Inflammation and stories on vaccines

Vaccines in Egypt
For the past 20 years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the United States has assisted the Egyptian government by providing aid to fight vaccine-preventable diseases. Efforts such as strengthening immunization services, responding to public health emergencies and conducting surveillance studies and surveys have contributed to the reduction of these fatal diseases. The CDC has provided financial support for diseases that can be prevented by vaccines in Egypt through the World Health Organization (WHO), which focuses on polio, measles and rubella elimination.

Impeding Access to Vaccines

In 2006, vaccinations in Egypt eradicated wild poliovirus transmissions. The government continues to monitor the environment for wild polioviruses in a program involving the CDC and other organizations. However, despite the efforts of these organizations, many of those living in poverty in Egypt still do not have access to the vaccination. This presents a problem in the eradication of vaccine-preventable diseases since disease such as the wild poliovirus could return.

According to WHO, full immunization coverage for the poorest to the wealthiest populations showed national levels in Egypt to be under 20 percent. Studies show that the high rates of unemployment and low literacy rates contribute to the increase in the population living in poverty. This results in many individuals being unaware of the healthcare and medical aid they are entitled to and leads to the low proportions of immunization within the population.

Many children are also part of the child labor industry. Working interferes with their school attendance and education, resulting in low literacy rates, which perpetuate the ongoing poverty cycle. Without awareness of health and safety maintenance, those who live under the poverty line may not have the necessary knowledge to access vaccinations in Egypt.

Improvements Made in Vaccinations

The Expanded Program of Immunization (EPI) in Egypt focuses on saving lives by controlling vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, diphtheria, tetanus, polio and whooping cough through constant surveillance and an increase in vaccine coverage. Despite the extreme decline of cases of vaccine-preventable diseases in the past decades, outbreaks of measles in 2013 and 2014 suggests that full immunization coverage is not yet supported for all populations of Egypt.

However, despite 60 percent of the population living under the poverty line and a large number of people not receiving immunizations, resources and efforts towards improving access to vaccinations in Egypt have increased. WHO claims that only 24 cases of measles, 5.9 cases of mumps and 34 cases of rubella were reported in 2017. A drastic decrease compared to decades of consistent outbreaks in the thousands. Part of the progress could be a result of the fact that 94 percent of children aged 12-23 had received measles vaccinations in 2017. Furthermore, in 2008-2009, there was a significant increase in vaccines in Egypt for measles, mumps and rubella, with 95 percent of children having been vaccinated, an increase of 53 percent from 2007.

The Future of Disease Control

The Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) works to promote the funding of the Haemophilus influenza vaccine as a part of the PENTA vaccine, a type of vaccine designed to protect the receiver from multiple diseases. The PENTA vaccine will help fight bacterial pneumonia, a communicable disease that contributes to high mortality rates. With WHO supporting the MoHP, the push for programs that fight viral hepatitis is stronger as more resources are being devoted to procuring equipment, allocating funding and the constant surveillance of vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks.

Efforts to control vaccine-preventable diseases are allocating funding to provide coverage for those who may not be able to afford it. Now, increased focus on spreading awareness to the population about the importance and availability of vaccines in Egypt is needed in order to increase coverage and finally eradicate some of the vaccine-preventable diseases in the country.

– Aria Ma
Photo: Flickr

immunizations africa
Globally, more than 2 million children are saved every year by immunizations. In Africa, the success of programs for immunization plays a significant role in world health. Immunization programs bring benefits to Africa and other countries around the world by reducing, containing and eliminating life-threatening diseases.

Successful Immunization Program

The Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) is responsible for most of the vaccinations in Africa. EPI focuses its attention on immunizing children against six life-threatening diseases: diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, tuberculosis, polio and measles.

EPI has been acknowledged for maintaining control over many infectious diseases, showing significant progress since its initiation in 1974. For instance, EPI is credited for being on the forefront of eradicating smallpox. The eradication of the polio-virus is currently underway. This disease was responsible for infecting and killing millions of children previous to EPI. After the launch of EPI, enormous reductions of paralysis caused by polio was observed due to polio immunization.

