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vaccination_campaign
In January 2015, the Myanmar government launched the first stage of the largest national campaign to eradicate and control Measles and Rubella by the year 2020.

The second stage took place in February 2015. Initially, these beginning stages were concentrated on Measles, but from May 2015 onward, the national campaign will offer the Measles and Rubella vaccine jointly.

The campaign is supported by the WHO, GAVI, American Red Cross, the U.N. Foundation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF. The goal is to reach 94 percent of the population through vaccination teams of 12,000 health care professionals. The aim is to reach 17 million children between nine months and 15 years in 65,000 villages and 45,000 schools.

Myanmar has remained committed to vaccinating its population against fatal and debilitating diseases. In 2013, a polio immunization campaign was launched and 370,00 children under five years were vaccinated using the oral drops method. In early 2014, Myanmar, along with many other states in Southeast Asia, was declared polio-free.

Health care is reported to be expensive, of a poor quality and has difficulty in providing attentive care toward patients in Myanmar.

This vaccination campaign is also incredibly important because the population has been neglected in terms of health care due to the ongoing conflict and political issues. There are 587,000 internally displaced persons. There are 800,000 living in the western state, Rakhine state, who are stateless and 140,000 who have fled from their homes. Nevertheless, this campaign is attempting to reach those living in Rakhine state, which has been in an increasingly violent conflict-ridden state since 2012 as there are numerous clashes between Muslims and Buddhists. The vaccination campaign aims to reach populations in this region at a higher rate to match the national level.

While there are political hurdles to achieving an overall better health care system, the coordination of efforts between the state, local and international bodies in regard to vaccination is successful. This vaccination campaign is a major stride for Myanmar investing in the betterment of its people.

– Courteney Leinonen

Sources: Global Polio Eradication Initiative, Reliefweb, WHO, BBC, Salon
Photo: Measles & Rubella Initiative

Measles Eradication
The World Health Organization recently announced that progress toward eradicating measles has stalled. Since 2012, measles-related deaths have increased from 122,000 to almost 148,000 worldwide. According to the WHO, this means that 2015 eradication targets will not be met.

Overall, the number of measles deaths in 2013 shows a 75 percent decrease since the year 2000. However, this is significantly lower than the Millennium Development Goal of a 95 percent decrease between 2000 and 2015.

Global coverage of initial measles vaccines expanded to 83 percent by 2009, but this number has since remained stagnant.

Failed efforts to vaccinate children from measles make them prone to serious health issues including pneumonia, encephalitis, diarrhea and blindness. Developing countries currently account for the highest percentage of measles-related deaths. The latest statistics from 2013 report that 70 percent of measles deaths took place in just 6 countries including India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The last decade has seen impressive advancements toward eradicating measles, and approximately 15.6 million deaths have been avoided from 2000 to 2013. Still, reports show that these leaps in progress have lately been diminishing.

Recent increases in measles cases were due in part to considerable outbreaks in China, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria. Many countries around Europe have also seen a re-emergence in disease diagnoses including Georgia, Turkey and Ukraine. These regions are burdened by poor healthcare systems, conflict and population displacement, causing forestallments to vaccination efforts.

In addition, many countries are now experiencing reduced funding for measles eradication campaigns. This lack of support has hindered progress in eliminating the disease, causing measles cases to rise.

“The net effect of reduced global funding by governments and partners has caused postponed and suboptimal immunization campaigns, resulting in large outbreaks that threaten our hard earned gains,” said UNICEF’s Senior Health Advisor, Robert Kezaala.

Members of the Measles & Rubella Initiative state that in order to recommence progress in eliminating the disease, organizations must promote measles awareness and the dangers surrounding the disease.

Additionally, obstacles that are preventing vaccination advancements must be addressed.

Dr. Peter Strebel of the Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals urges countries to take action against measles. “Countries urgently need to prioritize maintaining and improving immunization coverage. Failure to reverse this alarming trend could jeopardize the momentum generated by a decade of achievements in reducing measles mortality,” says Strebel.

Meagan Douches

Sources: Think Progress, Reuters, Measles Rubella Initiative, WHO
Photo: Karmavision

mmr vaccine
Measles, mumps and rubella are all viral diseases that can interrupt the development of children and adolescents. Accessing reliable information about the MMR vaccine is the most cost-effective method to increasing its uptake.

The MMR vaccine is recommended in childhood. The three-in-one vaccine is necessary for most children to enter school and can be given as early as 11-15 months, and children should get two doses. In addition, adults born after 1956 or 18 years or older should also receive one dose of the vaccination unless they have already had all three diseases.

The MMR vaccine can be given at the same time as other vaccines. Young children (under 12 years) can get a combination of vaccines known as the MMRV (measles, mumps, rubella and chicken pox).

Upon receiving the vaccination, there are some risks involved, but most people who receive the vaccine do not develop any problems.

