Posts or Comments 25 May 2022

Archive for "Vaccine"



Development &poverty &Vaccine Bill Brieger | 28 Apr 2022

African Immunization Week Press Briefing: Reducing Poverty, Saving Lives

The World Health Organization’s African Regional Office held a press briefing to mark World Immunization Week/African Immunization Week. Three experts shared their observations of developments and trends and responded to questions over the course of an hour on Thursday 28th April. The panelists included Dr Benido Impouma, Director, Communicable and Noncommunicable Diseases, WHO Regional Office for Africa, Professor Helen Rees, Executive Director, Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa, and Hon. Dr Kailash Jagutpal, Minister of Health and Wellness, Government of Mauritius. In addition, Dr. Mory Keita answered questions about the latest Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Concerns about COVID-19 featured in this immunization briefing for several reasons. First was the low coverage of COVID vaccines on the continent. Second was the way that COVID put demands on health workers’ time as well as on precautions to be undertaken, which limited the reach and coverage of immunization services for other vaccine preventable diseases (VPDs). Also, the resulting reduction in immunization coverage was responsible for other deadly outbreaks, notably measles. Between January and March 2022, for example, there was a 400% increase in measles cases compared to the same period last year.

Dr. Impouma that COVID ‘taught the lesson’ that catch-up campaigns for VPDs were not only necessary but could be handled successfully. Finally, health services learned the importance of integration, whether joining COVID and Yellow Fever vaccination efforts in Ghana or integrating COVID with maternal and child services and immunizations. Ultimately, health workers learned that by strengthening ‘routine’ immunization, health systems overall could be strengthened thus, making progress on achieving Health For all through Universal Health Coverage.

Dr. Jagutpal shared key considerations for successful life-course immunization programs. Mauritius offers free, universal vaccination from birth. Thirty VPDs are addressed ranging from Human Papilloma Virus to flu and not of course, COVID-19. Success is based on involvement of all stakeholders through regular meetings where real time decisions can be made. Mauritius in one of the first to formalize the COVID Vaccine Pass Card and has achieved 60% full vaccine coverage including booster shots.

Prof Rees noted that the term ‘routine services’ makes vaccines seem boring and less important, when in fact, they should be seen as “Core Services”. This central role of vaccines goes beyond preventing specific diseases. By saving children’s lives and reducing the time demands on parents who care for children suffering VPDs, immunization promotes human development, reduces poverty, enhances the economy, and strengthens employment. There remain children who have had no vaccines. Identifying these ‘zero dose’ children and the communities in which they cluster can help us focus on ameliorating the vulnerabilities of their families and bring multi-sectoral resources to bear on strengthening poor communities.

Dr Keita reviewed the two recent cases, now deaths from Ebola in Équateur Province in DRC, its third EVD outbreak. Ebola vaccine teams have started working, reaching 78 contacts. He lamented that much of the DRC has a natural ecological predisposition for the animal reservoirs of Ebola, so more effort on making regular vaccines and treatment available is required. As Prof Rees pointed out, this setting is a perfect example of the need for a One Health approach to many of our health challenges which are zoonotic in nature. Even with coronaviruses, animal reservoirs are a central element of transmission.

Additional research is recommended in several areas. The slowly increasing laboratory capacity in Africa was mentioned. It contributed to finding Omicron and its variants. Potential new ones may have been identified recently. Seropositivity analysis has found that 80-90% of people tested may already have COVID antibodies. Research can clarify the role of vaccines in these circumstances. Research as well as regular program monitoring is still needed to determine the factors that may cause children to miss vaccines. It is often not the case that parents are ‘hesitant’, but that system and community factors combine to prevent them from seeking care. Research can also assist in finding vaccines and tools for tackling other deadly pathogens such as Lassa Fever.

Vaccines save lives from endemic diseases, but in the long-term vaccinated families and communities can fight poverty which itself is a leading factor in illness and death. This will accomplish the theme of this year’s observance, “Long Life for All.

