Inflammation and stories on vaccines

Neglected zoonotic diseasesZoonotic diseases disproportionally affect the poorest communities around the world. These diseases and infections, known as zoonoses, are transmitted between humans and animals. Except for large scale zoonoses like SARS and H5N1 (avian influenza), the majority of these diseases are not prioritized by national and international health systems and are considered neglected. Neglected Zoonotic Diseases (NZD) have the greatest negative impact on the economies and health services in developing countries where rural communities are dependent on livestock for transportation, food and farm labor. Tackling NZDs with education and vaccination is one way to alleviate poverty in developing countries.

Human and Animal Relationships

In the developing world, not only do animals and humans live close together, but humans are reliant on animals for everything from clothing and food to fertilizer and power. These animals represent financial security for smallholder farmers (SHFs) and marginalized populations (MPs). Globally, there are 191 million people categorized as rural poor. Of those, 411 million are livestock keepers. With animals directly contributing to the livelihoods of over 70 percent of rural poor communities, it’s crucial to keep livestock healthy for a sustainable existence. Healthy animals can be used for both base income or sold to supplement household income, therefore keeping livestock is recognized as one of the leading routes to alleviating poverty.

NZDs keep animals from achieving their full economic potential—either by dying from disease or transmitting the disease to humans. Despite existing vaccines that could be effective in the prevention and control of these diseases, many SHFs and MPs reside in low resource settings without access to health care services. Other reasons for a lack of knowledge and solutions include the irregular lifestyles of mobile pastoralists, religious and cultural beliefs, and small community numbers. One of the largest problems to consider when tackling NZDs is the fact that there is little incentive for the vaccination of livestock because the animals show no signs of the disease and their economic value does not increase after vaccination.

Sustainable Solutions

NZDs are neglected because the global demand for these vaccines is low. So, one of the first steps to creating sustainable solutions is to support regional manufacturers in developing countries. This would forge a path for stockpiles or antigen banks to be created in these small communities. Aside from the manufacturing aspect, community and social engagement are needed to incentivize SHFs to vaccinate their animals. If human health care initiatives can be integrated with animal health care initiatives, pastoral farming areas could simultaneously vaccinate both their human and animal populations. In order to improve the prevention and control of NZDs, there needs to be a multidisciplinary effort by agriculture, health and environment sectors at a national level.

Conclusion

Because these diseases are not considered major public health burdens like tuberculosis, malaria or HIV/AIDS, neglected zoonotic diseases do not garner the same media attention or monetary contributions from the public or private sectors. But, it’s important to look at the numbers—at least 61 percent of all human pathogens are zoonotic, representing 75 percent of all emerging pathogens in the last decade. These neglected zoonotic diseases that disproportionally affect the poorest communities globally have some of the largest impacts. One vaccine shot could be the difference in a life of poverty or a life of prosperity.

– Trey Ross
Photo: Flickr

Nigeria Beat Polio
Like many countries in Africa, Nigeria has historically had to deal with serious diseases. One such disease that has been a prominent issue for the country is polio. Polio is an infectious disease that the poliovirus causes. The most common symptoms of polio are fevers, sore throats and nausea, among others. In more severe cases, polio can induce paralysis and meningitis, an infection that affects the spinal cord and brain. Recently, Nigeria beat polio by increasing vaccinations.

Polio Vaccines in Nigeria

The Nigerian government banned vaccinations for the poliovirus in 2003 amid fears they caused Muslim girls to become sterile and helped spread AIDS throughout the region. Around this time, reports stated an outbreak of polio cases throughout Nigeria, as well as many other parts of Africa. Afterward, United Nations officials convinced the then governor of Kano that the vaccinations were safe, although the virus continued to plague Nigeria.

In 2007, reports stated that many new cases of polio in Nigeria came as a result of a mutated vaccine. Normally the polio vaccine involves an injection with a more mild version of the poliovirus. Around this time, however, the vaccines appeared to have helped induce polio instead. This increased people’s concern over vaccinations and many did not perceive them to be a good idea, although it the United Nation’s World Health Organization (WHO) stressed the rarity of these mutations.

