Finalist-PhilBlogAwards 2010

Finalist-PhilBlogAwards 2010
Finalist for society, politics, history blogs



Tuesday, April 30, 2013



Erle Frayne D. Argonza

As a tot, vaccination did save me from the troubles of being crucified by contagious and dangerous ailments. I still have the vacuna mark on my ‘braso’, proof of the efforts of my parents to see to it that, like my sibs, I will wade the existential waters relatively safe from dangerous pandemics.

The last vaccination that I took as a child was the polio vaccine. As far as I recall, the vaccine came in the form of syrup-like thing that is taken by drinking straight from its vial. It proved to be effective, much like the ones administered on me when I was merely a babe, which brought me to the conclusion that vaccination is a must for growing babes and kids.

Conspiracy and controversy circles are awash with stories though that highlight the dangerous side to vaccination. Accordingly, the global elites, with a techie magnate as initiator, have been using the vaccine among systems to reduce populations in developing countries notably Africa.

Not even the WHO was spared by the conspiracy ‘hellfire & brimstone’ demagogues from their sagacious narratives of harbingers of deadly viruses or germs spread via the vaccination technology. It looks like the fear-mongering conspiracy/controversy slanderers always have fresh concoctions of narratives to disseminate regarding the subject.

Global friends, what’s your take on the subject? Below is a reportage that may help you in seeing the real problem about vaccination on a global scale.

[Manila, 27 April 2013]

Global vaccination plan marches ahead amid criticism

Mićo Tatalović
19 April 2013 | EN
Better vaccine supply and logistics systems are needed to help reach the 22 million children in developing countries who have still not received basic vaccines against dangerous diseases, according to a global partnership on vaccines.

This is one of the messages from a special issue of the Vaccine journal — published yesterday ahead of World Immunization Week (21–28 April) — that explores strategies to drive progress on the US$57 billion Global Vaccine Action Plan, endorsed by the WHO in 2012.

·                       Rolling out the WHO Global Vaccine Action Plan requires stronger systems
·                       Complacency and misinformation are hampering implementation
·                       Critics say the plan is still not ambitious enough and does not reflect increased vaccine costs
"We have seen some major advances in the development and delivery of vaccines in the past few years," said Flavia Bustreo, assistant director-general at the WHO, in a press release. "But many countries still face obstacles in getting life-saving vaccines to every child who needs them."

However, international medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) says that the action plan, while welcome, does not go far enough in ensuring the affordability of vaccines to developing countries or promoting new technologies for more-efficient vaccine delivery.

The plan was drawn up by the Decade of Vaccines Collaboration, a partnership that includes the WHO, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the GAVI Alliance and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

It aims to strengthen immunisation systems to ensure that more vaccines are discovered, developed and delivered to people in most need.

The plan hopes to maintain a competent and motivated health workforce; to explore the use of mobile technology to strengthen communication and data capture across the supply chain; and to allocate more resources to remote and marginalised groups, including specific programmes to target nomadic and indigenous communities.

There is also an urgent need to communicate more effectively the health benefits provided by vaccines and the dangers of not immunising children, the partnership says.

"In some parts of the world, complacency about immunisation has led to gaps in vaccination coverage," said Geeta Rao Gupta, deputy executive director of UNICEF. "When gaps occur, outbreaks follow."

In other places, there are myths circulating that vaccines do not work or cause serious side effects, which have led parents and caregivers to refuse to vaccinate their children, the partnerships says.

But the Decade of Vaccines plan "lacks ambition when it comes to bringing vaccine prices down and making vaccines better adapted for use in developing countries", said Kate Elder, vaccines policy advisor for the charity's Access Campaign, in a press release today.

The plan also does "not contain any mechanism to track vaccine prices, despite the alarming fact that the cost to fully vaccinate a child has skyrocketed by 2,700 per cent over the last decade", she said.

"Just two new vaccines — for pneumococcal disease and rotavirus — make up three-quarters of what it costs to vaccinate a child today, yet very little is being done to make sure these prices come down further.

"Developing countries, which will over time lose donor support to pay for vaccines, will be left in the precarious position of not being able to afford the high price to vaccinate their children."

