“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.”
In part one of a two-part blog post in USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” USAID Worldwide Polio Eradication Coordinator Ellyn Ogden reports on the “hard work and dedication of the Indian government at the national, state, district, block and panchaiyat levels” that was required for the country to have a year free of polio. “Over two million health workers, mobilizers, and volunteers have contributed to this success and deserve to be seen as heroes in their communities,” she writes (1/20). In part two of the post, Ogden recaps polio vaccination efforts and challenges, discusses the last recorded case of polio, and writes that going forward, “Guarded optimism prevails” as the country “is still at risk of importations from countries that have not yet stopped polio transmission” (1/23).
In this AlertNet commentary, GAVI Alliance CEO Seth Berkley discusses how “public-private partnership is part of the GAVI Alliance’s formula for success that has helped countries to immunize 325 million children in our first 10 years, saving more than 5.5 million lives.” Writing last week from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Berkley says, “In fact, public-private partnerships are part of what brings me to Davos this week.”
“Following separate investigations into the misuse of GAVI funding in Cameroon and Niger, both Ministries of Health have cooperated fully and confirmed their commitment to take all necessary measures, including the reimbursement of misused funds,” the GAVI Alliance said in a statement released on Thursday. According to the statement, “The findings suggest that up to US$4.2 million allocated for health systems strengthening (HSS) has been misused in Cameroon and up to US$2.5 million allocated for immunization services support (ISS) has been misused in Niger,” with approximately $1.8 million and $1.5 million of those funds under investigation for theft in the respective countries.
“In India, a mass vaccination campaign involving more than a million volunteers reduced cases nationally by 94 percent between 2009 and 2010, from 741 to 42, and down to the single case last year,” the Guardian reports, adding, “If in India as a whole there are no more confirmed cases before 13 January, the country will have completed its first year without a new victim. And if polio is gone from India, the only countries where the disease is still endemic would be Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
“The quest for a vaccine against AIDS is gaining momentum, with research published Wednesday identifying promising new candidates that protected monkeys against a powerful strain of the virus and that soon could be tested in humans,” the Wall Street Journal reports (McKay, 1/5). Researchers treated different groups of rhesus monkeys with several different two-stage vaccine combinations and then exposed them to a simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) that was different than the one used to make the vaccines, according to Nature (Callaway, 1/4).
In this post in the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Global Health Policy” blog, Victoria Fan, a research fellow at CGD, and Rachel Silverman, a research assistant at the center, respond to India’s marking of one-year since a case of polio was found in the country, writing, “While we applaud India for its commitment to reaching this milestone, let us not allow this recent success obscure the sorry state of vaccination in India.” They provide statistics regarding vaccination coverage in India and conclude, “We wonder whether India’s focus on polio may have come at the expense of other diseases,” and, “[w]hile India should be applauded for its contribution to global eradication, we urge India to consider the trade-offs in focusing on any one disease at the expense of another and, as much as possible, to try to piggy-back one effort to another effort” (1/14).
Afghan President Karzai Urges Taliban To Allow Polio Vaccination Teams Into Insurgent-Controlled Areas
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday “urg[ed] the Taliban to allow teams conducting a polio vaccination campaign access to areas under their control” and “said that whoever hampers the medical workers ‘is the enemy of our children’s future,'” the Associated Press/Washington Post reports (1/17). “A total of 80 cases of the crippling disease were reported in Afghanistan last year — a three-fold increase over 2010, the health ministry said on Tuesday, marking a major setback in the drive to eradicate polio worldwide,” Agence France-Presse writes, adding that “Karzai appealed to religious and community leaders to persuade the insurgents to allow the immunization teams to vaccinate children” (1/17).
In this post in Global Health Frontline News’ “Notes From the Field” blog, Kevin Cain, chief of the tuberculosis (TB) branch for a research and public health collaboration between the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and the CDC in Kisumu, Kenya, reports on TB research underway as part of the collaboration. Cain highlights several current research initiatives in Kisumu and concludes, “The world cannot afford another phase of neglect. We know by partnering with governments as well as affected communities in innovative ways more progress can be made improving programs and the tools available for diagnosing, treating, and preventing TB, and lives will be saved” (1/20).
IRIN examines several factors that could be contributing to an increase in polio cases in Pakistan, “despite the launch of a National Emergency Action Plan for Polio Eradication” at the beginning of 2011. In 2010, Pakistan recorded 144 cases of polio and 192 cases in 2011, the news service reports. According to IRIN, refusals by some households to vaccinate children; “administrative laxity” and “poorly run campaigns”; and malnutrition, vitamin deficiencies, and diarrhea among children could be contributing to the campaign’s lack of success (1/23).