According to WHO, Nigeria accounted for more than half of all polio cases in 2012. However, WHO also reported that the country made great efforts since then to reduce the incidents of polio, including “increased community involvement and the establishment of Emergency Operations Centers at the national and state-level.” These efforts have allowed the Nigerian government to respond to outbreaks more efficiently and carry out vaccinations accordingly.

A Reduction in Polio Cases

According to WHO, Nigeria went two years from 2014 to 2016 without any cases of polio. WHO has attributed this to the Nigerian government’s efforts to combat the disease. However, this period quickly came to an end on August 2016, when reports indicated that polio paralyzed two children in the northern Borno state.

As of August 20, 2019, Nigeria achieved three years without any cases of polio. The liberation of the Borno State area in northeastern Nigeria from the Islamist military group, Boko Haram, may be a cause. This military group’s stated purpose was to forbid Muslim citizens in Nigeria from taking part in any activities associated with Western society. As a result of the liberation from Boko Haram, more children have been able to receive treatment for polio, including vaccinations.

Compared to the 600,000 children under the age of 5 who missed out on vaccinations in 2016, only 60,000 children under the age of 5 missed out on receiving vaccinations as of August 20, 2019. This is thanks to factors such as increased surveillance in various islands on Lake Chad, thus allowing them to see which ones people inhabit, thus allowing them to perform vaccinations on more people.

Nigeria Free of the Poliovirus

Nigeria is the last country in Africa to have had any records of the wild poliovirus, and WHO has announced that polio is no longer endemic on the African continent. In other words, thanks to the fact that vaccines have become more advanced and widespread, and the Nigerian government’s increased efforts to respond to these cases, many believe that not only has Nigeria beat polio, it is also virtually nonexistent in Africa as a whole.

While Nigeria beat polio and the virus’ presence in Africa may have faded, the disease has not completely disappeared. Several projects have formed to put an end to it once and for all, though. One such project is the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). GPEI partners with organizations such as the World Health Organization and Rotary International. According to the GPEI website, it has helped ensure over 2.5 billion vaccinations for children all across the world in over 200 countries. This is a clear example of what the average person can do to help eliminate this disease.

– Adam Abuelheiga
Photo: Flickr

HPV Vaccine in the Middle EastGlobalization opens up channels to foreign cultural trends and facilitate the free exchange of ideas between populations of different countries. Youth in more religiously and culturally conservative regions of the world are particularly influenced by foreign representations of sexual intercourse in pop culture. Tackling problems surrounding the HPV vaccine in the Middle East and North Africa is becoming more of an issue as young people are beginning to experiment more with sex but without the preventive measures taken by other countries to confront sexually transmitted diseases and the long-term consequences of exposure.

Regional Barriers to Preventive Measures

Since many people in the Middle East and North Africa associate the immunization of adolescents with STI-preventing vaccines with the presumption that adolescents are seeking sexual intercourse, religiously strict societies of this region fail to implement preventive sexual health measures such as HPV vaccinations and cervical cancer screenings. Common understanding suggests that these societies view the HPV vaccine as an infringement on long-standing cultural and religious practices and a foreign intrusion on regional values. However, this perception is largely shaped by key religious leaders and politicians who regulate public discourse and are viewed as possessing the authority to distinguish between what is morally right and wrong. In fact, contributors working on behalf of the Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal have discovered that most families in the Middle East and North Africa display an acceptance of STI-preventing vaccines and educative initiatives promoting sexual health.

Public View on the HPV Vaccine in the Middle East and North Africa

A study published by WHO in 2017 examined 18 studies pulled from the PubMed and Embase databases dated between January 2010 and April 2017 to ascertain the prevalence of the HPV vaccine in the countries composing the Arab World. The selected studies interviewed various groups and subgroups of national populations, including adolescent men and women, young men and women, women of various age groups, healthcare professionals and parents. Among a variety of questions probed were knowledge of the existence of an HPV vaccine and awareness of the causal link between HPV and cervical cancer. The question limited to this report address general acceptance of the HPV vaccine in the Middle East and North Africa.