Eradication and Vaccination

In 2017, the required three doses of the polio vaccine were successfully distributed to 85 percent of newborns around the world. With the exception of Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, polio has been eradicated in almost every country, according to The World Health Organization.

Measles vaccinations have been a huge success as well. In 2015, about 85 percent of children around the world, including Africa, have been immunized with the measles vaccine. In 2017, 167 countries had received two doses of the measles vaccine. Since 2000, more than 20 million lives worldwide have been saved through measles immunization.

MenAfriVac, the first vaccine created specifically for Africa, is a vaccine for adults and children (9 months to 29 years old) that protects them from group A Meningitis. More than 270 million people have been immunized, and cases due to the type A bacterium have declined 99 percent in areas that obtained full vaccinations. It is predicted that more than 400 million people will be vaccinated with MenAfriVac in fewer than two years. This can prevent over 150,000 deaths.

Immunization programs are making huge changes for better healthcare. Immunization coverage in Africa has advanced since the start of EPI, which has helped increase the needed dosages of DPT3 (a vaccine that shields diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus) for children. In 2017, DPT3 had reached as high as 90 percent in 123 countries.

The Economic Impact of Vaccinations

Vaccines also have a strong economic impact on people. “A healthy child is more likely to go to school and become a more productive member of society in later life while their families can avoid the often crippling healthcare costs that diseases can bring” explained Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of a vaccine alliance (GAVI). “[…] this is enough to save millions of people from the misery of extreme poverty. [..] we now need to redouble our efforts to ensure every child, no matter where they’re born has access to lifesaving vaccines.”

Not only are families saved undo economic hardship thanks to vaccines but also governments save money through ensuring a healthier population. On average, $16 is saved for every $1 that is spent on vaccinations. This can be due to the money that would be lost from missing work, healthcare costs and lower productivity due to illness.

Other Immunization Programs

There are many other programs like EPI that are aiming to make a difference such as The Global Immunization Vision and Strategy (GIVS), The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and The Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP). Programs such as these are continuing to help Africa in powerful ways.

Although these developments have been successful, 1 in 5 children still will not get the vaccines needed to prevent life-threatening diseases. Immunization coverage in Africa is still below the goal of 90 percent, leaving many people without vaccines.

The need for extending immunization to everyone is extremely high, and a plan is currently in place through The Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) to continue to achieve the goal. GVAP has set six principles to elaborate on the plan in order for it to be achieved by 2020, saving millions of lives. These principles include partnership, country ownership, equity, integration, sustainability and innovation.

Hope

To help GVAP achieve their goals, each region has developed their own plan in order to ensure that every child will be immunized and protected from deadly viruses. If this plan works out, all communities will have access to life-saving vaccines.

Vaccinations meet the needs to care for weaker societies by enabling good public health, which helps in reducing poverty. Immunization programs bring benefits to Africa as well as saving millions of people in need of vaccines. Challenges are still faced but hope continues.

– Kathleen Smith

Photo: Flickr

Immunization in Sudan
For the past few years, Sudan has been in the middle of one of the worst measles outbreaks in their country’s history. With 1,730 confirmed cases and over 3,000 suspected cases, measles is spreading like wildfire. This has brought to light the desperate need for a proper system for immunization in Sudan, especially for diseases like measles.

Measles Prevention

Measles is a highly infectious disease that spreads very quickly, but can be easily prevented by vaccine.

After the introduction of the measles vaccine, there was an 84 percent drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2016 worldwide. It is estimated that the vaccine prevented 20.4 million measles-related deaths during this time period. This statistic delineates the power of the vaccination and the positive effects it can bring to a country like Sudan.

With support from UNICEF, the Ministry of Health launched a country-wide campaign to vaccinate almost 8 million children for measles.

Combatting Poverty and Measles

Children living in poverty are particularly susceptible to catching measles as they are often malnourished. Additionally, children living in conflict zones are difficult to reach in order to immunize. As a result of such conditions, UNICEF has been tirelessly fighting to get humanitarian access to these areas.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have also come to the forefront in the fight against measles. GOAL Global, a nonprofit that focuses on international aid for those in poverty, launched its own campaign for immunization in Sudan. Within the first 7 days, they vaccinated over 20,000 children.