Advocacy &Vaccine Bill Brieger | 25 Apr 2022

World Immunization Week Starts with World Malaria Day

One might think initially that the convergence of World Malaria Day and World Immunization Week would simply be a coincidence. This year there is a major connection since WHO has approved the first ever RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine which has undergone decades to clinical testing and most recently, a successful 3-year pilot intervention in Malawi, Kenya, and Ghana.

During her keynote address at the Johns Hopkins Malaria Institute’s World Malaria Day Webinar today, The WHO Regional Director for the African Region, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, stressed the importance of integrated disease control efforts drawing on the region’s efforts to tackle neglected tropical diseases, COVID-19 and of course, malaria. She highlighted the importance of surveillance, and in That context pointed out a serious fact. The population of sub-Saharan Africa had doubled since the start of the Roll Back Malaria initiative, meaning that to achieve the same level of coverage of key interventions, one needs to reach many more people, whether for malaria control or child immunization.

Thus, increasing targets and goals affect both immunization and malaria programs, as well as efforts to roll out the malaria vaccine. At present there is only one producer of the vaccine, GlaxoSmithKline, and while that company is working with another company in India to produce RTS,S in the global south, GSK is maintaining control of the AS01 adjuvant. Production targets have so far been geared to meeting the needs in the pilot districts of the three intervention countries, and for the foreseeable future this will address less than 10% of need in P. falciparum endemic areas, especially in Africa.

WHO and partners including UNICEF and GAVI are in the process of figuring out equitable ways to distribute what is available now and encouraging the ramp up of vaccine production. The need to vaccine technology transfer to Africa is also being considered. Additionally, eyes are focused on new malaria vaccine candidates which might come on board in about five years.

The current malaria vaccine, while reducing severe disease, does not have the highest efficacy, and experts caution that is is therefore, not a silver bullet. They do explain that the vaccine is an important addition to the malaria toolkit, and should be a central part of integrated malaria control planning. At present though, we are not only running in place to meet the needs of an ever increasing number of children at risk, and we also must cope in an ethical and efficient way with limited supplies of the vaccine for the near future. This is the double challenge to start Malaria Day and Vaccine Week.

 

 

Vaccine Bill Brieger | 07 Oct 2021

The RTS,S Malaria Vaccine: Logistics Are the Next Issue

The World Health Organization and its Global Malaria Program are happily announcing approval of the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine after many years of testing. Though research on this particular vaccine stretches back to the 1980s, the most recent test has been a pilot program in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi that has reached more than 800,000 children since 2019 in real life district health settings.  Because the vaccine is not 100% effective, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus notes that the intervention will compliment other efforts such that by “Using this vaccine on top of existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year.”

Specifically, WHO explains that he RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine would be used “for the prevention of P. falciparum malaria in children living in regions with moderate to high transmission as defined by WHO.”  RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine requires a “schedule of 4 doses in children from 5 months of age for the reduction of malaria disease and burden.”

The vaccine was found to have a strong safety profile, and in keeping with the concept of using it together with other preventive measures it produces, “Significant reduction (30%) in deadly severe malaria, even when introduced in areas where insecticide-treated nets are widely used and there is good access to diagnosis and treatment.”

The pilot effort was supported at the global and country levels by WHO, PATH, UNICEF and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in collaboration with the health systems of the three countries. An important component of the pilot effort was learning about delivery process, which in this case meant collaboration with district health services including overall childhood immunization programs. In fact, because of the link with vaccinations, children who were not reached with other malaria services had a better chance of getting protection from the vaccine.

It is important to state that WHO approval of RTS,S does not mean that malaria vaccine research has been complete. Several other vaccine candidates are currently in the research pipeline. In addition, the current COVID-19 vaccine efforts have led researchers to consider different approaches to malaria vaccine development.

Approval by WHO is just the beginning of the logistical and policy challenge up and down the supply chain. First, there are questions of production capacity. Secondly, Funding must be secured such as the assistance that Gavi (the Vaccine Alliance), GFATM (the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria), and Unitaid have provided to low- and middle-income countries to promote their immunization and health programs. In August Gavi announced that, “Gavi, MedAccess and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) will join forces to guarantee continued production of the RTS,S antigen for the RTS,S/AS01e malaria vaccine

A third issue is obtaining regulatory approval in malaria endemic countries that wish to use the vaccine. Fourth, lessons on management of the vaccine delivery within both malaria and child health services on the ground, including community involvement, need to be shared with other countries in the region.

