By Banke Sorinwa, a Nigerian mother and worker in financial services in Lagos.
It was our first day back to boarding school after the summer break. Some students shared hugs and narrated tales of the long holiday, while others were teary eyed because we were once again stuck in the four walls of school. It was also the time we looked forward to meeting the new students.
My friend Tonya noticed a new girl saying goodbye to her mom. We both also noticed that she was in crutches. That’s when Tonya told me a story about herself as a child.
Tonya said how fortunate she was that her parents discovered early on that she had polio. She was lucky in that she fully recovered. The girl Tonya and I saw on the first day of school was in her first year at secondary school and was on crutches till the end of the academic year.
By Lisi Martinez Lotz PhD, Program Director, Vaccine Ambassadors
Vaccine Ambassadors was created by parents and healthcare professionals in an effort to raise awareness about the importance of immunizations for all children, whether living in an area where vaccines are part of routine care or where this resource is far less common. By becoming Vaccine Ambassadors during their clinic visit, parents are able to give to the global community, while also engaging in a conversation with their pediatrician on the value of immunizations.
Our program speaks to the issue of under vaccination. In many areas of the world lack of access leads to low vaccination rates, while in others it is a direct consequence of misinformation. Vaccine Ambassadors offers parents a meaningful way to make an impact in the lives of children who otherwise would go without life-saving vaccines, while also highlighting the need for vaccines in our local communities.
Guest post by Erin Sosne, Policy and Advocacy Officer for the Advocacy and Public Policy Department at PATH. This post originally appeared on DefeatDD.org.
With the measles outbreak dominating the US vaccine-related news (and jeopardizing a trip my two-month old baby and I planned to take to visit family in southern California), I wanted to share some positive news.
Last week, I joined mothers (and fathers) around the world and took my baby boy to receive his first series of childhood vaccines, including the vaccine against rotavirus. As a person working on vaccine-related policy issues, I awoke with a number of emotions and thoughts running through my head:
I met Jasmine and her son, Kent John, 7-months-old, on a sunny day at a free health clinic in Ormoc, a busy port city on Leyte island in the Philippines. At just 21-year-old Jasmine came to the clinic because Kent John had been experiencing a cough and fever for two weeks.
Luckily located very close to the clinic, Jasmine takes her son to the clinic for his regular immunizations and goes anytime Kent John is ill. Sometimes she has to wait for two hours before being seen by Glenda B. Serato, the health clinic’s nurse.
“I am confident with my baby’s health because I can access free immunizations and medicine,” Jasmine says through translation.
The mothers I spoke to including Jasmine mention always coming to the clinic for their children’s immunizations even though many live deep in the rural areas where rice and sugar fields are abundant and access to health services are not.
“The mothers are educated now,” Serato confirms. “It is very rare that mothers don’t get their children vaccinated.”
During Typhoon Haiyan that devastated much of Leyte island, Jasmine was five months pregnant, but was able to deliver her first child, Kent John, via C-section at a public hospital. Now, she is taking oral contraceptives to space her children with her husband, who drives a motorcycle for a living.
This month begins a massive scale-up of Pentavalent vaccine for India’s children. With the largest rate of child mortality in the world, this new, national immunization effort will help reduce the number of child deaths in India. The Pentavalent vaccine combines diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) with hepatitis B (hepB) and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib). Haemophilus influenzae type b kills 72,000 Indian children each year. Currently there are 6.8 million unimmunized children in India.
With the help of GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, India will roll out free Pentavalent shots in 12 states during its first phase. 8 states already have free Pentavalent immunizations. By the end of phase one 2/3 of all India’s children will have access to the Pentavalent shot, according to GAVI. Phase two will cover the remaining 16 states with the Pentavalent shot. Phase two begins in 2015.
“India’s decision to expand access to Pentavalent vaccines through the Universal Immunization Programme will have a major long-term positive health impact by averting the deaths associated with Hib pneumonia, meningitis and hepB liver cancer,” said Dr Seth Berkley CEO of Gavi.
India has already shown that massive immunization roll-outs are in its citizens’ best interest in order to have a healthier populace. India was recently declared polio free because of its willingness to scale-up its polio vaccination programs.
Currently there is no effective vaccine to protect against malaria even though the disease kills 600,000 people annually and 3.4 billion people worldwide are at risk of contracting the debilitating and potentially fatal disease. 90 percent of all malaria deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa according to the World Health Organization.
The Malaria Vaccine Technology Roadmap set a strategic goal in 2006 to develop and license a vaccine by 2025, more than ten years away. While there has been some successful headway into this effort, all researchers and pharmaceutical companies that work in this field admit that a malaria vaccine is years, probably decades away.
Every year seemingly, researchers report a breakthrough in developing a malaria vaccine. Substantial chatter was made in 2013 among global health experts and the national news that the first vaccine that protected 100% of its test field against the mosquito-bourne disease was discovered. The researchers did, however, use a weakened form of malaria that was radiated and then frozen. While substantial progress was made, it is without doubt that a vaccine is light years away in research and pharmaceutical estimations.
An Australian researcher from the University of Adelaid, Associate Professor Milton McAllister, argued in his latest paper that harnessing the knowledge from animal-based protozoal vaccines will create notable progress in the development of a human malaria vaccine.
“There is one vaccine in development for malaria – but that requires three inoculations and only about half the people vaccinated are protected, and that protection only lasts for about six months”, said McAllister. “Vaccines for similar diseases in cattle and sheep, on the other hand, require only one inoculation and provide solid immunity that endures for more than a year and often covers the life of the animal.”
Cambridge University recently chose Professor McAllister’s research as their “paper of the week”.