The results were promising. Considering the religious composition of the Arab World, the non-secular identities of political bodies in Arab countries and the influence of religion on policymaking, 99 percent of Egyptian women, 91.3 percent of Bahraini women and 89.9 percent of Saudi women were accepting of the HPV vaccine. Rates of acceptability among women tended to be high in most Arab countries, although the lowest incidence was recorded by a study of Emirati women which showed an acceptability rate of 46 percent. The average acceptability rate for university men in the United Arab Emirates was 46 percent and a 2015 study in Morocco showed that 76.8 percent of mothers and 68.9 percent of fathers approved of immunizing their children with the HPV vaccine.

Promoting the HPV vaccine in the Middle East and North Africa

The national health organizations of many countries in the region are promoting an open discourse about sexual health and advocating for the institutionalization of vaccinations in public facilities such as schools. Cervical cancer remains among the top ten leading causes of death among women in Arab countries. Meanwhile, Israel possesses one of the lowest rates in the world. This could be due to the institutionalized vaccination system in the Israeli school system. However, Baruch Velan, a vaccination compliance researcher at the Gertner Institute for Health Policy and Epidemiology in Israel, cites that the HPV vaccine compliance rate is higher in the Arab population than in the Jewish population in Israel. Why Israel has such low rates of cervical cancer, especially compared to other countries in the region, is unknown.

The changing views toward the HPV vaccine in the Middle East and North Africa shows that there is hope to increase vaccinations and decrease rates of cervical in the region.

– Grayson Cox
Photo: Flickr

What is Davos
For the last 50 years, world leaders have been flying across the world to take part in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) facilitated conversations that might leave people wondering what is Davos, exactly? The small Swiss town, Davos, is home to the annual meeting held by WEF where invited elite address global issues and how to solve them.

In 2019, there were 3,000 people that joined together in the Swiss Alps to propose new initiatives for various issues, including how to help those in developing countries. The organization has been present in the creation of successful initiatives to provide vaccines and water to those in poverty as well as in the development of a project to prevent sickle cell disease in Ghana.

Gavi the Vaccine Alliance

Nearly two decades ago, Gavi the Vaccine Alliance launched at Davos, an organization that aims to provide vaccines and immunizations to children living in poverty. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provided $750 million to get the organization running.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also founded Gavi and began partnering with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 2008. UNICEF distributes vaccines and immunizations on behalf of Gavi, having spent $1 billion in 2014. In 2018, UNICEF distributed products to nearly 70 countries for Gavi, and plans on doing the same in 2019, according to its shipment plans.

Gavi’s goal is to immunize 300 million children between 2016 and 2020, already having provided 700 million children with immunizations. When people living in poverty receive vaccines to common diseases, it removes a financial burden and could eventually allow them to alleviate their poverty, according to a Harvard Health Policy Review article.

Water.org’s Clean Water Initiative

At the 2017 Davos meeting, Matt Damon and Gary White, founders of Water.org, announced the organization’s partnership with Stella Artois in providing water to 3.5 million people. According to WHO, 2.1 billion people lack access to clean, safe water in their home which can lead to the spread of diseases and death. To combat this phenomenon, Water.org is selling Stella Artois chalices and using a portion of the profits for WaterCredit, a system that allows local communities to take out loans to improve their water situation. This can mean different solutions for different communities allowing them a choice that best serves their needs, according to NPR. This partnership is just one of the initiatives in place by Water.org; Water.org and Stella Artois have been working together since 2015 and have helped over 1.7 million people gain access to clean water.

Sickle Cell Screening in Ghana

At the 2019 Davos meeting, the government of Ghana signed a five-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Novartis, a Swiss pharmaceutical company, to treat sickle cell disease within the country. Two percent of Ghanian newborns are born with sickle cell disease, according to a 2005 study of over 200,000 newborns. Director of Ghana Health Service, Dr. Anthony Nsiah-Asare, stated at Davos that he hopes that the MOU will allow for the placement of treatment centers in all regional hospitals and the screening of every newborn while also collecting and analyzing data on the disease.

As of March 2019, 5,600 doses of Hydroxyurea, a daily drug treatment for the disease, went to Ghana for sale at a reduced price, according to Ghana Business News. By September 2019, 40,000 more doses should enter the country.