GOAL Global worked in partnership with other major groups like the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to get this campaign off the ground. Thanks to groups such as these, children that would otherwise lack access to healthcare are able to stay safe in the face of the measles epidemic.

Campaigns for immunization in Sudan are not as simple as just bringing the vaccine out to children. They require extensive planning and mapping out of areas, in addition to training healthcare workers to administer the vaccine.

Meningitis and Aid Organizations

Meningitis is another disease that Sudan struggles with. Meningitis affects the spinal cord and brain and in some cases can be life-threatening. Sudan accounts for 15 percent of meningitis cases in the “meningitis belt,” which is a stretch of countries heavily affected by the meningitis infection.

In recent years, WHO in partnership with the Ministry of Health and UNICEF have launched an immunization campaign for meningitis with the goal to vaccinate 720,000 children in Sudan. Campaigns such as these require upkeep in order to keep the outbreak at bay and prevent the return of the disease.

Fostering Impactful Change

Vaccines are also an inexpensive, high-impact solution to disease. The introduction of immunization campaigns to Sudan has the potential to stop the measles epidemic and the meningitis problem dead in their tracks.

Vaccinations are a big step towards evening the playing field for children living in poverty compared to children from more affluent communities. Immunization in Sudan for diseases like the measles and meningitis give all children across the board a better chance at life.

– Amelia Merchant
Photo: Flickr

Swine Flu in Limpopo
A number of citizens in the northeastern part of South Africa have contracted the H1N1 virus, which is commonly referred to as the swine flu. The swine flu in Limpopo is most prevalent in the city of Tzaneen, in which many residents have been hospitalized due to the severity of this ailment. The outbreak and its effects are very serious, and could potentially be lethal; despite the dangerous concerns, South Africa is ready to handle the virus.

Influenza and Beyond

The influenza strain itself frequently causes illness in pig herds. For humans, the virus is considered a “variant case” because it rarely occurs in humans, yet when it spreads, the Swine Flu transforms into a respiratory infection that causes exhaustion, fever, sore throat and nausea. The illness is very contagious, and spreads through touching contaminated surfaces or breathing the virus itself.

If the symptoms persist without detection, the virus could turn into pneumonia, bronchitis or lung infection. Such developments could result in further health complications. Pregnant women are the most vulnerable group to contract the swine flu — according to the Center for Strategic & International Studies, pregnant women who have the H1N1 virus are four times more likely to be hospitalized than non-pregnant carriers of the disease.

Pregnant Women in South Africa

In South Africa, pregnant women are treated as a priority group because they are exceedingly susceptible to the disease; therefore, hospitals have taken great caution to prevent and treat pregnant women who have contracted the virus. Due to the seriousness of the H1N1 virus, provinces within South Africa have issued amber alerts to warn residents about the continued threat of the swine flu in Limpopo.

A staggering finding found that about 98 percent of influenza infections this year within South Africa have been the H1N1 strain — this statistic shows the extremity of the virus among humans within the country. The latest outbreak occurred just weeks ago on June 30, 2018, and the H1N1 virus has left many individuals, particularly in Limpopo, in critical condition. Fortunately, there are no deaths yet that are due to the swine flu.

Hospitalization and H1N1 Counteractions

The illness has caused the hospitalization of individuals of all different ages and genders. For instance, one middle-aged man who seemed rather a health prior to the virus is now hooked up to a machine. The virus could have been a lot worse if medical professionals did not brace their patients for a bad flu season; many vaccines were given before the start of the season.

Not only did the nation prepare in advance for influenza, but most of the country also formulated a robust plan to counteract the virus. Evidently, the swine flu in Limpopo warranted a strong response from health departments and medical centers across the nation. The Western Cape Department of Health used data from global statistics and research to combat the further spread of the virus. They have since improved their vaccine so that it can prevent the newest version of the virus.

