Inflammation and stories on vaccines

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Brunei Darussalam
Brunei Darussalam is a small, Southeast Asian country nestled in the Indonesian Archipelago. Currently, the average life expectancy is about 76 years, which is roughly four years higher than the U.N.’s estimated global average of about 72.6 years. While certain factors like an individual’s personal habits and existing health conditions can factor into life expectancy, socioeconomic status drives this number on a larger level. With this in mind, here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Brunei Darussalam.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Brunei Darussalam

  1. The life expectancy in Brunei Darussalam has been steadily increasing. Since the 1950s, life expectancy was a mere 50 years old, whereas it is now 75.93 years. Women on average tend to live to 77 years old, while men live to be about 74.
  2. The infant mortality rate is worsening. As of 2018, there were about 9.8 deaths in infants for every 1,000 live births before they reached 1 year old. This number has been creeping up, since it was 7.7 per 1,000 in 2005, due to the high amount of babies being born underweight and the persistence of deficient red blood cells in women and young children.
  3. According to the U.N.’s Human Development Report, Brunei Darussalam is ‘very high in human development.’ It ranked Brunei Darussalam 39th among the world’s powers – tied with Saudi Arabia. Its Human Development Index ranking went up one from 2016, when it ranked 40, still falling within the ‘very high’ ranking in human development. Life expectancy is a component that the U.N. uses to measure a nation’s development index.
  4. The population has been increasing since 1955. While the rate of this increase is lessening, the percentage of the population that has urbanized has been increasing, with the urbanization percentage rising to 79.5 percent from its 34.6 percent in 1955. Urbanization largely occurs with an increased life expectancy, more employment opportunities and physical development within a nation.
  5. Most of the population over the age of 15 has employment. More men have employment than women at 70.6 percent, with the percentage of employed women sitting at 51.5 percent. This is an increase from 1991 when only 44.5 percent of women had work. Studies show that those in the labor force tend to live longer than those who are not.
  6. Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death. As of 2007 and holding true to 2017, coronary heart disease remains the leading cause of death in Brunei, with it also being the leading cause of premature deaths.  In a study that determined the leading cause of death and disability combined, coronary heart disease ranked second.
  7. The rate of adult literacy in Brunei is 95.3 percent. In 2009, Brunei launched a new education program, which would give the populace a free six years of primary school and four or five years of secondary school, with the option for the pursuit of higher education or vocational school available. Literacy and life expectancy link together through socioeconomic factors, with those who are literate likely living in more favorable socioeconomic circumstances, which ultimately leads to a higher life expectancy.
  8. Brunei has an immunization coverage of 97.8 percent. This exceeds The World Health Organization’s target, which is 95 percent. Immunization is a major contributor to the increased global average life expectancy, as it protects people from diseases that were often fatal prior to vaccines.
  9. Brunei boasts good air quality. According to a real-time map index, the various checkpoints throughout Brunei (Kuala Belait, Pekan Tutong, Brunei Muara and Temburong) have consistently been reporting satisfactory air quality that poses little to no threat, the healthiest setting on the scale. This is comparable to the surrounding checkpoints in Malaysia, which indicate that people who are particularly sensitive to air pollution might be at risk.
  10. Brunei has a reliable infrastructure. Brunei’s population pays no income or sales taxes. Those in Brunei also enjoy low crime rates, free public schooling up through secondary education, free health care and subsidized housing, all of which contribute to a higher life expectancy.

The overall life expectancy in Brunei Darussalam, as well as components that contribute to a higher life expectancy, are doing well within the standards of the developed world. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Brunei Darussalam provide more information on several issues in the country.

Catherine Lin
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Under Skin Vaccination
Bioengineering researchers at M.I.T. have developed a method to store and maintain immunization records for people in developing countries, primarily children, who have little or no access to paper records. The M.I.T. researchers have applied an invisible dye technology to detect patterns of quantum dots; one can place this dye under the skin during vaccinations. Once administered, a computer similar to a smartphone interprets the near-infrared marks to access medical records. If further improved, this technology could save lives by helping to maintain an accurate medical history for vulnerable populations. Here are 10 facts about under skin vaccination.