“For human malaria, great emphasis has been placed on creating new types of futuristic vaccines using small pieces of DNA and protein from the disease-causing parasite,” says Associate Professor McAllister. “There is a great desire to make malaria vaccines very safe – as they should be – but that approach has just not been effective.”
It may be a stretch to use veterinary science to create a human malaria vaccine, but thinking outside of the box may eventually prove useful. Only time will tell.
Did you know there are 22 million children who still do not have access to vaccines? This is according to GAVI Alliance’s recently released 2012 Progress Report. Despite the high number of children who are not being vaccinated GAVI met and achieved many global milestones that are highlighted in its 2012 timeline including attracting $38 million US in pledges for childhood immunizations in January and securing a 67% decrease in rotavirus costs in April.
Pneumonia and diarrhea account for nearly a quarter of all deaths of children under the age of five so lowering the cost of the vaccines is critical to saving more children’s lives. Through vaccines 500,000 children’s lives can be saved annually.
In 2012 you can see the graph of GAVI supported vaccine introductions. Click to enlarge. From the graph, the standout country in 2012 was Ghana which rolled out yellow fever, pnemococcal, rotavirus, measles 2nd dose, and meningitis A vaccines.
Eradication of vaccine-preventable diseases is the ultimate equity – no one has to suffer from the disease anymore. – Dr Alan Hinman, CSO representative, GAVI Board
In the report it is surprising to learn that across the 73 approved GAVI countries there is only 3% coverageof the rotavirus vaccine and 10% coverage of the pneumococcal vaccine, even though as aforementioned pneumonia and diarrhea are the leading causes of death for children under the age of 5. As of 2012 here is a graph showing the vaccine coverage.
GAVI is working on several goals including lowering the price of vaccines, strengthening health systems to make delivery easier, and increase the amount and availability of vaccines globally.
We have written at length about the power of frontline health workers from documenting female frontline health workers in Ethiopia to discussing the importance of their work as they provide health care to those without access to health centers and hospitals. While we know that frontline health workers are pivotal to the overall health of a country, it is also important to note that many put their lives on the line in the name of global health.
Today news emerged from Nigeria that nine female polio health workers were killed by gunmen. There are only three countries where the polio is endemic – Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Female health workers in Pakistan were also targeted and killed in Pakistan in December and January.
The global health community is extremely close to eradicating polio globally through lifesaving vaccines, but a stubborn virus coupled with human opposition to erasing it from the planet continue to keep polio alive in Asia and Africa.
Above: Tracey Clark and Kristen Doyle discuss how they were able to raise money and awareness about the Shot@Life campaign through their #Shot4Shot campaign. Shot@Life educates, connects and empowers Americans to champion vaccines as one of the most cost-effective ways to save the lives of children in developing countries.
Last Saturday the UN Foundation and its Shot@Life campaign sponsored a session at EVO social media conference for women entitled Using Your Storytelling Powers for Good.
The overarching theme of the session centered around storytelling and how to effectively incorporate social good into one’s blog. Using the power of authentic stories, causes and non-profits can be successfully amplified on a personal blog especially if the cause or non-profit is something you deeply care about.
Devi Thomas, Director of Shot@Life, drove home the importance of storytelling to better discuss weighty issues.
Working with non-profits, whether they are local, national, or global, is quite easy. Many of these organizations are limited and cash-strapped. Any help a blogger can offer them will always be well-received. Do not hesitate to contact non-profits via traditional email or even via social media (especially Twitter) if they are active on the medium.
If you are going to write about and support causes be sure to stay around for the long haul. You don’t simply want to write about a cause and forget about it. Choose causes carefully and be fully invested in them.
Also, be sure to educate yourself as much as possible about the cause you care about and bring your readers and followers along on your journey.
Once you have identified a cause that you care about it becomes easier to discuss them on your blog by sharing stories that relate to the cause. It helps your readers become more interested in the cause and helps relay your passion for it.
Chrysula Winegar discussed hooks and anchors she used to write about Shot@Life from her mother’s friend who has polio to meeting Nelson Mandela.
Hang ur passions on ur life story. @Chrysula talks about 6 hooks & anchors she's used from life to connect to @shotatlife. #evoconf
This Thursday our partner Shot@Life is the featured campaign for this week’s #DadsChat with Bruce Sallen.
Shot@Life champions will be special guests during the chat to talk about the events and activities they have done to teach their children how to give back and also spread the word about Shot@Life.
What is a dad chat? Bruce Sallan is the author of “A Dad’s Point-of-View: We ARE Half the Equation” and radio host of “The Bruce Sallan Show – A Dad’s Point-of-View.” He gave up a long-term showbiz career to become a stay-at-home-dad. He has dedicated his new career to becoming the Dad advocate.
Bruce Sallan carries on his mission not only through his book and radio show, but also with his column “A Dad’s Point-of-View”, syndicated in over 100 newspapers and websites worldwide, as well as with his dedication to his community on Facebook and Twitter. Every Thursday from 9pm -10pm ET, Bruce hosts a #DadChat. He recently started incorporating causes into some of the chats by auctioning off prizes and giving all of the money to the featured charity of the night. Recent Dad Chats have been incredibly successful – 10 million impressions, 1,000-2,000 tweets, and a reach of a million people!
Shot@Life Dad Chat:
· May 31, 2012, 9-10pm ET via #dadchat
· Paying it forward: Teaching your kids how to give back
· Co-hosted by Ted Rubin
· Prizes: Two Shot@Life iPods and a trip for 2 to Vegas
· On May 31, anyone who donates to Shot@Life will receive Shot@Life swag (water bottles, tshirts, jellybeans, etc.)