Elder also said that the "vaccines available today are difficult to get to children in the most remote places" and that the plan does not "do enough to make sure that vaccines are developed that are easier to use in hard-to-reach places, such as vaccines that don't require refrigeration, don't need to be delivered by needle or can be given in fewer doses".
The plan "has a very unambitious target of [getting] just one new vaccination delivery technology in place by 2020, even though several new products could be available much sooner — for example vaccines that are delivered through patches, air pressure or aerosol masks," Elder said.

But a GAVI Alliance spokesperson tells SciDev.Net that the situation has improved significantly over the past decade: "Today, for the first time in history, children in developing countries are being protected against major childhood killers, including pneumococcal disease and rotavirus, using highly technically-advanced vaccines".

GAVI and its partners are succeeding in reducing the cost of key vaccines, and working hard to develop new and innovative ways to reach more children, they say.

"For example, last year the MenAfriVac vaccine was approved to be transported outside the cold chain. The Global Vaccine Action Plan has a section dedicated to research and new ideas, and we welcome constructive input from all interested parties about how we can innovate further."

Link to special issue of Vaccine

See below for the Global Vaccine Action Plan:

Thursday, April 25, 2013



Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Here’s one very brightening news from Brazil which our policy makers and health stakeholders better look into. It reverses the conventional expectations that biodiversity could be a sufficient breeding ground for malaria-bearing mosquitoes.

A broadly-based research on the subject was done by experts from Brazil recently. The focus area was on the Atlantic side of the forest region there. To the surprise of the researchers, biodiversity was found out to effectively curb the existence of malaria bearing mosquitoes.

The study, as per my assessment, is only a preliminary one. There’s more to unearth about the curbing powers of biodiversity in regard to malaria, and there’s more than meet the eye in the forthcoming results.

Health experts and stakeholders from other regions better grab this opportunity opening up, and catch up in the cross-border researches on the subject. Conservationists should collaborate in no small measure with the health stakeholders, as a policy outcome of the studies would yield more stringent result jettisoning more biodiversity intervention efforts in the short run.

Browse the report as shown below.

[Manila, 24 April 2013]

Forest conservation could reduce malaria transmission

María Elena Hurtado
22 April 2013 | EN
[SANTIAGO] Preserving the biodiversity of tropical forests could have the added benefit of cutting the spread of malaria, according to a new study.

The finding contradicts the traditional view that clearing native forest for agriculture curbs malaria transmission in the Amazon rainforest.

"Our study suggests, in contrast, that conservation of biodiversity can be reconciled with malaria control," Gabriel Zorello, an epidemiologist at Brazil's University of Sao Paulo and lead researcher of the study, tells SciDev.Net.


·                       Brazilian researchers find that malaria control and biodiversity conservation could work hand in hand
·                       They used a mathematical model to calculate malaria spread under different conditions
·                       Malaria eradication programmes should consider biodiversity issues, they suggest
The researchers looked at two aspects that can affect malaria transmission in forested areas: the numbers of warm-blooded animals and the numbers of mosquitoes that do not carry malaria.

Their study area was a large, sparsely-populated forested mountain range within the Atlantic Forest of southeastern Brazil. Warm-blooded animals live there, including medium-to-large birds such as toucans and quails, and mammals such as howler monkeys and squirrels.

No malaria cases have been reported on the mountain range in the past 30 years, but the primary malaria mosquito in the Atlantic Forest, Anopheles cruzii, lives nearby and could introduce the Plasmodium vivax parasite — associated with an estimated 80–300 million cases of malaria worldwide.

The researchers plugged real data from the area into a mathematical model of their own design to explore what would happen to malaria rates when the numbers of warm-blooded animals and non-malarial mosquitoes grew.

They found that the circulation of P. vivax is curbed when mosquitoes and animals are more abundant — suggesting that the mosquitoes compete with each other, and that the animals act as dead-end reservoirs of the malaria parasite.

"These aspects of biodiversity that can hinder malaria transmission are services provided by the forest ecosystem," says Zorello.

The conclusion supports arguments against human occupation of protected natural areas and for including biodiversity issues in malaria eradication campaigns, the researchers write.

Marta Moreno-Leirana, currently a researcher at the Iquitos Satellite Laboratory in Peru, tells SciDev.Net that it is essential to achieve a balance between preserving and modifying biodiversity.