10 Facts About Under Skin Vaccination

  1. Immunization records can be challenging to maintain in developing countries. Keeping track of a child’s vaccination history, for example, may rely on an underserved hospital or community to maintain paper files. People can lose such files in areas of poverty and political discontentment or they can suffer damage, thereby erasing the child’s medical history. Further, parents may forget their child’s medical history, and especially as the result of no centralized database for record-keeping. Under skin vaccination is a promising initiative to reduce these issues.
  2. Verifying immunization history is a cumbersome process. For example, in 2015, the Ministry of Health in Ethiopia invited Dr. Wilbur Chen of the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health at the University of Maryland to verify immunity coverage for children in rural areas. The process involves taking blood samples and testing immunization in labs, a lengthy and expensive process. Dr. Chen and his team found a big difference in the reported versus actual vaccination rates. Researchers, such as Dr. Chen, find under skin vaccination methods an innovative way to reduce this consumptive process.
  3. Record-keeping problems contribute to 1.5 million vaccine-preventable deaths per year. According to global health experts, the majority of these deaths come from developing countries where resources for maintaining records are lacking. Holes in medical record-keeping may constitute an incorrect vaccine type, brand or lot number for vaccine recipients. A lack of accurate training for maintaining complete records may lend to the problem, depending on the country.
  4. Researchers at M.I.T. are developing trials of a new record-keeping solution by embedding records under the skin. So far the trials have successfully embedded records on pig, rat and cadaver skin. The purpose of the study was to decentralize medical records since centralized databases only exist in wealthier, developed nations that have resources to maintain records. One of the bioengineers, Ana Jaklenec, admits that she was inspired by Star Trek’s “tricorder” device that scans a body for its vital signs and medical history, eliminating the need for maintaining medical records.
  5. New research combines vaccines with an invisible dye that administers concurrently. The invisible dye is naked to the eye but one could interpret it easily with a cell-phone filter that detects near-infrared light to see the coded marks. It is likely the dye is visible for up to 5 years, a crucial period of time for vaccinating children. During this period of time, children typically receive immunizations in several doses, such as in measles, mumps and rubella (MMR). Medical professionals could pair typical vaccines with the invisible dye to incorporate decentralized records.
  6. The new dye in the vaccines includes nanocrystals. Researchers call these nanocrystals quantum dots, which can project near-infrared light for detection by specialized phone technology. The quantum dots are copper-based, measuring four nanometers in diameter and encapsulated in spherical microparticles of 20-micron diameters. The encapsulations permit the dye to remain under the patient’s skin after they receive an injection.
  7. Instead of traditional syringes, the new vaccination type that scientists developed uses microneedles. Medical professionals can administer both the vaccine and the patterned die easier by using a patch that resembles a band-aid to on the skin. In addition to improvement in record-tracking, the new delivery method would not require a skilled medical professional or expensive storage costs. The dye patterns can also be customizable in order to correspond to the vaccine type, brand or lot number.
  8. Jaklenec and her M.I.T. colleagues found no difference compared to traditional injection methods. The team tested the microneedle patch method on lab rats with a polio vaccine. The team found no difference in antibodies when it compared it to traditional syringe methods of vaccine administration. Compared to the scar that smallpox vaccines caused (now eradicated worldwide) the microneedle-patch method leaves no visible trace.
  9. The invisible dye vaccine can create a discreet record-keeping method for families. According to bioengineer Mark Prausnitz of Georgia Institute of Technology, the invisible “tattoo” would provide patient confidentiality in the absence of adequate record-keeping and medical information while also providing improved record accessibility. The microneedle-patch method also avoids more controversial recognition technology such as iris scans.
  10. The M.I.T. team is working towards a feasible international immunization method, specifically aimed at poorer countries. For future applications of under skin vaccination development, the M.I.T. researchers are surveying health care providers in African countries to assess the best way of implementing this method of immunization tracking. They are also working to increase the amount of data they can store in the embedded code with information such as administration date and lot number of the vaccine batch.

These 10 facts about under skin vaccination development illustrate advancements in record-keeping. Utilizing these technologies, developing countries would have advanced strategies for tracking immunizations, ultimately increasing vaccination efficacy. This new method could potentially reduce the number of unnecessary deaths due to lost or forgotten medical information with a noninvasive, safe technology during critical years of childhood development. It could also be the start of a new system of storing data through biosensing that could significantly improve health care like that seen in futuristic science fiction.

