Inflammation and stories on vaccines

First Malaria Vaccine
Malaria is a parasitic virus transmitted through mosquito bites, and those infected with the disease often experience grave fevers, chills and flu-like symptoms. Although malaria can potentially end in death, physical precautions such as safety nets in malaria-dense environments and prompt treatment can usually prevent it. Unfortunately, because malaria largely affects poorer nations, it can be a great strain on national economies and impoverished populations. The World Health Organization is enlisting pilot testing for the first malaria vaccine.

The Problem

Malaria reportedly infects tens of millions, killing over 400,000 people worldwide every year and mostly children; Sub-Saharan African countries are the primary nations in which malaria thrives—the World Health Organization estimates that over 250,000 African children die every year from the virus.

The malaria-carrying parasite is able to evade victims’ immune systems by constantly changing its surface, which is why developing a vaccine against the virus has been so difficult. With today’s modern technology and scientific insight, that is beginning to change.

Testing the First Malaria Vaccine

In April of 2019, a large-scale pilot test of what many are dubbing the world’s first malaria vaccine to give partial protection to children began in Malawi. Scientists from the drug company GSK first created the RTS,S vaccine in 1987 and has been refining it ever since. Organizations like Path Malaria Vaccine Initiative have been instrumental in supporting this initiative.

The new RTS,S vaccine is attempting to teach the immune system how to attack the malaria parasite. A patient needs to receive the vaccine four times—once a month for three months, followed by a fourth and final dose 18 months later. In 2009, Kenya held smaller trials of the vaccine and concluded with a 40 percent protection rate of the five to-17 month-olds who received the vaccination. Since then, malaria rates have plateaued rather than decreased, which is another reason the new pilot test is so vital in the modern-day.

Now testing is taking place in Malawi, Kenya and Ghana with aims to immunize 120,000 children aged two-years-old and younger. These three countries are ideal for two reasons: one, these nations already have large anti-malaria programs in place; and two, in spite of this, they still have high numbers of malaria cases. As Dr. Matshidiso Moeti (World Health Organization Regional Director for Africa) stated, “Malaria is a constant threat to the African communities where this vaccine will be given” and explains that the vaccine is needed because “we know the power of vaccines to prevent killer diseases and [hope to] reach children, including those who may not have immediate access to the doctors, nurses and health facilities they need to save them when severe illness comes.”

Looking Towards the Future

The purpose of the pilot tests is to build up evidence that can be reliably considered while WHO policy is debating its recommendations on the broader use of the RTS,S vaccine. The experiment will examine the reductions (if any) in child deaths, vaccine uptake rates (including how many children receive all four vaccinations) and the overall safety of the vaccine in routine use.

If the testing goes well, not only will the World Health Organization aid the vaccine to its core package of recommended measures for malaria prevention and treatment, but hopefully, it will begin a chain reaction that again sparks a decrease in malaria cases around the world.

– Haley Hiday
Photo: Flickr

Benefits of Needle-Free VaccinesThere are many different methods of non-traditional vaccines or needle-free vaccines that are being produced and becoming more available every day. For example, these include dry powder vaccines or patches. Most notable are jet injectors. Jet injectors use a large amount of pressure and fluid to breach the skin in a very fast motion. These vaccines are effective for usage in countries with extreme poverty because traditional vaccines need to be refrigerated. They also require a way to keep needles sterile. These five benefits of needle-free vaccines detail on how to solve these problems and more.