In answering the question, “what is Davos?”, it is a small city where big leaders have been working towards making changes for more than 20 years, like the alleviation of poverty through acts such as providing vaccines, clean water services and disease screenings to countries in need. At varying levels of success, these initiatives have reached millions of people suffering from poverty and seem to be maintaining momentum.

– Makenna Hall
Photo: Flickr

vaccination rates in Papua New Guinea

Across the globe, access to adequate healthcare appears to be of paramount concern for both governmental and non-governmental organizations. Not only does providing health services to underserved and under-represented populations increase general wellbeing and happiness, it has also proven to be beneficial for the economy, per the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Pushing for Vaccinations

In February, the southeast Asian nation of Papua New Guinea declared 2019 as “The Year of Immunization,” in an effort to stave off preventable diseases and promote healthier lifestyles. This push to increase vaccination rates in Papua New Guinea was further intensified following several polio outbreaks across the country in Summer and late 2018 as well as in early 2019, and outbreaks of measles in 2014 and 2015 with 2,000 total confirmed cases and over 350 deaths. This recent resurgence in the near-eradicated virus can be attributed to sub-optimal living conditions and lack of wide-spread, generalized immunization.

Furthermore, the efforts to increase vaccination rates in Papua New Guinea would hopefully spur the economy, lifting more citizens out of poverty (as of 2002, 37 percent of New Guinea’s population lived below the global poverty line – approximately 2.5 million people), though this economic boost would act primarily as an added bonus to preventing polio, rubella and measles.

Widescale immunization quickly became a top priority for the government and National Department of Health of Papua New Guinea. While initially a daunting task, the southeast Asian nation partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and other non-profit organizations, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in order to better coordinate these immunization campaigns.

According to UNICEF, one of the polio campaigns sought to immunize over three million children up to the age of 15-years-old. As of late July 2019, these campaigns have been deemed as successful by the government, significantly increasing vaccination rates in Papua New Guinea. Since February, Papua New Guinea’s National Department of Health, along with the WHO, and UNICEF have led eight successful immunization campaigns, vaccinating approximately 1.28 million children under the age of five for polio, in addition to just over one million children of the same age for rubella and measles.

Cooperation Among Organizations

The success of these campaigns can be traced to swift action and cooperation between the primarily players. The WHO estimates that over 12,000 workers (from vaccination specialists, mobilizers and surveillance officers) helped to orchestrate these movements across the country – movements, which according to The Papua New Guinea National Department of Health, have had a 95 percent success rate.

While these increased vaccination rates in Papua New Guinea are positive signs for the future of the country’s health promotion and disease prevention, it is important to note that Papua New Guinea was declared as polio free in 2000 and went 18 years without a confirmed case of polio. It is essential that Papua New Guinea continue these immunization campaigns in order to guarantee healthier lifestyles for the rest of 2019 and into the future.

– Colin Petersdorf
Photo: Flickr

biometric identificationGavi, the Geneva-based vaccine alliance, has partnered with Simprints Technology in order to provide more accurate records of vaccination for children in Bangladesh and Tanzania. The partnership hopes to use biometric identification methods to track the medical history of children under five. Because half of the children born in sub-Saharan Africa are not registered at birth, they lack an official “identity,” making it infinitely more difficult to access medical care and vaccinations for life-threatening diseases. This ever-evolving technology would allow doctors to administer immunizations at clinics to scan a child’s fingerprint, and immediately have access to a complete record of vaccinations.

What is Biometric Identification?

Biometric identification uses unique indications of a person, such as a fingerprint, voice recording, retinal scan or even an ear scan, as proof of a person’s identity. Major technology corporations like Apple have been moving towards this as a more secure mode of entry to devices like laptops or smartphones. As so many facets of daily life are digitalized, and with many people in developed countries possessing more than one device and countless online accounts, this method does away with the need for passwords and usernames. Instead, users may unlock their devices or accounts with their fingerprints or their face. Because of the reliability and security of this method, global poverty initiatives, like Simprints, are looking towards this technology as a means of accurately tracking medical history and practice.