Mild issues can occur 6-14 days after receiving the vaccine and can include any of the following: fevers, mild rashes, and swelling of cheek/neck glands. Moderate issues can range from: seizures, stiffness/ pain in joints, temporary low platelet count that leads to a bleeding disorder (1 in every 30,000 doses). Some severe and very rare problems are: serious allergic reaction (1 in every million doses), deafness, permanent brain damage, and long-term seizures/comas. There is no evidence that the vaccine causes childhood autism.

All of these listed risks are small however, in comparison with the risks of contracting measles: severe illness, hospitalization and death. The vaccine itself has brought huge leaps in early childhood disease prevention, providing vaccination to over 500 million people worldwide in over 100 countries. Before the vaccine, mumps was the most common cause of viral meningitis in children and rubella caused terrible damage to unborn babies.

Now, both mumps and rubella are virtually non-existent in children.

The Measles Outbreak

With concern to the current measles outbreak of 2014, two doses are recommended because 2-5 percent of vaccinated people do not respond to their first dose. More than 99 percent of people develop immunity after
the second dose.

Out of the 593 confirmed cases of measles, very few were from people who had been vaccinated twice.

The virus itself can stay in the air for two hours after a person with measles symptoms have left the area and is spread by respiratory droplets. The people infected are contagious four days before and after receiving the rash.

International Outbreak

In the third world countries of the world, measles outbreaks have been spreading more freely, with thousands of cases. In the Philippines, there were 50,000 registered cases and 77 deaths. In Vietnam, there are at least
8,700 cases with 112 deaths in children. In Pakistan, over 30,000 people have caught measles and 290 people have died, with the number increasing daily for children alone. The effect of measles has been spreading due to a lack of proper vaccination, more vulnerable immune systems and misinformation (MMR vaccine may produce autism).

In Africa, the number of measles-related deaths have decreased by 91 percent due to a surge in immunization. However, cases have still been growing, a number well into the thousands.

The potential benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks. Parents should understand that the MMR vaccine is the best way to protect their children from these diseases, especially if traveling to an affected area, or the family resides in an affected area.

Ashley Riley

Sources: About, About 2, CDC, CDC 2
Photo: Medimoon

The recent Chinese measles outbreak in Vietnam and the Philippines has hindered the tourism industry and caused concern in neighboring countries. Though measles is a preventable disease, the access to vaccines is limited in certain areas.

China alone accounts for more than one third of all globally reported measles cases. The Asia-Pacific region accounts for nearly two-thirds of all cases. While rare in developed countries, many of those now reported are imported.

Though China has seen an overall decrease in the number of annual cases in the past decade, there has been a recent spike. Partially to blame are the recent waves of immigration and the increasing numbers of migrant workers. Though China has strengthened efforts to get younger generations immunized, many of the older generations have not received the measles vaccination. The migrant workers act as vectors to move the virus from one town to another. Particularly in rural areas, which are less likely to have access to vaccinations, the introduction of an infected migrant worker can help spread the disease.

The children of migrant workers are among the most vulnerable. The healthcare of migrants is often sub-par and many doctors who practice on them are unlicensed physicians who don’t practice immunization.

Further, the cities packed from recent waves of immigration have fostered the spread of the virus. Because measles is easily communicable among non-immunized people, the introduction of the disease in a city with a few million can be disastrous.

Although China has increased efforts for widespread vaccinations, there are still populations who remain at risk. The healthcare of the elderly who weren’t originally vaccinated, as well as that for migrant workers, are being reexamined. The United Nations has encouraged vaccination promotion through specialized clinics, but one thing is for sure: with the migrant population skyrocketing, something must be done.

– Kristin Ronzi

Sources: Quartz, Focus Taiwan
Photo: Fine Art America

Mongolia declared Measles free
The World Health Organization announced on July 8 that Mongolia is officially measles free.

The country began using WHO-provided measles vaccines in 1974. It then imposed a national immunization program in 1993 and a law requiring immunization in 2002. Another strategy used by the Mongolian government was to cover more of the costs of vaccinations for citizens. It funded 90 percent in 2013, a massive increase from just 7 percent in 2003.

The WHO’s Regional Office for the Western Pacific awarded a certificate to the Mongolian government, commemorating its achievement.

Mongolia joined Australia, Macao, China and South Korea as the only other countries in the region with a 95-to-100 percent measles free rating for at least three years.

WHO regional director Shin Young-soo touted Mongolia’s achievement as a beacon of hope, and an important stepping stone in eliminating measles.

“It demonstrates that measles elimination is not only theoretically feasible, but also achievable in middle- and low-income countries and areas of the Western Pacific,” Young-soo said.

Mongolia is continuing a history of health achievements, as it was also the first Asian country to eradicate smallpox.

Mongolian Prime Minister Norovyn Altankhuyag applauded the efforts of his country’s health care workers, parents, the WHO and UNICEF in sustaining measles vaccination programs. It is clear that the rigid immunization initiatives and the government’s dedication have made a major difference in wiping out the disease.

During a ceremony in the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator, many healthcare workers from both urban and rural areas were awarded medals and diplomas for their achievements.

“It’s one of the best days of my life,” said Ulziidelger Unenbat, a vaccine distributor for more than 20 years. “I never stopped alerting people to the importance of vaccinating their children. So I see Mongolia’s victory over measles also as a personal achievement.”

