“Eradicating polio and improving the health of millions of children in Pakistan depend quite heavily on assuring that all children have access to life-saving vaccines,” but “[t]he most recent policy prescription from the Pakistani parliament to improve immunization coverage, however, misses the mark, and badly,” Orin Levine, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center, writes in this Huffington Post “World” blog post. “A draft bill being finalized in the Pakistani parliament would require compulsory vaccination of all children, and would introduce tough penalties — including fines and imprisonment — for parents of unvaccinated children,” Levine says. However, supply issues may prevent some parents from being able to vaccinate children, and the threat of punishment may force some to falsify immunization records, he notes.
A planned mass cholera vaccination project in Haiti continues to be “bogged down in bureaucratic red tape,” as spring rains begin and the number of cholera cases starts to rise, NPR’s health blog “Shots” reports. The Haitian medical group GHESKIO and international health organization Partners In Health are organizing the vaccination campaign, which “is awaiting approval from a national ethics committee, which wants assurance that the vaccine is no longer considered experimental,” according to the news service, which notes the “WHO last November approved the dollar-a-dose vaccine that’s ready to be used in Haiti.”
Instability and insecurity in some West and Central African nations are threatening the success of a 20-country polio vaccination campaign, which aims to immunize 111.1 million children against the disease, IRIN reports. Ongoing insurgent attacks threaten the campaign in Nigeria, the region’s only polio-endemic country and home to 57.7 million of the children targeted, the news service notes. Parts of Mali, Niger, and Chad also pose security problems for health care workers trying to access children in remote or disputed areas, according to IRIN. “Human error and weak health systems also play an important role in sub-optimal immunization reach,” the news service writes, noting so far, “only Ghana, Cape Verde, Burkina Faso, Gambia, and Togo have achieved the required 90 percent coverage, according to UNICEF” (3/23).
Saturday, March 24 was World Tuberculosis (TB) Day. The following is a summary of several editorials and opinion pieces published in recognition of the day.
Several blog posts recently commented on the upcoming World Tuberculosis (TB) Day, commemorated on March 24. “Despite a clear legislative mandate, the U.S. Global Health Initiative (GHI) has consistently failed to live up to the goals of” the Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis (TB), and Malaria Reauthorization Act, a landmark legislation passed by Congress in 2008, John Fawcett, legislative director for RESULTS, writes in the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog. He continues, “Current GHI TB treatment goals are less than 60 percent of what was mandated in the Lantos-Hyde Act,” and concludes, “As the final authorized fiscal year of the Lantos-Hyde Act is debated, there’s still time to embrace its mandate: a bold effort to confront the worldâ€™s leading curable infectious killer” (Mazzotta, 3/22). “As people across the globe celebrate World TB Day this week, several groups are highlighting the fact that the current tools to prevent, test, and treat tuberculosis (TB) are greatly outdated,” Ashley Bennett, senior policy associate at the Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC), writes in the GHTC “Breakthroughs” blog. She commends GHTC members for their efforts to develop new technologies (3/22).
In anticipation of World Tuberculosis (TB) Day, commemorated on March 24, this Lancet editorial examines TB control and elimination efforts in 2012 and beyond. “Tuberculosis killed 1.45 million people in 2010 and about 500,000 people have drug-resistant disease,” the editorial states, adding, “Despite a woeful funding gap in 2012 of $1.7 billion, tuberculosis incidence is falling (from 9.4 million in 2009 to 8.8 million in 2010).” The editorial notes, “Ten new or repurposed tuberculosis drugs are in Phase II or III trials, which hopefully will reduce treatment times to about four months, compared with present multidrug-resistant tuberculosis regimens lasting 18-24 months,” adding, “Faster treatment will greatly improve adherence, reduce transmission, and cut costs.”
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) says the spread of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) — “a form of tuberculosis that does not respond to standard treatment and can kill in a matter of months” — “is much greater than previously thought,” VOA News reports. “‘Wherever we’re looking for drug-resistant TB we’re finding it in very alarming numbers. And that suggests to us that the current statistics that are being published about the prevalence of MDR-TB are really just scratching the surface of the problem,’ said Dr. Leslie Shanks, medical director for the group,” the news service writes (DeCapua, 3/21).
“Some 111.1 million children below the age of five are to be vaccinated against polio in a synchronized campaign covering 20 countries in West and Central Africa starting on Friday,” the WHO and UNICEF said in a joint statement on Wednesday, PANA reports (3/21). The campaign, which will last for four days, “is intended to serve as a massive boost in efforts to eradicate the disease, and will involve national health ministries and U.N. agencies, as well as tens of thousands of volunteers who will go from door-to-door immunizing children,” the U.N. News Centre writes (3/21).
VOA News examines polio vaccination efforts in Pakistan, where “authorities say national pride is now at stake for polio eradication and they are hoping to overcome years of setbacks from natural disasters, misinformation and war.” Though health workers hold eight nationwide vaccine campaigns each year, reaching each child is challenging because of fighting in some regions; migration; public mistrust of the vaccine; and inadequate clean water and sanitation, which allows the polio virus to thrive, according to VOA (Padden, 3/20).
“On Tuesday, a global alliance of researchers and scientists — led by the Stop TB Partnership, an umbrella group of health groups — unveiled a ‘blueprint’ to develop a new vaccine [against tuberculosis (TB)] that aims to disrupt transmission in hard-hit countries and communities,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “The blueprint calls for the groups to work together to test new vaccine candidates, and to coordinate fundraising for expansive and expensive human trials, representing the first comprehensive plan of the sort,” the news service writes (Wonacott, 3/20).