The Security Risks

Though biometric identification poses many benefits, there are security risks to using this technology. Just as bank account passwords or credit card information can be hacked and stolen to be used for profit, so too can this more complex information. Hackers would not be stealing someone’s fingerprint or retinal scan. Instead, as technology like this becomes more prevalent, a robust online identity will be attached to individuals, geographic location, gender, and medical records. Access to this information may allow companies seeking a profit to contact a more specific demographic, and hackers may sell this information to people who may benefit from it.

These security risks are combatted by ensuring informed consent before any scans are taken and allowing every individual to determine for what purposes their data is used.

The Vaccination Record Initiative

Simprints Technology, a non-profit organization specializing in biometric identification, is providing the fingerprinting equipment for this trial. The company’s mission is to use biometric identifying technologies to fight global poverty, primarily by easing the minutia of healthcare. For example, these methods can also be used to increase maternal healthcare by more effectively tracking an expectant mother’s doctor visits.

In Bangladesh and Tanzania, Simprints and Gavi will work to create digital identities for thousands of young children. Simprints technology is so fine-tuned for this type of work that their equipment can account for the blurriness of a child’s fingerprints, and potential burning or scarring of the hands that is more common for people from this demographic. Once these programs are enacted, doctors or those working in medical clinics will simply scan a child’s finger to access a complete and accurate medical record.

Despite security concerns regarding biometric identification and its uses, this increased health initiative will safeguard children against preventable diseases. The program is a demonstration of how people with a desire to fight global poverty are doing so with revolutionary technology.

– Gina Beviglia
Photo: Flickr

Vaccine Hesitancy in Developing CountriesVaccine hesitancy, the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines, has been around since the invention of the vaccine. Recently, there has been an increase in vaccine hesitancy in developing countries due to safety concerns and long-term effects. With this skepticism, outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases that were once thought mostly eradicated such as measles, pertussis and diphtheria, have increased in frequency around the world.

This year, the World Health Organization named vaccine hesitancy one of the top 10 threats to global health. Vaccines remain the safest and most cost-effective ways of preventing diseases. Currently, vaccines save between two and three million lives a year.

Furthermore, if coverage improves, vaccines can save an additional 1.5 million lives per year. The reasons for vaccine hesitancy are complex, but a vaccine advisory group identified complacency, inconvenience in accessing vaccines and a lack of confidence as some of the root causes. With these factors identified, if now becomes a question of how to fight these causes of vaccine hesitancy in developing countries.

Complacency

Some health experts have theorized that vaccine skepticism stems from the fact that vaccines are so effective that parents no longer remember or fear vaccine-preventable diseases like measles and polio. Instead, they may focus their anxieties on the safety of vaccines, effects or the number and timing of injections.

Without a proper understanding of the devastating effects of these diseases, parents have less of a motivation to vaccinate. EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukatis said at an international health conference, “We have become victims of our own success.”

Convenience

Vaccine hesitancy in developing countries is often bolstered by the need for medical infrastructure. Inadequacy and the inequities in health systems like poverty, the disparity in infant mortality and life expectancy and a need for trained providers damages community trust.

To combat this, many countries have implemented mandatory vaccinations in schools, with mixed results. In India, for example, during their measles and rubella vaccination campaign, parents objected to their children being vaccinated without their consent, stalling the campaign in court.

Rwanda, on the other hand, was successful in its HPV vaccination campaign by coupling it with an information campaign. The campaign targeted parents and explained the need for this vaccine.

Confidence

Much of the anti-vaxxer movement is built in misinformation. Vaccine hesitancy in developing countries often stems from rumors about vaccines. For instance, that the polio and HPV vaccines caused infertility and impotency. The movement stems from general concerns about the safety of vaccines.

Health workers, especially those operating in the communities, are the parents’ most trusted health advisors and act as the biggest influencer of vaccination decisions. Because of their position, they must be supported so that they may provide parents with credible information. The most effective campaigns to fight vaccine hesitancy in developing countries are the ones that tailor to the community. Healthcare workers in the community are vital for implementing these campaigns.