Preventive and Future Efforts

Medical centers and governmental officials are advising residents to visit their doctors if they experience symptoms related to the swine flu. Hospitals have outlined guidelines to abide by in order to prevent its spread, such as washing hands more frequently, consulting doctors as soon as any symptom occurs, inhaling fresh air and eating unprocessed, vibrant foods.

The best way to avoid the virus is to get vaccinated. Each year, doctors and researchers urge South African citizens to receive the vaccination. The country and its residents encountered one of the worst flu seasons last year, therefore, they were more prepared to handle this recent outbreak.

The swine flu in Limpopo reflects how influenza continues to be a global health issue. The international community and nations across the globe must be ready to combat the outbreak of influenza. Limpopo shows that preventative measures are exceedingly effective, yet they are always making improvements to better the response in the next year to come.

– Diana Hallisey
Photo: Google

Typhoid in MalawiTyphoid is a bacteria known as Salmonella Typhi that causes a gastrointestinal infection, leading to typhoid fever. This bacteria transfers from person to person and is spread due to lack of access to adequate sanitation and clean water. Typhoid continues to afflict many countries across the world in regions lacking access to sanitation. In 2016, an estimated 130,000 people died from typhoid fever across the world. One of the countries where typhoid continues to be a serious problem is the southeastern African country of Malawi.

Symptoms and Effects of Typhoid

Those affected by typhoid fever often struggle with symptoms such as extreme fatigue, rashes and a loss of appetite. In severe cases, typhoid can cause hemorrhaging or a perforation in the intestines.  Even after patients recover from typhoid or stop showing symptoms, they may continue to carry and spread the bacteria. Typhoid also affects more than just physical health; illness can impact people’s lives by impeding their ability to work or even to go to school. This results in a loss of wages or education for the duration a person suffers from typhoid. In recent years, typhoid has become more dangerous, as the bacteria grows increasingly resistant to antibiotic treatment.

The New Vaccine Against Typhoid in Malawi

Due to the severe prevalence of typhoid in Malawi, there has been a push for the use of vaccinations to prevent, or at least reduce, the effect of typhoid. In February of 2018, a conjugate vaccine trial was launched in Malawi. This vaccine is called Typbar-TCV. Young children are particularly vulnerable to typhoid, and Typbar-TCV is the first vaccine against the disease that can be given to children younger than two years old. Roughly 24,000 children in Malawi will participate in the trial.

Typbar-TCV was developed by Bharat Biotech, an Indian biotechnology company. Several studies have been conducted since 2005, and the vaccine was first launched in 2013. This vaccine has a wide range of effectiveness, from children as young as six months old to adults. Tests have shown that the vaccine to be 87 percent effective in preventing the contraction of typhoid. It also lasts longer than previously used vaccines, providing greater protection for a longer period of time.

Benefits of Typbar-TCV

The cost of treating typhoid can be a significant burden on people living in poverty, but the new vaccine takes steps to alleviate this burden. A study in 2016 reported that almost 70 percent of people living in Malawi were surviving on $1.90 USD or less per day. In the majority of developing countries, treatment for typhoid can be between $50 and $5,000. In contrast, the new Typbar-TCV vaccine costs $1.50 per dose to GAVI eligible countries. Through the vaccine’s affordability, the prohibitive cost burden that typhoid places on those who are the most vulnerable can be avoided.

Over the span of four years leading up to 2014, the appearance of multidrug-resistant typhoid increased by 90 percent in Malawi. Because of inadequate sanitation, people in the country remain vulnerable to typhoid while the disease itself becomes more difficult to treat. This antibiotic resistance increases the urgency for methods to prevent the spread of typhoid so that antibiotics become unnecessary. The Typbar-TCV vaccine is a step in the direction of reducing this danger by hindering the growth of increasingly deadly and untreatable forms of typhoid.

The use of Typbar-TCV in Malawi is a great achievement. The vaccine provides a method of preventing the spread of typhoid among those who need it, including infants who are most vulnerable to the dangers of the disease. Typbar-TCV will reduce the need for the antibiotics required after a person has contracted typhoid; this reduces the prevalence of multidrug-resistant strains of typhoid as well as protecting people from becoming infected in the first place. This vaccine against typhoid keeps the most vulnerable populations of Malawi safe.