More than 30 years into the development and application of the RTS,S malaria vaccine, we are in a way just getting started when it comes to figuring out how to reach children and save their lives.

Elimination &Vaccine Bill Brieger | 23 Aug 2021

Malaria Vaccine Approval Nearing

Over the coming three days the Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme (MVIP) Advisory Group in its capacity as SAGE/MPAG Working Group will conduct a full evidence review of the RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine and develop proposed recommendations for Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization and MPAG. This comes on the heels of the recent 74th World Health Assembly Resolution that, “Urges Member States to step up the pace of progress through plans and approaches that are consistent with WHO’s updated global malaria strategy and the WHO Guidelines for malaria. It calls on countries to extend investment in and support for health services, ensuring no one is left behind; sustain and scale up sufficient funding for the global malaria response; and boost investment in the research and development of new tools.”

The large scale pilot intervention of the RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine started two years ago in selected districts in three countries countries: Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.  For example, “Two years on from the launch of a pilot programme, more than 1.7 million doses of the world’s first malaria vaccine have been administered in Ghana, benefitting more than 650,000 children with additional malaria protection.” WHO says that, “Insights generated by the pilot implementation will inform a WHO recommendation on broader use of the vaccine across sub-Saharan Africa,” which will then be considered by global advisory bodies for immunization and malaria, i.e. the SAGE and MPAG.

WHO is asking the Working Group to address the following question, “Does the additional evidence on the feasibility, safety and impact of the RTS,S/AS01 vaccine support a WHO recommendation for use of the vaccine in children in sub-Saharan Africa beyond the current pilot implementation?” WHO has set the following meeting objectives:

  1. To examine and provide input to the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) evidence profiles of the quality of the evidence used to inform the recommendations;
  2. To review and interpret the evidence, with explicit consideration of the overall balance of benefits and harms;
  3. To formulate recommendations – in alignment with the endorsed 2019 RTS,S Framework for Decision – taking into account benefits, harms, values and preferences, feasibility, equity, acceptability, resource requirements and other factors, as appropriate.

Hopefully decisions will be forthcoming soon so that planning can get underway to address immunization as part of the overall malaria elimination effort.

Funding &Vaccine Bill Brieger | 04 Aug 2021

GAVI Press Release: Financing for Malaria Vaccine

Geneva/London, 4 August 2021Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and MedAccess today announced an innovative financing agreement to guarantee continued production of the antigen for the RTS,S/AS01e malaria vaccine in advance of key decisions regarding its roll-out.

The RTS,S/AS01e vaccine – the first malaria vaccine to be proven safe and effective in a large Phase 3 clinical trial – is currently being piloted in routine immunisation programmes in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi, through the Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme (MVIP). The World Health Organization (WHO) is expected to decide later this year whether to recommend the vaccine for broader use based on data emerging from the MVIP. The Gavi Board will then decide whether to finance a new malaria vaccination programme for countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Following its investment of around US$ 700 million in the development of RTS,S,GSK has donated up to 10 million doses for the ongoing pilot programme.

In advance of the key decisions from WHO and Gavi and to address the associated uncertainty around future demand, Gavi, GSK and MedAccess have developed an innovative financing solution to ensure continued manufacturing of the vaccine antigen so that it will be immediately available should there be a positive decision to move forward.

Gavi will fund GSK’s continued manufacturing of the RTS,S antigen for a period of up to three years. If the Gavi Board decides to approve a malaria vaccination programme (following a positive WHO recommendation), GSK will credit the value of the Gavi-funded costs towards procurement of finished doses for the Gavi-supported programme. If the Gavi Board decides not to open a funding window for a malaria vaccination programme, MedAccess will replenish Gavi for the majority of costs incurred to that point.