Five Benefits of Needle-Free Vaccines

  1. Jet Injectors Have Been Around for a Long Time: Jet injector technology might sound new, but it’s not as new as one would think. These kinds of shots were administered back in World War II. In fact, they were actually used through the 1980s until it was discovered that they were spreading diseases. This was due to the fact that the technology hadn’t been developed enough. Until it could be, the jet injectors had to stop being used. Now they have made jet injectors to be single-use, so there is no risk of spreading diseases between patients.
  2. They Require Fewer Resources: Jet injectors have been the most popular method of needle-free vaccines as they tend to use far less of the actual vaccine. This is arguably one of the most important benefits of needle-free vaccines. Jet injectors use up to 60 percent less vaccine than traditional needle vaccines. This is particularly helpful when there are shortages. Because jet injectors use a significantly less amount of the vaccine, it is also a cheaper option. For instance, the cost is $3-4 per vaccine or even $900 for 500 vaccines.
  3. They Are Less Painful: Another problem with the traditional vaccine is that it can cause pain in patients. This can become especially difficult when patients need multiple shots. Furthermore, those who fear needles are less likely to get a vaccination. On the pain scale, a pain score of three is when a person indicates that they are in some pain. This is important to know because when 100,000 subjects were given the jet injection, they had a pain score of zero. This painless injection allows for an alternative to the needle as it can easily administer multiple shots without pain. Lower pain scores are one of the key benefits of needle-free vaccines, as they allow the device to reach the broadest swath of patients possible.
  4. Less Risk of Injury After Disposal or Use: Needlestick injuries are another key problem with traditional vaccines. Needlestick injuries are injuries that happen when a needle accidentally penetrates the skin. The people that are exposed to these injuries are people who work with and around needles. Additionally, this can also happen to people like garbage-men when needles are not disposed of properly. When this kind of injury happens, they can transmit: HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and AIDS. With the invention of jet injections, the risk of these injuries is reduced to nearly impossible as these injections need intense pressure to be administered.
  5. They Are More Efficient: The reason these jet injectors were being used in wars was that they are a faster and more efficient way of administering vaccines. Now that the technology has advanced over the last 70 years, these injections are less painful, more sanitary and now even faster. The injection lasts 1/10th of a second. It’s actually so fast that patients can barely feel it. This is helpful for those people in countries with extreme poverty as they are able to administer a lot of vaccines in a short amount of time.

With these benefits of needle-free vaccines, it’s clear this is the direction that the world should be headed in. They are cost-effective, sanitary, fast and nearly painless. As a result, access to vaccines could be provided to third-world countries at a more effective and reliable rate as they don’t need refrigeration and clean water.

– Ian Scott
Photo: Flickr

Vaccines in Egypt On March 14, 2019, the vaccination company Pfizer, in partnership with Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance reduced the price of the pneumococcal vaccine (PCV) to $2.90 per dose for eligible countries. Gavi’s mission since 2000 has been to “improve access to new and underused vaccines for children living in the world’s poorest countries”. Public and private sectors fund the creation and distribution of important vaccines in 73 developing countries partnered with Gavi.

The Benefit of Price Drops

In 2017, the price of a single dose PCV was $3.30. However, as a result of negotiations between Pfizer and Gavi there have been three pneumococcal vaccine price drops since January 2017. It is expected to save developing countries $4.1 million this year. Dr. Seth Berkley, the CEO of Gavi says “pneumonia remains the single largest cause of death for children worldwide and [the] pneumococcal vaccine is one of our largest weapons against it”. The price drop comes at a pivotal time.

PCV is a Priority

PCV takes as long as 15 years to reach developing countries that need it the most. Whereas the vaccine is already easily accessible and widespread in industrialized nations. Vaccines have not been easily accessible in developing nations. They are expensive and difficult to distribute effectively in nations lacking funds and resources. The focus is on different areas. For example, the proportion of developing countries’ exports that is needed to service their overseas debt rose from 11 percent in 1970 to 18 percent in 1996, while overseas aid from the U.S. plummeted $14 billion. With the drop in PCV pricing, developing countries can invest in their public health.

The value of vaccines as a long-term investment for developing countries is leading to pneumococcal vaccine price drops. Vaccinating the youth population of developing countries, according to Gavi, creates a “virtuous cycle”.

The Cycle Follows This Order of Cause and Effect

  • Children have vaccines before the age of two
  • These children are likely to be healthier and live longer
  • Children have fewer and less serious illnesses
  • This leads to lower care costs for health systems and family
  • Which means more family money available to spend or save
  • Children will attend school more, fueling better outcomes
  • A family’s economic outlook will strengthen based on these outcomes
  • Birth rates drop and mother’s health improves
  • A community becomes more economically stable and productive
  • Contributing to politically and economically stable countries

By looking at the cost-benefit analyses for vaccinations, scientists are able to see this “virtuous cycle” in action. A study, conducted by the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey in 1975, took data from a sample of Filipino children. Researchers compared test scores of children who received six vaccines in their first two years versus those that did not. The study reveals the association of immunization with improved IQ scores, language and mathematics tests. Untreated childhood illness can impair cognitive development.

Developing countries often have large obstacles to face such as food scarcity, a lack of widespread education and low GDPs. Investing in vaccines is a long-term solution that will benefit the economic, health, societal and governmental sectors of these nations. With the pneumococcal vaccine price drops, this seems to be an attainable reality for developing countries.

– Meredith Breda
Photo: Flickr

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