– Lindabeth Doby
Photo: Flickr

Pneumonia in HaitiPneumonia is lung inflammation caused by a viral or bacterial infection. It is one of the leading causes of death worldwide for children under the age of five. The issue is exacerbated by environmental and economic factors. Malnutrition weakens the immune system, especially in young children, and leaves people more susceptible to disease. Poverty and inadequate public infrastructure lead to poor access to medical care, affecting both those who are already sick and those trying not to contract an illness. By nearly every metric, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and this is further illustrated by the country’s high rates of pneumonia.

Vaccination Efforts in Haiti

According to a study conducted by Albert Schweitzer Hospital, pneumonia in Haiti is responsible for close to 40 percent of all deaths in children under the age of five. In response to the epidemic of pneumonia in Haiti, the Haitian government has focused on vaccinating more people. However, the country still lags behind the rest of the world in vaccination rates; according to a 2012 study, only 45 percent of children between one and two years old have been satisfactorily vaccinated.

The Benefits of Foreign Aid

The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, also known as the GAVI Alliance, has helped the Haitian government in reaching its vaccination goals. In a 2012 press release, the GAVI Alliance announced a nationwide vaccination campaign that would utilize both the pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines, which would target the primary causes of pneumonia and diarrhea. The organization has also pledged $9.2 million in total support to the people of Haiti. The funding has gone toward immunization, injection safety and medical training.

Other organizations have attempted to address the problem of pneumonia in Haiti. In conjunction with USAID, the Haitian Health Foundation (HHF) runs 60 mobile health clinics that visit villages around Jérémie, a coastal town in southwestern Haiti. USAID also leads a team of health agents, who provide life-saving medical knowledge and doctor referrals so that victims of pneumonia can find the help they need. Within Jérémie, the Haitian Health Foundation runs a 27,000-square-foot outpatient clinic which serves more than 120,000 patients per year.

The Future of the Fight Against Pneumonia

However, the fight against pneumonia in Haiti is far from over. There are still massive regional disparities in vaccinations in Haiti which result in disparities in instances of pneumonia. For example, a study of vaccinations in Haiti found that western Haiti, as well as parts along the eastern coast, had a vaccination rate between 55 and 65 percent. In contrast, large swathes of central and southern Haiti had a vaccination rate of less than 35 percent.

The work of organizations like the GAVI Alliance, the Haitian Health Foundation and the government of Haiti has produced positive results in alleviating pneumonia. In southwest Haiti, child deaths from pneumonia have been cut in half. As a whole, Haiti’s mortality rate for people afflicted by pneumonia has plummeted since the ‘90s, despite the spike in pneumonia cases that occurred between 2004 and 2013. The fight is not over, but important battles are being won against pneumonia in Haiti.

-Peter Buffo
Photo: Flickr

rotavirus vaccine
In recent weeks, the government of Uganda has taken an important step to protect the health of its most vulnerable citizens — a rotavirus vaccine is now available around the country free of charge. This new expansion of Uganda’s vaccination program has the potential to impact the lives of tens of thousands of people for decades to come.

The Threat of Rotavirus

Rotavirus is a highly-contagious disease that causes fever, diarrhea and vomiting. Together, these symptoms often cause severe dehydration, which can be deadly if it goes untreated. Children under the age of five are especially vulnerable — more than 450,000 die each year across the globe. Eighty percent of those deaths occur in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Unlike other diarrhea-causing diseases, rotavirus is difficult to fight with improved sanitation alone. It can be spread by a variety of methods including person-to-person contact or eating contaminated raw vegetables. In Uganda, even owning a dog makes infection much more likely.

Rotavirus in Uganda

Diarrhea in general and rotavirus in particular have an enormous impact on public health in Uganda.