This arrangement will ensure that vaccine doses made from the production of Gavi-funded bulk antigen can be supplied rapidly after a potential WHO vaccine recommendation and Gavi financing decisions. This will help accelerate vaccine access, if a programme is approved, by avoiding the long production ramp-up phase that would occur if GSK had to restart the dedicated antigen production facility.

A MedAccess analysis estimates that this continuous manufacture agreement could catalyse the vaccine reaching up to 7.5 million more children than would otherwise have been possible if there was a production delay.

“Malaria kills over a quarter of a million children every year; this vaccine has the potential to have a real impact on this toll,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “That’s why it is vital that we keep production lines running while waiting for important decisions around its use in African populations. This is innovative financing at its best: tackling risk and uncertainty to ensure access to what could be an important additional tool in the battle against malaria.”

“In 2020 we saw that risk-taking finance can accelerate the journey of new vaccines to market,” said Michael Anderson, CEO of MedAccess. “The same idea is at work in this agreement, where smart finance can unlock and secure access to an important product at faster pace. This unique partnership is a prime example of how science, public health expertise and innovative finance can combine to save lives.”

Thomas Breuer, Chief Global Health Officer, GSK, said: “Reaching an agreement to support continuous production of RTS,S bulk antigen is a significant achievement built on a unique funding solution and I congratulate all of the partners involved. Continuity of RTS,S manufacturing now will be crucial in how quickly we can offer malaria protection once WHO, Gavi and implementing countries agree to scale up demand.”

Separate to this agreement, GSK and Bharat Biotech of India will continue activities related to the antigen tech transfer to Bharat Biotech, which will become the sole supplier of the vaccine in 2029, an agreement announced by GSK, Bharat, and PATH earlier this year. GSK will ensure the continuous production of the adjuvant (AS01e).

A Phase 3 trial conducted over 5 years from 2009 to 2014 found that among children aged 5–17 months who received four doses of RTS,S/AS01e, the vaccine prevented approximately 4 in 10 (39%) cases of malaria over 4 years of follow-up and about 3 in 10 (29%) cases of severe malaria, with significant reductions also seen in overall hospital admissions as well as in admissions due to malaria or severe anaemia. The vaccine also reduced the need for blood transfusions, which are required to treat life-threatening malaria anaemia, by 29%.

RTS,S/AS01e is currently being piloted in three African countries (Ghana, Kenya, Malawi) and, despite COVID-19, has achieved and maintained high coverage levels. As of July 2021, two years after the start of vaccinations, more than 2 million RTS,S/AS01e doses have been administered across the three countries and more than 740,000 children have been reached with at least one dose of vaccine.

Ministries of Health are leading the implementation of the vaccine, which is being delivered through routine immunisation programmes, with WHO playing a coordinating role, working in collaboration with GSK, PATH, Unicef and a range of other partners. The programme is funded by Gavi, the Global Fund and Unitaid, with doses donated by GSK, and was designed to address several outstanding questions related to the public health use of the vaccine following the Phase 3 trial.

COVID-19 &Drug Development &Elimination &Funding &Plasmodium/Parasite &Resistance &Vaccine Bill Brieger | 17 Sep 2020

Malaria News Today 2020-09-17

Leading off our news update are findings from eastern Kenya about a genetic blood grouping that may help prevent malaria. While government leaders in the Asia-Pacific region committed to eliminating malaria, a report from the Gates Foundation explains how COVID-19 has set progress back and without new tools it may take more than 25 years to rid the world of the disease. In that light, Novartis is staking its finances on being able to make medicines that will be accessible and fight malaria. More details and the Gates video can be seen by clicking the links below.

How Dantu Blood Group protects against malaria

The secret of how the Dantu genetic blood variant helps to protect against malaria has been revealed for the first time by scientists at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, the University of Cambridge and the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme, Kenya. The team found that red blood cells in people with the rare Dantu blood variant have a higher surface tension that prevents them from being invaded by the world’s deadliest malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum. The findings were published in Nature and could be significant in the wider battle against malaria.