The cooperation of the Mongolian government with the WHO has proved successful in eliminating measles throughout the country. By following a similar policy, WHO aims to help the remaining Western Pacific countries meet the same measles standards by 2020.

– Mari LeGagnoux

Sources: Vaccine News Daily, WHO Western Pacific Region
Photo: The UB Post

world_globe_borgen_africa
Education is one of the very few opportunities for poor people living in impoverished, underdeveloped countries. Basic education programs provide children with the skills necessary to acquire employment, as well as basic knowledge pertaining to health, hygiene and disease prevention. And yet, according to the U.N., 250 million children — even those who have spent at least four years in school — are not able to adequately read, write or count.

While many factors play into this staggering statistic, hunger is a key culprit when it comes to the millions of uneducated children worldwide. Here’s how hunger hurts learning:

1. Children who are malnourished suffer up to 160 days of illness each year, which means 160 missed school days.

2. Vitamin A deficiency, which is directly linked to malnutrition, is the leading cause of preventable childhood blindness in developing countries; The World Health Organization estimates that each year, 500,000 children go blind as a result of vitamin A deficiency. Blindness makes it increasingly difficult for children to learn alongside their peers.

3. Malnutrition intensifies the symptoms and effects of diseases, such as malaria and measles. Children who are unable to combat these diseases lack the physical capacity to attend school and learn.

4. Malnutrition stunts not only physical, but also mental development, in young children, preventing them from reaching their full human and socio-economic potential as well as their potential to learn.

5. One out of five children born from an under-nourished mother is born with low birth weight. Low birth weight in children is linked to mental retardation, learning disabilities and blindness, all of which may prevent a child from receiving an education.

Hungry children suffer not only from malnourishment—and the litany of other harms it causes—but also from the incredible disadvantage of not being physically well enough to learn. Global education and global hunger are not mutually exclusive issues. A brand-new school with ample resources in Tanzania, for example, is useless without a classroom full of healthy children who are ready to learn.

Expecting Malaria-infected children to attend school and absorb information from excellent basic education programs is also impractical. We have a global responsibility not only to support education programs in third-world countries, but also to ensure that children are able to take advantage of the incredible opportunities education holds for them.

Due to the difficulty of learning while hungry and ill, in order to provide effective education, it is crucial that aid programs also address the global health and hunger crises in impoverished countries.

Elizabeth Nutt

Sources: World Hunger, UN.org, UN.org, Hellen Keller International
Photo: Your Mind Your Body

Doctors Without Borders and Measles in the Democratic Republic of Congo
There has been a threat from measles in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since 2010. Three months ago, the disease reached epidemic levels. Although much is being done to combat the spread of measles, tens of thousands of people are still affected.

Over the past year, Doctors Without Borders has inoculated nearly half a million children against measles, having to treat nearly 20,000 for the disease itself. Mortality rates can vary from 15 to 25 percent; the manager of a medical team “counted 35 dead in one village…traveling from village to village, we hear just one word: measles.”

Perhaps the most awful thing about measles outbreaks is that the disease itself is extremely treatable. Vaccines can be purchased for a pittance, but the problem in the Democratic Republic of Congo lies in getting the medicine to those who need it. Without modern infrastructure extending navigable roads to many villages, the vaccine cannot always be kept cold in transit. One health center “has only two refrigerators and one broken motorcycle to serve an area half the size of Switzerland.”

Doctors Without Borders put out the alert back in December, hoping that increased attention to the epidemic would bring more donations, and therefore more treatment. Tens of thousands of lives can be saved for barely a few dollars each. The only thing standing between those who are suffering and their good health is the vacillation of foreign donors.

Jake Simon

Source: Doctors Without Borders

indonesian-frog
A new study led by Harvard Medical School researcher Matthew Bonds is linking an environment’s biodiversity and public health, namely its susceptibility to the spread of disease. Bonds found that countries with decreased biodiversity “will have a heavier burden of vector-borne and parasitic diseases,” an assertion which has drastic implications for public health systems worldwide.

Previously, some might have suggested that a lack of funding is the biggest roadblock to protecting people from pathogens. These new findings indicate that governments may be well-served in their quests for healthy citizens by protecting natural ecosystems. Bonds explains that “the more organisms you have out there, the more things there are that can interrupt the life cycle of disease, and the less concentration you’ll have of any vector.” When humans urbanize an area, many species are forced out of their natural habitats and end up dying off in large numbers. Pests and other disease-carrying creatures breed freely, resulting in a much greater risk of exposure for humans.

The United Nations estimates that one out of every three species on Earth faces extinction. Bonds uses this statistic to demonstrate how a country like Indonesia faces a grave threat from losing its biodiversity: given a 15% decline in this metric, the country would face a 30% larger disease burden. By elucidating biodiversity’s link to public health, Bonds demonstrates yet another area in which undamaged ecosystems provide major benefits to humans who can exist alongside natural cycles, instead of in place of them.

Jake Simon

Source: NPR
Photo: About Indo