  • Diarrhea is in the top five causes of death for Ugandan children younger than five.
  • Rotavirus causes around 40 percent of diarrhea cases for Ugandan children younger than five.
  • Over 10,000 of those young Ugandan children with rotavirus die each year.

Of course, thousands of other children also suffer from milder cases of the disease. Since rotavirus is so resilient and easily-spread, fighting it requires a comprehensive strategy. While sanitation must play an important role in that strategy, both the CDC and the WHO recommend using rotavirus vaccines as a crucial method to protect children from the disease. Thankfully, the Ugandan government has begun doing just that.

Impact and Costs

The ongoing distribution of the rotavirus vaccine will not be without its challenges. The vaccine is free, safe to administer alongside other vaccines and can be given to infants as young as 6 weeks old, but it requires multiple doses to be fully effective and is not a 100 percent guarantee of immunity.

During the program’s rollout, the Prime Minister of Uganda urged citizens to ensure that children went through their entire immunization schedule. He also re-emphasized the importance of proper sanitation measures like handwashing in maintaining everyone’s safety.

Despite the potential for setbacks, though, the rotavirus vaccine has the potential to save thousands of lives across the country. The CDC estimates that 70 percent of vaccinated children are protected from rotavirus entirely and as many as 90 percent are protected from the most severe, often deadly, cases.

Four Million Lives

Studies on the long-term results of a vaccination program in Uganda reveal that these percentages could yield incredible results in the coming decades. In next twenty years, the vaccination program will likely only cost the Ugandan government a net $50 million after accounting for saved healthcare expenses. For that investment, the vaccine will prevent an estimated four million cases of rotavirus and save the lives of more than 70,000 young children.

The Ugandan government clearly realizes this amazing potential and has vocally supported the program. The Minister of Health praised it as an important step toward building a healthier and more productive population. Hopefully, time will further illustrate the program’s results and live up to its incredible potential.

– Josh Henreckson
Photo: Google

Polio in Papua New Guinea
A polio outbreak was reported in Papua New Guinea. This is the first time polio has been seen in the country in nearly two decades, and an especially poignant occurrence as polio is extremely close to eradication around the world.

What is Polio?

Polio is a dangerous virus spread through food, water and contact with infected people. Those who do not have access to adequate sanitation are especially vulnerable to the virus.

Polio multiplies in the intestines but can move to other parts of the body through the bloodstream and affect the nervous system. This can lead to paralysis. The poliovirus has no cure once contracted, so the only route to the end of polio is through vaccination and other methods of prevention.

How Do You Treat Polio?

There are two forms of vaccination against the polio virus, but oral poliovirus vaccines (OPVs) are the vaccine predominantly used across the world today. OPVs are inexpensive, at a maximum of $0.18 for countries supplied by UNICEF in 2016.

They also are easy-to-use as they are administered orally. Such facility means that the vaccine does not need trained healthcare personnel or sanitized syringes for application.

Polio in Papua New Guinea

The strain of polio in Papua New Guinea is known as vaccine-derived poliovirus type 1. This form of poliovirus is caused by a mutation of the weakened version of the polio virus used in the oral vaccine. The weakened version of the virus stays inside the person who has received the vaccine for several weeks. During this period of time, the body excretes the virus.

In areas with poor sanitation, the vaccine virus can be transferred from person-to-person and can also pass on a passive immunization to others in the community. However, if there is low immunization in a region, the virus can continue transferring for an extended period of time. This spread can lead to mutations in the virus and, in extremely rare cases, the virus can become neurovirulent again in what is called a vaccine-derived poliovirus.

Morobe Province and Prevention Methods

Within the Morobe Province — the region of Papua New Guinea where the virus outbreak was found — only 61 percent of the children had received the three doses of the oral polio vaccine recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). This lack of immunization in conjunction with the lack of adequate sanitation increases the spread of the virus and the danger of the outbreak.

WHO, the National Department of Health, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and other groups are working alongside the government of Papua New Guinea to contain the virus. Since the confirmation of an outbreak of polio in Papua New Guinea, several large-scale measures have been put into place to prevent any further spread of the disease.