In 2017, researchers discovered that the rare Dantu blood variant, which is found regularly only in parts of East Africa, provides some degree of protection against severe malaria. The intention behind this new study was to explain why. Red blood cell samples were collected from 42 healthy children in Kilifi, Kenya, who had either one, two or zero copies of the Dantu gene. The Dantu variant created cells with a higher surface tension—like a drum with a tighter skin. At a certain tension, malaria parasites were no longer able to enter the cell.

Novartis ties bond sale to malaria treatment access in sustainability push

Novartis raised 1.85 billion euros on Wednesday from the sale of a bond on which interest payments will rise if the drugmaker fails to expand access to medicines and programmes to combat malaria and leprosy in a number of developing countries.

Investors are increasingly pushing companies to improve their track record on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues while sustainable investing grows in popularity, spurring an increase in sustainable debt issuance year after year. Novartis’ bond is only the third issue to date to link payments to creditors to company-wide sustainable development targets. By Yoruk Bahceli

Commitment to make Asia Pacific a malaria free region

Government officials from across Asia Pacific have come together during virtual Malaria Week 2020, to reaffirm their commitment to eliminating malaria and strengthening health systems to keep the region safe from health threats. Embracing the theme of “Inclusion. Integration. Innovation.”, officials called for increased collaboration and action to accelerate towards the goal of ending malaria in the region by 2030, at a time when major gains and regional progress are under threat due to disruptions caused by Covid-19.

It could take up to 25 years to eradicate malaria from Africa – Bill Gates

Bill Gates said: “Moving to malaria which is a very awful disease not just to the kids it kills but many kids whose brains are permanently damaged, the economic effects you have with malaria. If we don’t have new tools like vaccines or new ways of killing mosquitoes, it would probably take more than 25 years to get rid of malaria. If we get the new tools and they work, we think it can be done in under 20 years. So the malaria field is both trying to keep the number of deaths down, and we have to deal with the resistance that comes up, that the mosquitoes develop.”

Gates Foundation Report notes that, “We’ve been set back about 25 years in about 25 weeks.” Extreme poverty increased 7% because of COVID-19. In a video included in the Foundation’s report, Bill Gates explains how COVID-19 disrupts the fight against malaria.

Asymptomatic &Elimination &Eradication &Monkeys &Mosquitoes &Resistance &Vaccine Bill Brieger | 23 Aug 2019

Biology and Malaria Eradication: Are there Barriers?

During a press conference prior to the release of the executive summary of 3-year study of trends and future projections for the factors and determinants that underpin malaria by its Strategic Advisory Group on Malaria Eradication (SAGme), WHO outlined some hopeful signs emanating from the SAGme including

  1. Lack of biological barriers to malaria eradication
  2. Recognition of the massive social and economic benefits that would provide a return on investment in eradication, and
  3. Megatrends in the areas of factors such as land use, climate, migration, urbanization that could inhibit malaria transmission

Concerning the first point, the executive summary notes that, “We did not identify biological or environmental barriers to malaria eradication. In addition, our review of models accounting for a variety of global trends in the human and biophysical environment over the next three decades suggest that the world of the future will have much less malaria to contend with.”

The group did agree that, “using current tools, we will still have 11 million cases of malaria in Africa in 2050.” So one wonders whether there are biological barriers or not.

Interestingly the group did identify, “Potential biological threats to malaria eradication include development of insecticide and antimalarial drug resistance, vector population dynamics and altered vector behaviour. For example, Anopheles vectors might adapt to breeding in polluted water, and mosquito vector species newly introduced to Africa, such as Anopheles stephensi, could spread more widely into urban settings.”

This discussion harkens back to an important conceptual article by Bruce Aylward and colleagues that raised the question in the American Journal of Public Health, “When Is a Disease Eradicable?” They outlined three important criteria that had been proposed at two international conferences in 1997 and 1998.

  1. biological and technical feasibility
  2. costs and benefits, and
  3. societal and political considerations

Their further expansion on the biological issues using smallpox as an example is instructive. They noted that not only are humans essential for the life cycle of the organism, but that there was no other reservoir for the causative virus, and the virus could not amplify in the environment. In short, there were no vectors, as in the case of malaria. The relatively recent documentation of transmission of malaria between humans and other primates of different plasmodium species is another biological concern. At this point, Malaysia, for example, is reporting more cases of Plasmodium knowlesi in humans that either P vivax or P falciparum.

