such as a Taliban ban on vaccinations and fear among some parents that “the drops contain religiously proscribed (‘non-halal’) ingredients or are part of a Western plot to spread infertility and limit Muslim population growth.” The newspaper adds, “One key to reducing outbreaks, U.N. health workers say, is to educate parents” (Leiby, 11/16).
“In a breakthrough for the fight against meningitis in poor countries, researchers say the WHO has ruled that a key vaccine can be transported or stored for up to four days without refrigeration,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Called MenAfriVac and made by the Indian company Serum Institute, the vaccine costs less than 50 cents a dose and, according to the latest research, can be conserved without any refrigeration, even an icepack, at temperatures up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) for four days,” the news agency writes (11/15). “Epidemics of meningitis A occur every seven to 14 years in Africa’s ‘meningitis belt,’ a band of 26 countries stretching from Senegal to Ethiopia, and are particularly devastating to children and young adults,” Reuters notes.
“More than two million people in Sudan’s Darfur region will be vaccinated against a rare yellow fever outbreak suspected of killing 107 people since late September, health officials said on Tuesday,” Agence France-Presse/France 24 reports (11/13). In a joint statement, the WHO and the Sudanese Ministry of Health said the mosquito-borne disease has spread throughout the western territory, which “has been plagued by conflict since rebels took up arms in 2003,” Reuters notes (Dziadosz, 11/13). The International Coordinating Group on Yellow Fever Vaccine Provision, a WHO partnership with vaccine manufacturers, will provide the vaccines, according to VOA News (Lipin, 11/13). Anshu Banerjee of the WHO office in Sudan “said that while no yellow fever cases have been found outside Darfur, the WHO is planning a risk assessment in the next two weeks on the assumption that all areas in Sudan may be at risk of infection,” the Associated Press reports. “The WHO estimates that more than 500 million people in 32 countries in Africa are at risk of yellow fever infection,” the news service notes (Fick, 11/13).
“The number of polio cases worldwide reached a record low in 2012, giving experts confidence that the disease can finally be eradicated, according to presentations made at” the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) in Atlanta on Tuesday, Agence France-Presse reports (11/13). “The number of polio cases around the world that have been reported this year as of October dropped to 177, down from 502 cases as of October 2011,” and “for the first time ever, no new cases were reported in previously unaffected countries, meaning the geographic spread of polio has slowed,” the Los Angeles Times’ “Booster Shots” blog writes (Bardin, 11/13).
In a post in the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Global Health Policy” blog, Owen Barder, a senior fellow and director for Europe at the CGD, reports on the results of a large Phase III clinical trial conducted in Africa on the malaria vaccine candidate RTS,S, published online in the New England Journal of Medicine on Friday. “The study of the phase III trials finds that in babies (aged 6-12 weeks) the vaccine only reduces malaria by less than a third. This is disappointing because this is less than half the effectiveness that had been suggested by the phase II clinical trials,” he writes. “The RTS,S vaccine demonstrates that it may, in principle, be possible to develop a vaccine against malaria, even if this particular candidate vaccine is not eventually successful,” Barder states and highlights an Advance Market Commitment approach proposed by the CGD, under which “donors would not choose research programs to fund” but would instead “contract to pay for a successful vaccine, if and when it is developed” (11/10).
U.N., Partners Call For Greater Efforts To Fight Number One Killer Of Children On World Pneumonia Day
On World Pneumonia Day (WPD), recognized on November 12, “[t]he United Nations and its partners … called for greater efforts to eradicate pneumonia, the number one killer of children under the age of five,” the U.N. News Centre reports. According to the WHO, “pneumonia, which is a form of acute respiratory infection that affects the lungs, kills an estimated 1.2 million children under the age of five years every year — more than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined,” the news service notes (11/12). In a statement recognizing WPD, USAID said, “Thankfully, we have in our possession the tools needed to change the tide on these statistics. Now we need new ways to deliver badly needed health services and new ways to stimulate demand in the most rural pockets of the world” (11/12). “The Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia, a partnership of more than 140 government, international and philanthropic organizations, sponsors WPD,” IIP Digital adds (Porter, 11/9).
NPR’s “Shots” blog reports on an update about the polio situation in Nigeria, published Thursday in the CDC’s latest issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), writing, “Despite beefed-up efforts to vaccinate kids and a flood of new resources, … [t]here have been twice as many polio cases as last year, and a few communities, where kids chronically miss vaccines, are serving as ‘sanctuaries’ for the poliovirus, giving it a place to replicate and survive” (Doucleff, 11/8). “Ninety-nine new cases of polio have been reported in Nigeria in 2012 so far — more than in the rest of the world combined, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative,” GlobalPost notes, adding, “[W]hile the rest of the world celebrates the near-extinction of the disease, health officials warn the rise of polio in Nigeria this year could lead to a surge in other countries” (Murdock, 11/9). Although “[m]ore kids have been vaccinated this year compared to 2011, and health workers are now using modern satellite tools to track vaccinators and target kids who often get overlooked,” the “Shots” blog notes, “If the virus isn’t stopped in these communities by the middle of next year, the authors [of the MMWR update] call for ‘additional innovative vaccination strategies to interrupt all WPV (Wild Polio Virus) transmission’ in Nigeria” (11/8).
RTS,S Malaria Vaccine Shows Low Protective Effect Among African Infants In Large Phase III Clinical Trial
Published online in the New England Journal of Medicine on Friday, a study on a large Phase III clinical trial conducted in Africa on the malaria vaccine candidate RTS,S/AS01 “reported disappointing results” among “infants who received their first shot between six and 12 weeks of age,” Nature reports. “The low protective effect of the vaccine was around half that reported last year in older children in the same study, and that of an earlier, smaller trial of babies of the same age group,” the journal notes (Butler, 11/9). The “GlaxoSmithKline experimental malaria vaccine touted as a new weapon in the fight to eradicate the disease proved only 30 percent effective when given to babies as part Africa’s largest ever clinical trial,” Reuters writes, adding, “The surprisingly poor result for the world’s first potential vaccine against malaria leaves uncertain whether it can have a useful role in fighting the mosquito-borne disease that kills hundreds of thousands of children a year” (Kelland/Hirschler, 11/9).