Caleb Cummings
Photo: Flickr

 

New Ebola and Malaria Vaccines
In December 2019, the Gavi Board, an organization that improves the accessibility of immunizations to vulnerable children, approved a new program that will allocate new Ebola vaccines. A new funding initiative will invest about $178 million by 2025 for a new program to develop the vaccines. The decision is monumental in leading global health emergency stockpiles, which will grow to 500,000 doses.

Ebola’s Effect on Poverty

A study in December 2014 in Liberia indicated that the infectious disease hits poorer neighborhoods most. People in poverty are 3.5 times more likely to contract the disease than those in wealthier areas. Due to the dense population and lack of sanitation and health care facilities, the people in these communities are more susceptible to the virus. Ebola first appeared on an epidemic level in West Africa in 2014. While it existed prior to that, those cases were more contained. Crowded urban areas resulted in higher transference, further developing the outbreak.

Malaria Vaccines

In addition to the Ebola vaccine, Gavi approved continued steps in curating an implementation program for new malaria vaccines. The routine distribution of these vaccines will reduce child death significantly. Malaria is the primary cause of death of children under 5-years-old, with a reported 228 million cases and 405,000 deaths in 2018 alone. Malaria is also one of the top four causes of poverty, according to the United Nations. Its lack of affordable measures has strained many African economies, costing an estimated $30 billion a year. Many people cannot afford efficient medication and 20 percent often die due to poorly distributed drugs.

Countries affected by poverty and low income will have access to these vaccination campaigns free of charge, which will help boost economies. Countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have continually experienced rash Ebola outbreaks, with the latest one being in August 2018. Since then, the DRC has grappled with over 2,200 lives lost and 3,421 more reported cases in January 2020. In July 2019, the World Health Organization declared the Ebola outbreak a public health emergency that called for international concern.

The US Fights Against Ebola

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will also participate in close efforts to fight the Ebola outbreak in the DRC. The FDA granted programs in order to advance the development of new drugs that will lead to the prevention of tropical diseases. People primarily contract Ebola through direct contact with bodily fluids, blood and infected wild animals or people. Limiting these factors is difficult, but with proper medication and programs, along with the investments in sanitation and health care facilities, outbreaks will significantly reduce. These types of decisions are paramount in shifting the United States’ focus to a more global standpoint in regards to large-scale poverty.

The development of Ebola and malaria vaccination pilots is essential to the sustainability of areas affected by extreme poverty. Preventable measures will reduce the risk of contracting infectious diseases among these low-income communities. These comprehensive overviews will scale back the rate of Ebola outbreaks in African regions, which will also cut back on excessive government spending. Vaccination programs will help prevent 24 million people from facing extreme poverty by 2030. People could prevent a quarter of deaths that the outbreaks caused through simple vaccination, which makes these programs all the more noteworthy. The Gavi Board and the FDA’s efforts in launching new malaria and Ebola vaccines will contribute to the positive impact.

Brittany Adames
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Vaccine Temperature Monitoring
Vaccines are a great way to help save lives and protect people against diseases. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), vaccines prevent roughly 2-3 million deaths a year, although the exact number is difficult to calculate. As vaccines become more available to the public, the eradication process of diseases begins to increase. For example, in 1977, vaccines eradicated smallpox. Vaccine temperature monitoring helps this trend keep going.

How Temperature Affects Vaccines

Medical professionals must handle vaccines properly in order to maintain their effectiveness against a virus and preserve their shelf life. The vials need to remain in a controlled temperature environment to avoid activation and lose their potency levels. Vaccines will no longer be viable and become ineffective in the protection against viruses if they experience certain temperatures. According to UNICEF, back in 2011, there was an estimate of around $1.5 million worth of vaccines that people had to discard due to temperature breaches. The storage temperature varies between 35°F and 46°F (2°C and 8°C), all depending on the type of vaccine and its activation setpoint. If the vaccines experience extreme temperatures, their potency reduces, which ultimately makes them inefficient for protecting individuals against deadly diseases or contagious viruses.

In countries like Africa and Asia, there are countless organizations that are in high demand for vaccines to protect their citizens from diseases. They depend on their vaccines to be active in order to be able to use them in men, women and children. These people are fighting against polio, malaria, Hepatitis B and cervical cancer to name a few. Although the demand for vaccines is very high, people are discarding about 50 percent of the vaccine supply due to exposure to heat because of the lack of power and equipment in foreign countries. This is why investing in ways to protect vaccine vials with temperature monitoring devices is so important for clinics and hospitals that are administering the vaccines to the public. By protecting the vaccines with temperature monitors, providers will be able to control the vials that are on hand and detect which vials they should administer first and which they should discard because of heat exposure.