Another biological issue identified by Aylward and colleagues was the fact that smallpox had one effective and proven intervention, the vaccine. Application of the vaccine could be targeted using photograph disease recognition cards as the signs were quite specific to the disease. Malaria has several effective interventions, but most strategies emphasize the importance of using a combination of these, and implementation is met with a number of management and logistical challenges. The signs and symptoms of malaria are confused with a number of febrile illnesses.

Finally, two other issues raised concern. Insecticide resistance was recognized in the first malaria eradication effort, and is raising its head again, as pointed out by SAGme. Comparing smallpox and yaws, the challenge of latent or sub-clinical/asymptomatic infection was mentioned. Malaria too, is beleaguered with this problem.

Clearly, we must not lose momentum in the marathon (not a race) to eliminate malaria, but we must, as WHO stressed at the press conference, increase our research and development efforts to strengthen existing tools and develop new once to address the biological and logistical challenges.

Cholera &Vaccine Bill Brieger | 19 Aug 2019

Doubling a Cholera Response: Applying a single-dose OCV strategy to outbreak control in South Sudan

As part of the course on Social and Behavioral Foundations in Primary Health Care, Rebecca Huebsch posted in the class blog. We have shared these thoughts below.

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91,000 people die from cholera every year. Cholera is a burden which is carried by some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world. This disease, which puts about 1.4 billion people at risk annually, is most predominant in low-income nations. One of these nations is South Sudan. Since its independence in 2011, South Sudan has been plagued by ongoing conflict, displacements, poverty, and disease outbreaks. In South Sudan’s most recent cholera outbreak, there were already 20,000 cases before the outbreak could be brought under control.download

Controlling a cholera outbreak requires a combination of approaches; water and sanitation, hygiene promotion, case management, and reactive vaccination campaigns. The oral cholera vaccine (OCV) revolutionized cholera responses and made it possible protect people from this dangerous disease. OCV campaigns are still incredibly resource intense and traditionally target each person with 2-doses of the vaccine. In places like South Sudan, even reaching these people once is difficult, finding them a second time requires a great deal of motivation, resources, and creativity. In the rainy season, large swaths of South Sudan are flooded and become swamps. This is also the time of year that people are most at risk of cholera. A vaccination campaign requires vaccination teams to literally walk through the swamps for hours, or even days, to reach the affected areas.

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Fortunately, a more streamlined approach is possible, and has even been tested in emergency cholera responses in South Sudan. There is a growing body of evidence that supports a single-dose strategy for OCV campaigns. In settings where cholera is endemic, like South Sudan, a single dose of OCV can be as effective as 2 doses for controlling an outbreak. Adopting this strategy would allow the same amount of vaccine to protect double the amount of people. It would also save on the logistical costs of trying to reach each person twice. While a second dose of cholera vaccine makes sense for routine immunization programs because it provides prolonged coverage, it is costly and limiting to an emergency response. In a cholera outbreak, the State Ministries of Health may look to a single-dose strategy to more efficiently control the outbreak and protect their people.

Polio &Vaccine Bill Brieger | 19 Aug 2019

Recent Surge in Polio Cases in Pakistan Necessitates Urgent Review of Strategy

As part of the course on Social and Behavioral Foundations in Primary Health Care, Muhammad N Asghar posted in the class blog. We have shared these thoughts below.

polio 2Pakistan is one of the three polio endemic countries and recent surge in cases shows that eradication of the disease demands an urgent change in strategy. A look at previous five year cases in Pakistan shows a positive progress in reduction of new polio cases; from 307(2014) to 12(2018), but new cases still appeared in almost every province. The reasons behind this country wide presence of disease can be attributed to internal displacement due to conflicts, weak health systems and operational and resource risks. But the alarming increase in number of new polio cases during 2019 has reversed the whole progress made so far as the number of new cases as of today stands at 53. 32 out of 53 cases are reported from KPK region, which had observed massive internal displacement during last decade but the number of IDPs has decreased from last two years due to stability in the region.