These measures include extensive immunization of those in the region where the virus has been detected, especially for children under the age of 15, and increasing surveillance measures in order to detect any new cases of polio. Plans have also been established to employ more immunization campaigns in the coming weeks.

International Aid

Global efforts to eradicate the polio virus were launched in 1988. Since that time, polio incidence has dropped by 99 percent across the world. The wild poliovirus only remains endemic in three countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. In 2017, there were 22 cases of wild poliovirus and 96 cases of vaccine-derived poliovirus.

This dangerous disease is close to global eradication; however, the outbreak of polio in Papua New Guinea shows that the virus remains a danger in areas with insufficient sanitation and lack of adequate vaccinations. Organizations across the world continue to fight to keep everyone safe and to end the poliovirus once and for all.

– Lindabeth Doby
Photo: Google

important vaccines
In the last century, vaccines have been one of the most vital contributions to global health and prevented many infectious, widespread diseases. Unfortunately, more than one in ten children don’t receive basic, yet vitally important, vaccines, and over three million children die each year due to preventable infections.

This lack occurs primarily in countries suffering from poor economic conditions and limited healthcare options, but can also be affected by cultural resistance to vaccinations. In fact, just ten countries account for approximately 60 percent of under vaccinated children.

Since its founding in 1974, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Expanded Programme of Immunization has played a leading role in the creation, licensing and distribution of vaccines to many communities across the globe. Among these are six important vaccines that work to change the world.

Smallpox

The modern medical field of vaccination was initiated in 1796 when Edward Jenner created the smallpox vaccine by placing a small portion of the active virus cowpox, a disease similar to smallpox causing only minor infection in humans, into the body of a patient in order to build up the immune system.

In 1967, WHO launched a program to eradicate the disease, which still claimed 2.9 million lives per year in the first half of the 20th century. By 1980, though, WHO announced the complete eradication of smallpox.

Polio

Developed in the 1950s, the first polio vaccine brought an important change in vaccine science — by using an inactive form of poliovirus (IPV), which carried a lower risk of vaccine-induced infection. An oral polio vaccine (OPV), a weakened poliovirus, was later developed.

Today, three doses of IPV is 99-100 percent effective, virtually eliminating the spread of the disease in places where it is available. Polio has been successfully eradicated throughout much of the world due to these important vaccines.

Measles

The measles vaccine, one of the most important vaccines of the 21st century, was first readily available in the U.S. in the 1970s. It became mandatory for school-aged children, which resulted in few measles cases overall. Increased worldwide availability between 2000 and 2015 brought a nearly 80 percent decrease in measles cases resulting in death.

However, 18 countries in Europe, as well as many African countries, have continued to suffer from this disease with over 14,000 cases occurring between 2016 and 2017. The vaccine was recently made mandatory in France, Italy and Germany — children without proof of up-to-date vaccinations, including measles, cannot be admitted to nurseries and schools.

Influenza

The influenza vaccine, which differs from other vaccines as it is made to target the predicted strain of the virus each year, has become a yearly staple in many Americans’ lives. In fact, this important vaccine changed the outcome of potential influenza epidemics due to its low herd immunity threshold — the percent of people in a population needing vaccinations in order to maintain the health of the entire population — of just 33 to 44 percent.

While the influenza vaccine is cheap and widely distributed across the U.S., developing countries often have limited access to the vaccinations. WHO’s Global Action Plan for Influenza Vaccines is focused on reducing the influenza virus worldwide by increasing seasonal vaccine usage and furthering research and development.

In recent years, two important vaccines have been developed for tropical diseases in Africa and parts of southern Asia. While work has continued on both vaccines for decades, usable and distributable products have only been available within the past two years.

Malaria

The Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates that there were nearly 720,000 deaths caused by malaria in 2016 alone, the majority occurring in African countries; seventy-two percent of these deaths were children under the age of five. While the infectious agent — infected mosquitoes — has been known and studied since the late 19th century, a safe and effective malaria vaccine has only recently been tested and will be implemented in 2018.