In Rwanda, for example, healthcare workers went door to door to explain the benefits of the HPV vaccine. They focused on the fact that the vaccination is meant to prevent cancer. The workers brought diagrams of the female reproductive system. They also dispelled rumors by explaining that cervical cancer is far more likely to cause infertility than vaccines. Because the campaigned was tailored to the community, it was met with a lot of success.

Overcoming Vaccine Hesitancy

While there is an increase in vaccine hesitancy in developing countries and around the world, immunization campaigns are experiencing successes. Transmission of wild poliovirus, for example, may stop in Afghanistan and Pakistan this year. Additionally, cervical cancer may be eliminated in 181 countries by the end of the century.

To keep this up, health officials have to be proactive in fighting vaccine hesitancy in developing countries by fighting complacency, making access to healthcare more convenient and building confidence by creating programs tailored to the community.

– Katharine Hanifen
Photo: Flickr

Vaccines in Developing Countries “Thanks to vaccines, more children are now living to see their fifth birthday than at any point in history.” Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, said.

While this is an inspiring fact, the truth is that immunization rates in some developing countries are becoming stagnant.

The Plateau of Immunization Rates

The immunization rates of the vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP) usually reflect the quality of the overall immunization coverage within a nation. In the last three years, the immunization rate for the third dose of DTP in Chad has remained at 55 percent. The immunization rate for DTP in Somalia has been about the same since 2009. Guinea, whose DTP immunization rates used to be around 70-80 percent 10 years ago, now has had a rate of 63 percent for the last four years.

This data is somewhat shocking, considering a global effort to prioritize vaccines began in 2000. The same year, Gavi, a global Vaccine Alliance, was created with the help of a $750 million donation from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Since 2011, Gavi has surpassed its own goals of decreasing child mortality, averting future deaths and increasing child immunization in the more than 60 countries that are Gavi-supported. In just five years, Gavi was able to provide vaccines to 34 million more children than what was anticipated, and the group began administering vaccines for pneumococcal and rotavirus one year ahead of schedule.

Maintaining the Vaccine Schedule

Nonetheless, groups like Gavi struggle to keep immunization active in developing countries after the child is no longer an infant. For example, the vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV) is typically administered in two doses within 1-2 years for children above the age of nine. HPV can cause cancer, especially in those with weak immune systems, so it is important to time the vaccine administration effectively in order to be nearly 100 percent protected. Since there is no health plan that puts emphasis on older children, HPV becomes more of a threat in countries that do not enforce the strict vaccine schedule.

The World Health Organization has a plan to fix this. The Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) is set to address health program expansion to include services beyond infancy by 2020. Ministers of Health from 194 countries agreed to support the GVAP, which includes nation-specific health program monitoring and strengthened leadership.

Negative Attitudes About Vaccines

Despite intervention from non-governmental groups, the plateau of immunization rates still exists. This may be due to negative attitudes towards vaccines in developing countries. The attitudes stem from the idea that vaccines are harmful or that the health workers are ingenuine. Citizens of three Nigeran states believed that the administration of the polio vaccine would spread AIDS in 2003, and in India, people believed that vaccines were a Western plot to instigate an undercover method of family planning to threaten Muslims. Researchers cite that a way to eliminate this anxiety is to take into account sociocultural behavior when implementing vaccine programs and to strengthen communication and advocacy in order to increase participation.

While negative attitudes towards vaccines contribute to plateauing immunization rates, the expensive price of vaccines may also be a contributing factor. In 2001, six vaccines from the World Health Organization cost less than $1. Now, 12 vaccines from the WHO cost up to $45.59. This can obtaining a vaccine for someone living in Madagascar extremely difficult – the monthly salary in Madagascar is $33.

Immunizations Eradicate Disease

By increasing immunization rates, diseases can begin to disappear. In the U.S., immunization rates in 2000 were at 91 percent for the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, and the Center for Disease Control declared measles to be officially eradicated. Since then, diagnoses of measles have increased slightly among populations that are unvaccinated.