screen-shot-2019-08-18-at-9.26.13-amThis recent surge in polio cases in the the province is mainly due to increase in vaccine refusals due to rumors regarding side effects caused by the vaccine on social media. Official sources reported that after rumors refusals to vaccinate increased by 85% in the province. But high number of cases in other provinces when compared with last year cases indicate that multiple factors are hindering the progress towards containment and eradication of the polio virus disease from the country, which can be attributed to homelessness and poor sanitation, operational issues for vaccine delivery, conflicts, cross border movement etc.

This situation demands urgent review of existing strategy for polio eradication as number of new cases are increasing rapidly. There is a need to work on multiple aspects to make the anti-polio drive successful; some key aspects include detailed geo-mapping of the population at basic level and identification of missed areas to ensure every child is vaccinated, involving community and religious leaders, NGOs, CSOs for confidence building and education of the community, expansion of partnership with nutrition, hygiene, water sectors, and robust rebuttal of rumors and strict action against those involved in such heinous activities etc. There is a new political government of helm, which is sensitive to the social sector issues and taking measures to provide homes, health facilities and education to the disadvantaged sections. International agencies (GPEI, WHO) shall coordinate with the political government to review the existing strategy for revamping it, so that not only the current surge can be contained but the disease can be eradicated from the country to achieve the target of polio free world.

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Conflict &Diagnosis &Ebola &ITNs &Mosquitoes &Plasmodium/Parasite &Resistance &Vaccine Bill Brieger | 29 Jul 2019

Tropical Health Update 2019-07-28: Ebola and Malaria Crises

This posting focuses on Malaria and Ebola, both of which have been the recent focus of some disturbing news. The malaria community has been disturbed by the clear documentation of resistance to drugs in Southeast Asia. Those working to contain Ebola in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo saw a change in political leadership even in light of continued violence and potential cross-border spread.

Malaria Drug Resistance

Several sources reported on studies in the Lancet Infectious Diseases concerning the spread of Multidrug-Resistant Malaria in Southeast Asia. Reuters explained that by sing genomic surveillance, researchers concurred that “strains of malaria resistant to two key anti-malarial medicines are becoming more dominant” and “spread aggressively, replacing local malaria parasites,” becoming the dominant strains in Vietnam, Laos and northeastern Thailand.”

The focus was on “the first-line treatment for malaria in many parts of Asia in the last decade has been a combination of dihydroartemisinin and piperaquine, also known as DHA-PPQ,” and resistance had begun to spread in Cambodia between 2007 and 2013. Authors of the study noted that while, “”Other drugs may be effective at the moment, but the situation is extremely fragile, and this study highlights that urgent action is needed.” They further warned of an 9impending Global Health Emergency.

NPR notes that “Malaria drugs are failing at an “alarming” rate in Southeast Asia” and provided some historical context about malaria drug resistance arising in this region since the middle of the 20th century. “Somehow antimalarial drug resistance always starts in that part of the world,” says Arjen Dondorp, who leads malaria research at the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit in Bangkok and who was a lead author of the report about the randomized trial. Ironically, “one reason could have something to do with the relatively low levels of malaria there. When resistant parasites emerge, they are not competing against a dominant nonresistant strain of malaria and are possibly able to spread easier.

When we are talking about monitoring resistance in low resource and logistically and politically challenging areas, we need to think of appropriate diagnostic tools at the molecular level. Researchers in Guinea-Bissau conducted a proof of concept study and used malaria rapid diagnostic tests applied for parallel sequencing for surveillance of molecular markers. While they noted that, “Factors such as RDT storage prior to DNA extraction and parasitaemia of the infection are likely to have an effect on whether or not parasite DNA can be successfully analysed … obtaining the necessary data from used RDTs, despite suboptimal output, becomes a feasible, affordable and hence a justifiable method.”