TempTime Corporation

One of the leaders in the creation of vaccine temperature monitors is TempTime Corporation. TempTime has innovated sensors known as Vaccine Vial Monitors (VVM) that can detect the exposure of heat and cold temperatures as well as the time length of the exposure. The company has several types of monitors such as HEATmarkers, FREEZEmarkers and blood temperature indicators. These VVMs are able to detect if each vaccine vial has had exposure to extreme heat or freezing conditions for extended periods of time. Once the center square has reached its optimal color, the vial is no longer effective in protecting recipients from the virus and should be discarded.

The benefit of this innovation is that it provides administrators like nurses and doctors with peace of mind knowing that their product is still useful for adults and children, protecting them from many diseases. The CDC has estimated that it loses about $20 million worth of product per year due to improper storage. Health professionals must discard vaccines because of heat exposure, and if the vaccines experience heat during transportation, this could cost the organizations and companies thousands of dollars in products that they could have used to treat and prevent diseases. TempTime is continually improving ways of effectiveness for its products to promote global health by creating products that will also test the temperatures during the transportation process like digital devices that read the precise temperature of the monitors or VVMs that can last up to 250 days in monitoring temperatures.

The WHO has acknowledged that VVMs are beneficial to organizations like UNICEF and health care professionals in identifying vaccines that temperatures have compromised. One could deem the ability to detect if a vaccine experienced freezing temperatures as crucial because one could experience a burning sensation when they receive this vaccine. In this situation, institutions could lose patients and receive bad reputations by people sharing their experiences with others. Ultimately, this careless act could harm business as well as causing people to not receive the proper care they deserve, which is why vaccine temperature monitoring is so important.

– Paola Quezada
Photo: Flickr

Pakistan and the New Typhoid VaccineTyphoid is a disease caused by Salmonella Typhi that spreads through contaminated food and water, disproportionately affecting children. There were nearly 11 million typhoid cases and more than 116,000 deaths worldwide. In Pakistan, children younger than 15 years old made up 70 percent of deaths from typhoid in 2017. Treatment with antibiotics is essential in controlling and preventing the spread. Further, vaccination helps to protect people from contracting typhoid disease.

There are several ways of preventing and treating typhoid. Preventative measures include improved sanitation, hygiene and water supply. Additionally, treatments include the use of effective antibiotics and vaccines. However, with the rising drug-resistant typhoid outbreak, the antibiotics have become ineffective.

Pakistan and the New Typhoid Vaccine

Pakistan is facing an extensively drug-resistant typhoid outbreak. However, the opportunity arose to revamp its vaccine strategy. This strategy now includes a typhoid conjugate vaccine as part of the routine immunization program. Pakistan in the first country to pilot the new typhoid conjugate vaccine. It hopes that the vaccine will be a breakthrough in the face of drug-resistant antibiotics.

The country’s drug-resistant outbreak “has infected more than 10,000 people.” This is the first-ever reported outbreak to be resistant to the drug ceftriaxone and to all but one oral antibiotic for typhoid. These challenges make the disease costly to treat. However, the new vaccine has been proven successful and safe to use as part of the outbreak response since April 2019. This vaccine establishes Pakistan as the first country in the world to introduce a vaccine set to protect 10 million children within its first two weeks.

The Importance of the Vaccine in Pakistan

Historically, Pakistan makes up one of three countries bearing the burden of the high prevalence of typhoid, along with Bangladesh and India. Typhoid is often referred to as a disease of the poor. It has been neglected by many organizations in terms of investment in vaccines. Dr. Samir Saha, Executive Director of the Child Health Research Foundation at Dhaka Shishu Hospital, states, “vaccination is not the end of the story…we need to continue surveillance to measure the impact of TCV introduction on typhoid burden and the improvement of the overall health system.”

The World Health Organization has recommended and approved this new vaccine. Additionally, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI) will provide the vaccine to Pakistan at no cost. The government of Pakistan is launching the vaccine introduction with the central focus and campaign beginning in Sindh Province. This location is the center of an ongoing drug-resistant (XDR) typhoid outbreak that began in November 2016. The vaccine’s improved characteristics include a stronger immune response, a longer duration of protection and usability in infants as young as 6 months.