Despite these few diagnoses, the majority of the U.S. will never come in contact with measles. Dr. Jean Campaiola, hospital psychiatrist, describes this result as “herd immunity.” Herd immunity occurs when a certain percentage of the population receives the vaccine for a particular disease. For some diseases like measles, the percentage is at least 90-95, but for polio, the percentage is 80-85. This means that 20 percent of people could deny receiving the polio vaccine and still be protected from the disease because the remaining 80 percent were vaccinated.

“If this occurs rarely in a population, it’s not a big deal, but if it becomes more common, then previously eradicated diseases could make their way back into the general population,” says Dr. Campaiola. She said fears that the anti-vaccine attitude in the U.S. could cause previously eradicated diseases to re-emerge.

By administering more vaccines in developing countries, an entire community can be protected by herd immunity. Those most vulnerable to diseases (infants and the elderly) can be immune to certain diseases if more people around them receive vaccines.

In third world countries, governments spend $29 for each person’s health. In the U.S., the government spends $4,499. There is a clear need for vaccines in developing countries around the world, including a larger-scale project to improve coverage. Gavi’s next step in revolutionizing immunization is a five-year program to introduce sustainable health programs in low-income countries and to increase equitable use of vaccines. The U.S. has the power to spread the good message of vaccines, and someday, we can eradicate most major diseases all around the world.

– Katherine Desrosiers
Photo: Wikimedia

Frost Season in PeruWhile Peru is known for having a pleasant climate in most regions, this isn’t always the case all year round. In the winter months of the frost season in Peru, a wave of freezing weather strikes the communities in many areas of the Andean region.

These freezing temperatures are not your average winter. In 2010, freezing weather in the Andean South went below -20 Celcius, causing pneumonia and hundreds of deaths — with children being the most impacted demographic. In 2017, a wave of freeze killed around 180,000 alpacas on the farthest areas of Ayacucho, where the people heavily depended on the breeding of alpacas for sustenance. Since the affected regions are in extreme poverty, the people living there do not have enough resources to prevent tragedies such as the ones mentioned above.

Each frost season in Peru brings a new wave of adversity and problems, and unfortunately, it is the most vulnerable people that are the most affected by the weather. However, help comes even during the most troubled times. Here are three initiatives that have helped those affected by frost season in Peru.

3 Initiatives To Helping Those Affected by Frost Season in Peru

  1. Demos Calor a Los Hermanos de Puno- After the southern Andean regions were in a state of emergency in 2010, the Peruvian Radio Program and Solaris Peru Association joined forces to create these campaigns. Their main objective was to collect enough warm clothing and blankets for children between the ages of 1 to 5. The campaign was successful; by the end of 2011, it delivered more than 3.5 tons of apparel and other necessities to the victims.
  2. Peru Frost and Friaje Mitigation Plan- In 2017, with a new frost season approaching, ex-president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski began the Peru Frost and Friaje Mitigation Plan. Their main objective was to take the necessary steps to prevent the fatal damage caused by the frost on the highland regions. The program spent around $30 million to repair damaged infrastructure. The benefits did not only include monetary help but also the delivery of blankets, prefabricated classrooms and provide essential pneumonia vaccines. Small children and the elderly are the most affected during the frost season, so the delivery of pneumonia vaccines saved their lives
  3. Abrigando Esperanzas – The Oli Foundation- The Oli Foundation helps and assists Peru’s most vulnerable sectors. Beginning in 2011, the foundation has successfully managed several initiatives. “Abrigando Esperazas” specifically focused on the victims of the frost season. Their principal goal was the collection of warm blankets and other first-aid necessities and delivering them to the affected zones of the Peruvian Andes in Arequipa, Cerro de Pasco, Cusco, Puno and Tacna. In June 2019, their campaign “Contra el Frio por Los Nuestros,” has the main goal of building 20 warm safehouses in the town of Kusamayo, Puno. These safehouses will help keep vulnerable populations warm during the challenging frost season.

Peruvian frost season is not an easy season to overcome. Luckily there is even more being done to fight against the hardships of the winter. This year, for example, a new type of potato was developed, called Wiñay, that can tolerate freezing temperatures and maintain its nutritional value, making it possible for farmers to produce crops even then the ground is covered in snow. Through the efforts of organizations like the three mentioned above, Peruvians are being given the resources they need to survive and thrive throughout the frost season in Peru.