A Look at Insecticide Treated Nets

On a positive note, Voice of America provides more details on the insecticide treated net (ITN) monitoring tool developed called “SmartNet” by Dr Krezanoski in collaboration with the Consortium for Affordable Medical Technologies in Uganda. The net uses strips of conductive fabric to detect when it’s in use. Dr. Krezanoski was happy to find that people given the net used it no differently that if they were not being observed. The test nets made it clear who what using and not using this valuable health investment and when it was in use. Such fine tuning will be deployed to design interventions to educate net users based on their real-life use patterns.

Another important net issue is local beliefs that may influence use. We can find out when people use nets, but we also need to determine why. In Tanzania, researchers found that people think mosquitoes that bite in the early evening when people are outside relaxing are harmless. As one community member said, “I only fear those that bite after midnight. We’ve always been told that malaria is spread by mosquitoes that bite after midnight.”

Even if people do use their ITNs correctly, we still need to worry about insecticide resistance. A study in Afghanistan reported that, “Resistance to different groups of insecticides in the field populations of An. stephensi from Kunar, Laghman and Nangarhar Provinces of Afghanistan is caused by a range of metabolic and site insensitivity mechanisms.” The authors conclude that vector control programs need to be better prepared to implement insecticide resistance management strategies.

Ebola Crisis Becomes (More) Political

Headlines such as “Congo health minister resigns over response to Ebola crisis” confronted the global health community this week. this happened after the DRC’s relatively new president took control of the response. The President set up a new government office to oversee the response to an outbreak outside of the Ministry of Health which was managing the current outbreak and the previous ones. The new board was set up without the knowledge of the Minister who was traveling to the effected provinces at the time.

The former Minister, Dr Oly Ilunga stated on Twitter that, “Suite à la décision de la @Presidence_RDC.  de gérer à son niveau l’épidémie d’#Ebola, j’ai remis ma démission en tant que Ministre de la Santé ce lundi. Ce fut un honneur de pouvoir mettre mon expertise au service de notre Nation pendant ces 2 années importantes de notre Histoire. (Following the decision of the @Presidence_RDC to manage the # Ebola outbreak, I resigned as Minister of Health on Monday. It was an honor to be able to put my expertise at the service of our Nation during these two important years of our History.)

The former Minister also warned that the “Multisectoral Ebola Response Committee would interfere with the ongoing activities of national and international health workers on the ground in North Kivu and Ituri provinces.” Part of the issue may likely have been “pressure to approve a new vaccine in addition to one that has already been used to protect more than 171,000 people.” People had warned about the potential confusion to the public as well as ethical issues if a second vaccine was used, especially one that did not have the strong accumulated evidence from both the current outbreak as well as the previous one in West Africa.

One might have thought that this would be a time when stability was needed since “The WHO earlier this month declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, a rare step meant to highlight the urgency of the moment that has been used only four times before.” In addition, “the World Bank said it would release $300 million from a special fund set aside for crises like viral outbreaks to help cover the cost of the response.”

Unfortunately one of the msain impediments to successful Ebola control, violence in the region, continues. CIDRAP stated that. “the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a rebel group, attacked two villages near Beni, killing 12 people who live in the heart of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC’s) ongoing Ebola outbreak. The terrorists killed nine in Eringeti and three in Oicha, according to Reuters. ADF has not publicly pledged allegiance to the Islamic state (ISIL), but that hasn’t stopped ISIL from claiming responsibility for the attacks.” It will take more than a change of structure in Kinshasa to deal with the realities on the ground.

CIDRAP also observed that since the resignation of the Health Minister, “DRC officials have provided no update on the outbreak, including statistics on the number of deaths, health workers infected, or suspected cases.” The last was seen on 21 July 2019.

ReliefWeb reports that, “Adding to the peril, the Ebola-affected provinces share borders with Rwanda and Uganda, with frequent cross-border movement for personal travel and trade, increasing the chance that the virus could spread beyond the DRC. There have already been isolated cases of Ebola reported outside of the outbreak zone.”

These are troubling times when parasites and mosquitoes are becoming more resistant to our interventions and when governments and communities are resistant to a clear and stable path to disease containment and control.

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