Pakistan’s Health Authorities have reported a notable ongoing outbreak of the drug-resistant strain. Further, the resistant strains of Salmonella Typhi pose a public health concern for the country’s population. However, with the funding support from GAVI, the new typhoid vaccine introduction will initiate a two-week vaccination campaign. Once the campaign ends, Pakistan will routinize the immunization of infants. The government announced plans to introduce the vaccine in neighboring areas of Pakistan next year and then nationally in 2021.

Na’Keevia Brown
Photo: Flickr

The Battle Against Monkeypox
Monkeypox is a viral zoonotic disease, meaning that animals transfer it to humans. Infected animals, usually small rodents, transmit the disease through bodily fluids. Sometimes, however, the disease can transmit through human-to-human contact via bodily fluids, but this is less common. Symptoms include body aches and pains, and fever as well as a bumpy, localized rash. Monkeypox is similar to smallpox, a related infection that people have eradicated worldwide. Yet the battle against monkeypox continues. According to the World Health Organization, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) saw over 5,000 monkeypox cases in 2019, including 103 fatalities. In addition, most deaths occurred among younger age groups.

History

People first discovered the virus in 1958 when two outbreaks occurred in colonies of monkeys that they used for research, hence the name. The first human cases were in the DRC in 1970. The disease mainly impacts the country’s rural areas and rainforests, where many consider it endemic. In 2017, Nigeria also experienced one of the worst monkeypox epidemics following 40 years of no confirmed cases in the country.

While the virus has largely concentrated in Africa, there have been documentations of cases of monkeypox outside of Africa in recent years. Usually, these cases involved people who visited Africa and returned home harboring the infection. In 2003, the first monkeypox outbreak outside of Africa occurred in the United States. In the past two years, there have been cases in Singapore, the United Kingdom and Israel.

Treatment

Monkeypox and smallpox share many similarities and both have classifications under the genus orthopoxvirus. Currently, a recommended treatment for monkeypox entails the use of antibiotics and there has been an 85 percent success rate using the smallpox vaccine. A new third-generation vaccine received approval in 2019 for the prevention of both smallpox and monkeypox while scientists continue to develop additional antiviral agents.

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), an NGO established in 1971, has been on the frontlines battling monkeypox. MSF, which translates to Doctors Without Borders, provides medical assistance to people affected by outbreaks, epidemics and disasters. In October 2018, an emergency team dispatched to a village in the Central African Republic after a monkeypox outbreak there infected about a dozen children. The group set up a quarantine, treating the children while administering vaccinations to others.

World Response

A number of world health organizations have come together in the battle against monkeypox. After the 2017 Nigeria outbreak, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control sought to unite West Africa’s response to the disease. The NCDC also teamed up with organizations such as the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to better observe and document the disease.

Monkeypox prevention includes raising awareness, avoiding potentially infected animals and practicing good hygiene. Several countries have also put forth restrictions on animal trade to stop the spread of the disease across Africa and to other parts of the world. These steps, as well as additional preventative measures and research, will be key to the battle against monkeypox and the prevention of future outbreaks.

Taylor Pittman
Photo: Flickr

Countries Affected by the Measles OutbreakIn 2019, countries around the world faced a significant increase in measles outbreaks. Besides cases in the United States, people in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Brazil, the Philippines and Somalia have suffered from a resurgence of this preventable disease. There are many causes of the global measles outbreak including the mistrust of vaccines, inadequate access to health care and the global childhood immunization gap.

Measles is caused by a virus and spread through respiratory transmission. It is highly contagious but mostly preventable through childhood vaccinations. Mild symptoms of measles include high fever and a rash. More severe effects of the disease include pneumonia, diarrhea and even deafness.

4 Countries Affected by the Measles Outbreak

  1. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC): In the DRC, measles has killed 5,000 people so far in 2019, which is more than twice as many people as Ebola. More than 90 percent of these deaths are children under the age of 5. Further, the measles outbreak has spread throughout all provinces. Lack of access to health care and a shortage of measles vaccines contribute to these deaths. Additionally, weakened immune systems in malnourished children, deficiencies in vitamin A and diseases such as HIV/AIDS also lead to death. UNICEF and other NGOs have distributed more than 1,300 measles kits containing antibiotics, rehydration salts and other drugs to the most impacted areas. UNICEF has also advocated for a longer-term strategy to address the outbreak.