– Adriana Ruiz
Photo: Flickr

Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the CongoIn August of 2018 the Democratic Republic of Congo declared an Ebola outbreak. The first case of the virus erupted in the city of Goma, located on the border of Rwanda. As the tenth Ebola outbreak in Congo within 40 years, the virus became a public health concern for the over 1 million people that call Goma home. Goma also acts as a popular transit hub for many people crossing the border into Rwanda putting the population at a heightened risk for the disease to spread. The International Health Regulations Emergency Committee has met four times following this initial Ebola case.

  1. A Widespread Disease: Congo’s ongoing Ebola outbreak is now the world’s second-largest. According to The World Health Organization (WHO), the virus has infected 2,512 people and killed 1,676. The largest Ebola outbreak on record took place in West Africa killing more than 11,300 people. WHO continues its efforts to stop the spread of the disease in Congo with its team of medical specialists. In the worst cases, death and uncontrollable bleeding have resulted from the viral hemorrhagic fevers of the disease.
  2. A Global Issue: On July 17, 2019 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Ebola outbreak in Congo a global health emergency. Following the first case of Ebola, intensive training for the prevention and control of the virus heightened for more than six months. News of a female traveller from Beni that contracted the virus, and then visited Uganda sparked growing concern in Uganda and Congo. Between June and July of 2019 an estimated 245 confirmed cases of Ebola were reported in the North Kivu and Ituri provinces of Congo. WHO makes the continuous effort to monitor the cases of those infected, as well as travel and trade measures in relation to the virus.
  3. Dangerous Territory: The Ebola response teams in the Democratic Republic of Congo face violent attacks. David Gressley, the United Nations’ secretary-general, became the deputy of the U.N. missions in Congo and witnessed it firsthand. Gressley requested a force of peacekeepers along with the health officials to assist him amid the attacks. The violent attacks often hinder the Ebola responders from treating people with the virus, and still no one knows the reasoning or people behind the attacks. The U.N. estimates that due to the attacks about 1,200 have been shot or slashed to death with machetes. One popular theory points to Congolese politicians orchestrating the attacks in order to undermine political rivals. On the other hand, the Congolese government blames the Mai Mai militia. Rumors continue to swirl that the U.N. responders fail to treat Ebola patients, and intentionally spread the virus which makes them even more susceptible to these attacks.
  4. Catching Ebola: Common diseases such as measles and malaria share initial symptoms of Ebola. Many medical specialists in Congo believe that to put a stop to this epidemic they first must isolate the disease. Most Ebola patients receive a diagnosis too late, and go through multiple health facilities before getting treatment. Response teams understand that controlling the transmission of Ebola, and catching the disease in its early stages has the potential to save an entire community.
  5. The Ebola Vaccination: More than 111,000 people have received the Ebola vaccination. Developed by Canadian scientists, the Ebola vaccine (also known as the rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine) consists of an animal virus that can wear a non-lethal Ebola virus protein, which results in the human immune system developing a pre-emotive defense to the disease. Health care professionals, and family members of Ebola patients are the majority of those vaccinated. Health care responders in Congo ensure that all the contacts of Ebola patients receive a vaccine to stop the epidemic. Reports show no deaths from individuals that developed Ebola symptoms more than 10 days after receiving the vaccination.
  6. Promoting a Disease-Free Environment: Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) promotes healthcare and community engagement in Congo. This organization sends teams to determine and assist the medical needs of populations in crisis with exclusion from healthcare. Among the Ebola outbreak in Congo, MSF continues to provide free healthcare for non-Ebola needs, such as malaria and urinary tract infections. First starting in the city Goma, the MSF has now shifted aid to the Ituri province to limit infections with sanitation activities, and provide access to clean water.

These six facts about the Ebola outbreak in Congo demonstrate global organization’s enthusiasm to assemble in times of crisis. Countless organizations continue to lend support to the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in due time the country will be at its best with a healthy population.

– Nia Coleman
Photo: Flickr