She adds that the research brings to light crucial elements that can affect malaria transmission, such as the behaviour of malaria vectors, but many more studies are needed to understand its complexity.

But Olivier Briet, a researcher at the University of Basel's Public Health Institute in Switzerland, disagrees with the suggestion that malaria eradication programmes should take biodiversity into consideration.

He says that the researchers used an equation in their study that might have artificially increased the rates of malaria transmission, which challenges their conclusions. At best, he says, biodiversity might help reduce malaria at the fringes of malaria's range, and at an added expense of higher numbers of "nuisance mosquitoes".

The study was published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases last month (21 March).

Link to full paper in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases

Wednesday, April 24, 2013



Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Good day from Manila!

Schistosomiasis occurrences in any area is one risk factor behind HIV diffusion. By dint of the logic of its epidemiology, controlling schistosomiasis in the same area is one effective intervention aimed at eradicating or at least reducing the incidence of AIDS.

The shisto ailment has been among the contagious parasitical diseases in my country, notably in the poor region of Samar-Leyte. As of a decade ago, the disease has already alarmingly spread to as far north as the coastal towns of Cagayan province, my home from infancy to early adolescence. Any panacea to the ailment is welcome to one like me who has been honed in enormous field works.

Africa would surely score higher in the health & wellness scale should it undertake a continent-wide schistosomiasis control and eradication. One less risk factor would redound to robust addressing of the other dangerous ailment of AIDS arising out of the HIV virus.

The update report on the subject is shown below.

[Manila, 22 April 2013]

Schistosomiasis control a route to cutting HIV in Africa

Esther Nakkazi
23 April 2013 | EN
[KAMPALA] The transmission of HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa could be slashed if efforts are made to combat the spread of the waterborne disease schistosomiasis by providing clean water, sanitation and health education, a study reports.

Genital schistosomiasis, which causes vaginal ulcers, has long been known as a risk factor for HIV infection, as well as infertility and miscarriage, among women in Africa. It is caused by a flatworm transmitted through dirty water.


·                       Schistosomiasis causes vaginal ulcers in women, making them vulnerable to HIV
·                       Clean water and sanitation are a cost-effective way to reduce schistosomiasis and therefore HIV
·                       The international community should treat schistosomiasis control with a new urgency
To test whether schistosomiasis infections could be reduced in a cost-effective manner, researchers from Norway, South Africa and the United States plugged epidemiological and clinical data from Zimbabwe into a mathematical model.

They found that community-based interventions — providing universal clean water, sanitation and education, as well as the drug praziquantel to treat schistosomiasis in children — would be cost-effective way of cutting the two infections at between US$725 and US$1,000 per individual over a period of 20 years.

This is similar to the estimates of what it would cost to provide clean water and sanitation in developing countries (between US$200 and US$1,020).

And because these interventions can reduce schistosomiasis and HIV transmission, as well as diarrhoeal disease and bacterial infections caused by infected water, they should be economically attractive to policymakers, the researchers write in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) last week (15 April).

"By reducing schistosomiasis transmission in Africa, [provision of] water, sanitation and health would reduce the prevalence of women at an increased risk of HIV infection due to genital schistosomiasis," says Martial L. Ndeffo Mbah, the study's lead researcher, and a public health specialist based at Yale University, United States.

"This will in turn reduce HIV transmission in Sub-Saharan Africa, and especially in areas where schistosomiasis and HIV are highly prevalent.

Schistosomiasis, or bilharzia, affects more than 240 million people worldwide, with 90 per cent of cases in Africa, according to the WHO.

Genital schistosomiasis is usually acquired by children and women. It lives in the bladder and genital tract, causing lesions around the vagina and cervix and resulting in a condition known clinically as female genital schistosomiasis.

Edridah Tukahebwa, an entomologist and chief schistosomiasis specialist at Uganda's Ministry of Health, says the study is an important development for Sub-Saharan Africa, for the fight against HIV and for women.

Mbah says that the study should provide new urgency for international donors and public health authorities on the importance of schistosomiasis control in Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly as this will also likely reduce the burden on health systems on the continent.

The WHO recommends preventive chemotherapy as a global strategy for the control of schistosomiasis. It also warns that, without adequate attention and research, the disease may hamper Africa's ability to make real progress towards the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.