  2. Brazil: Though Brazil had been deemed free of measles in 2015, as of November 2019 the country has had an estimated 50,000 cases of the disease. The highest concentration of measles cases occurred in Sao Paulo, the state with the highest population. Brazilian officials are concerned that people in an isolated tribe in the Amazon may have contracted the disease. This is of particular concern since these people have a low resistance to measles and other diseases. Health officials in Brazil have implemented a measles vaccination campaign to vaccinate millions of young people between the ages of 20-29 in order to contain the outbreak.

  3. The Philippines: Yet another country that has faced a measles outbreak due to distrust in vaccines is the Philippines. The New York Times reports that measles vaccination rates in the country declined from above 80 percent in 2008 to below 70 percent in 2017. Officials have reported nearly 44,000 measles cases in Manila and the surrounding areas as of November 2019. In response to the measles outbreak, along with outbreaks of polio and dengue, the Philippines Red Cross has sought to expand its efforts. This will require recruiting and training some 2,600 volunteers. In the long-term, the Department of Health aims to increase immunization coverage so that 95 percent of children are vaccinated.

  4. Somalia: According to a November 2019 U.N. article, there have been 3,616 suspected cases of measles in Somalia in 2019. In particular, people in IDP camps (for internally displaced people), areas with high population density and nomadic communities are at greater risk. The illness is particularly deadly for children under 5 in Somalia. Unfortunately, one in seven of these children dies before they turn 5. To combat this outbreak, the Somali government has partnered with UNICEF and the WHO to launch a campaign to vaccinate 1.7 million Somali children.

Several countries have faced measles outbreaks in 2019. Increased immunization coverage during childhood could prevent these outbreaks. As these countries affected by the measles outbreak show, access to vaccines and health care is vitally important. In fact, these ailments are often a matter of life and death. Fortunately, NGOs and governments are working together to prevent future measles outbreaks.

Sarah Frazer
Photo: Flickr

Although there is a vaccine, Polio is still a global problem. Here are some facts on eradicating Polio in developing countries.
People often think of polio as a disease of the past; but for many in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, it is still a very real threat. Poliomyelitis, more commonly known as Polio, is an infectious disease that can result in base level symptoms similar to the flu, or on the more extreme end, it can invade an individual’s spinal cord or brain causing paralysis. Paralysis is the symptom people most commonly associate with Polio because of how deadly it can be. As the disease progresses slowly, the individual eventually loses function across their body and requires outside assistance to do even the most basic task of breathing. Without medical assistance, the individual will asphyxiate. Here is some information about eradicating Polio in developing countries.

Eliminating Polio

Vaccination is the only way to eradicate Polio. Children’s bodies become prepared to fight the disease more effectively with vaccination. Almost all children or 99 out of 100 will have protection from Polio as long as they receive all recommended courses of the vaccination.

However, sanitation also plays a key role in preventing the spread of Polio in the interim. The virus lives in individuals’ throats and intestines, so open sewage systems can leave a community more vulnerable to the spreading virus. The virus can thrive in feces for weeks before dying, leaving plenty of opportunities for people to come into contact with the virus and spread it.

Eradicating Polio is highly dependent on herd immunization, so it is integral that mass vaccination initiatives go to all corners of a country. By immunizing everyone who can take the vaccine, the risk of the disease spreading and those unable to take the vaccine contracting it reduces.

The Reasons Polio Still Exists in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria

Though there have been major advancements in eradicating Polio in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, they still remain vulnerable due to the fear that the vaccine may cause fainting spells and death in children, which are false claims. Additionally, open sewage systems in rural areas and the difficulty to dispense full courses of vaccination to individuals in rural areas play a role in the continued life of Polio.

There is also the issue of spreading. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, the majority of new cases of Polio are often in the tribal areas surrounding the shared border of the two countries. The unchecked border often has people traveling back and forth so they are hard to pin down to receive their full course of vaccinations. This also allows for the virus to spread faster and makes it more difficult to isolate the infected.

Nigeria is doing relatively well with the fight towards eradicating Polio. The country no longer has an active outbreak, but it is at high risk of having an outbreak. This is due to active initiatives within the country to assure widespread vaccination and hygiene education to prevent the spread of the virus.