The malaria vaccine, RTS,S, will be available in Kenya, Ghana and Malawi through the partnership of WHO, the Ministry of Health of Kenya and a collaboration between PATH, a nonprofit organization focused on global health innovation, and GSK, a research-based pharmaceutical company.

The vaccine will help protect children from malaria at least three years after the initial vaccination, working in tandem with other established prevention tools such as bednets and insecticides. These efforts will work to reduce the spread of this deadly disease.

Ebola

First discovered in 1976, the ebola virus has a fatality rate averaging nearly 50 percent. The severe 2014-2016 outbreak in west Africa accelerated the search for an effective vaccine. The rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine uses an inactivated form of this dangerous virus and protects against one of five species of the ebola virus — zaire, which accounted for all ebola outbreaks since 2012.

Trial and distribution of this vaccine was led by WHO, Guinea’s Ministry of Health, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and Medecins sans Frontieres. Trials starting in 2015 were performed as a ‘ring vaccination,’ in which only those with increased probability of contact with the disease are vaccinated, thus assisting in herd immunity even if not all members of the population are immunized.

Vaccines have furthered the goal of creating a healthier world for all. Increasing their effective distribution in developing countries, which continue to have limited access to the healthcare and preventative medicines, has the potential to reduce the suffering of those in poverty and rural areas.

Through these six vaccines, one can see the possibility of a future without devastation by disease for children and adults alike, regardless of one’s economic status or geographical location. Now, time will tell which vaccine will be developed next.

– Anna Lally
Photo: Flickr

Polio in Nigeria
This year, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will start paying off Nigeria’s $76 million debt over the course of the next 20 years. The money was originally borrowed from Japan by Nigeria to fight the polio epidemic in the country.

In 2017, Nigeria had no new cases of polio, which is a significant improvement compared to 2012, when Nigeria accounted for half of all cases worldwide. The Gates Foundation decided to repay the debt on the premise that Nigeria would ramp up its polio vaccination efforts.

The Importance of Polio Eradication

Polio cripples and can potentially kill those who suffer from it. The disease damages spinal nerve cells, causing temporary and sometimes permanent paralysis. Paralysis can sometimes occur within a matter of hours. It is often spread through contaminated food and water. Up to 10 percent of those who become paralyzed die.

Thankfully, there is a vaccine that has contributed to the almost total eradication of polio worldwide. The main problem is getting the vaccine to the children who need it. In order for Nigeria to receive the money from the Gates Foundation, it has to provide vaccine access to at least 80 percent of the country.

The key to eradicating polio in Nigeria is to send health workers across the country to provide the vaccine. Children and families are unable to travel to receive the vaccine, so Nigeria has begun a campaign to bring the vaccine straight to people’s homes, with the support of the Gates Foundation.

Fighting Polio in Nigeria a Priority of the Gates Foundation

Polio in Nigeria was by far the biggest issue in the overall epidemic, which is why Bill and Melinda Gates honed in on the country after announcing that the eradication of polio was their highest priority. In addition to beginning to repay Nigeria’s loan, the Gates Foundation donated $3 billion in 2017 to polio eradication.

The change these donations have made in the epidemic of polio in Nigeria is tangible, since there are currently no known cases in the country. Worldwide, there are only 22 known cases, down from 350,000 cases 30 years ago.

Children today are walking that would have been paralyzed were it not for the generosity of the Gates Foundation and organizations like it. Volunteers on the ground are also the unsung heroes.

On his blog Gates Notes, Bill Gates wrote, “The heroes who have made this progress possible are the millions of vaccinators who have gone door to door to immunize more than 2.5 billion children. Thanks to their work, 16 million people who would have been paralyzed are walking today.” The efforts of these workers should not go unnoticed, as the progress made would not have been possible without people like them.

The progress towards mitigating polio in Nigeria has been phenomenal, with the disease now entirely eradicated from the country. It only takes one child or one traveler for polio to begin to spread again, so it is essential for the countries with a history of the disease to continue their efforts to fight it. Continual vaccinations and immunizations are necessary to maintain the current polio-free Nigeria.

– Amelia Merchant
Photo: Flickr