Mutations

Another massive issue these countries and doctors are having with eradicating Polio is that the virus is mutating. In June 2017, there were 21 cases of vaccine-derived Polio in the world. This has been caused by remnants of the oral vaccine getting loose in the environment where it is regaining strength and infecting people. The oral vaccine is from a weak form of the Poliovirus that allows the recipient’s immune system to fight off the virus and become more adept at fighting the active virus if it ever enters their body.

Many also consider the mutated and strengthened strain of the vaccine-derived disease to be more deadly as it has a higher risk of causing paralysis in those infected.

Solutions

The organization, Global Polio Eradication Initiative, is a public-private partnership working in tandem with national governments and private partners including the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Together, they are attempting to roll out vaccines and education programs to aid in eradicating Polio internationally. The organization works with 200 countries and 20 million volunteers to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to live a life free of the pain Polio brings upon individuals and communities.

As of 2019, it has vaccinated over 2.5 billion children, and the number is only growing. This is an incredibly important program, as the alleviation of the threat of infection for every reduces the stress on government health programs. There is also a reduction in the personal and financial burden of contracting and surviving Polio from the shoulders of millions of families.

Through vigilant vaccination distribution and educational programs, the hope is that in the near future, people will be able to live in a world free from the crippling implications of the Poliovirus.

– Emma Hodge
Photo: Flickr

Vaccine-Preventable DiseaseEvery year, around 31 million children in sub-Saharan Africa contract diseases that are easily prevented with vaccines. In 2017, the Heads of State nationwide endorsed the Addis Declaration on Immunization. This pledge promises that everyone in Africa will receive vaccines regardless of their socio-economic status. If all children obtain disease preventable vaccines, parents and children can spend less time in hospitals and more time living healthy lives. These are five facts about vaccine-preventable disease in sub-Saharan Africa

5 Facts About Vaccine-Preventable Disease in Africa

  1. Polio Eradication: Sub-Saharan Africa is close to reaching polio-free status. Nigeria, the continent’s last infected country, has celebrated three years without any new polio cases. If the country remains polio-free after December 2019, sub-Saharan Africa could be officially declared polio-free. This milestone will be achieved thanks to President Mohammad Buhari. He ordered that $26.7 million be funded to the country’s Polio Eradication Programme back in 2016.
  2. The Cost of Disease: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), vaccine-preventable diseases and deaths cost sub-Saharan Africa $13 billion annually. Outside efforts could redirect this funding toward other important endeavors in sub-Saharan Africa. For example, the region could strengthen health systems and the promotion of economic growth. Africa’s Program Manager for WHO’s regional office states that, because sub-Saharan Africa requires outside funding for immunization, “governments have a central role to play to fill upcoming funding gaps and ensure immunization programs are strong and vigilant.”
  3. Active Vaccine-Preventable Diseases: WHO estimates that sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 58 percent of deaths due to pertussis and 41 percent from tetanus. Furthermore, measles causes 59 percent of deaths while yellow fever is responsible for 80 percent of deaths. Yellow fever, considered to be an epidemic during outbreaks, claims thousands of lives. Tetanus and pertussis also continue to kill thousands in sub-Saharan Africa annually.
  4. Cause of the Spread Despite Efforts: Despite high vaccination rates, sub-Saharan Africa still struggles with vaccine-preventable diseases. This is due to low vaccine coverage in “477 geographical clusters” across sub-Saharan Africa. These clusters occur due to a lack of health education and limited to no access to public healthcare. Clusters make it difficult to achieve herd immunity. The monitoring of vulnerable areas must occur in order to strengthen disease elimination programs.
  5. Organizations that Help: WHO is an especially impactful organization. Namely, its efforts consist of monitoring and assessing the impact of strategies for reducing illness related to vaccine-preventable diseases. In 2017, Nigeria’s minister of health declared the meningitis outbreak over, a feat that was achieved with the support of WHO and its partners. WHO also supported sub-Saharan Africa in its feat of preventing up to 500,000 cases of meningitis. Reactive vaccination campaigns led to the vaccination of more than 2 million people in sub-Saharan Africa.

Vaccine-preventable diseases have not been completely eradicated in sub-Saharan Africa; however, major efforts are in progress. It is still important to mobilize efforts to ensure that governments are supporting vaccination programs that will see the end of vaccine-preventable diseases.

Lisa Di Nuzzo
Photo: Flickr

Neglected zoonotic diseases

Zoonotic 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