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The World’s First Malaria Vaccine to Be Rolled Out in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi in 2018

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Malaria is one of the world’s most deadly diseases even though it is highly preventable and treatable. Malaria causes approximately 881,000 deaths every year, with nine out of ten deaths occurring in sub-Saharan Africa.

Effective control and treatment of malaria has been very challenging and efforts have been made to reduce the burden of malaria in an integrated approach that combines preventative measures, such as long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets (LLINs) and indoor residual spraying (IRS), with improved access to effective anti-malarial drugs.

However, malaria is a disease that stems from and causes poverty, and many at-risk populations live in extremely destitute, remote areas. Poor, rural families are the least likely to have access to these preventative measures that are fundamental to malaria control, and may live kilometres from the nearest healthcare facility. They are also less able to afford treatment once infection has occurred.

In addition to the human cost of malaria, the economic burden of the disease is vast. It is estimated that malaria costs African countries more than US$12 billion every year in direct losses, even though the disease could be controlled for a fraction of that sum. For Nigeria alone the direct loss to the economy is estimated at GBP530 million annually.

Up to 40% of African health budgets are spent on malaria each year, and on average, a malaria-stricken family loses a quarter of its income through loss of earnings and the cost of treating and preventing the disease. Malaria causes an average loss of 1.3% of economic growth per year in Africa.

There is a ray of hope in Africa as the world first malaria vaccine is to be rolled out in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi in 2018. This injectable vaccine known as “RTS,S or Mosquirix” was developed by British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and will be offered for babies and children in high risk areas as part of real life trials as reported by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

In clinical trials it is proved only partially effective, and it needs to be given in a four-dose schedule, but it is the first-regulator-approved vaccine against the mosquito- borne disease. The WHO, who is in process of assessing whether to add the shot to the core package of WHO-recommended measures for malaria prevention, has said it firsts wants to see the results of on-the ground testing in a pilot programme.

“Information gathered in the pilot will help us make decisions on the wider use of this vaccine,” Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s African regional director said in a statement as the three pilot countries were announced.

“Combined with existing malaria interventions, such a vaccine would have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives in Africa.”

Global efforts in the last 15 years cut the malaria toll by 62 percent between 2000 and 2015. The WHO pilot programme will assess whether the Mosquirix’s protective effect in children aged 5 to 17 months can be replicated in real life. It will also assess the feasibility of delivering the four doses needed and explore the vaccine’s potential role in reducing the number of children killed by the disease. 

The WHO said Malawi, Kenya and Ghana were chosen for the pilot due to several factors, including having high rates of malaria as well as good malaria programmes, wide use of bed-nets and well-functioning immunization programmes. 

Each of the three countries will decide on the districts and regions to be included in the pilots, the WHO said, with high malaria areas getting priority since these are where experts expect to see most benefit from the use of the vaccine.  The vaccine was developed by GSK in partnership with the non-profit PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative and part-funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The WHO said in November it had secured full funding for the first phase of the RTS,S pilots, with 15 million from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and up to 27.5 million and 9.6 million respectively from the GAVI Vaccine Alliance and UNITAID for the first four years of the programme.

This significant development will help to address the continuing challenges presented by malaria in Africa in the years ahead and hopefully bring an end to this deadly disease.

Sources:

The Hindu, April 25, 2017. 

Kokwaro G. (2009) Ongoing challenges in the management of malaria. Malaria Journal, 8(Suppl 1):S2 doi:10.1186/1475-2875-8-S1-S2.

Nigeria Finalises Plans to Produce Yellow Fever Vaccines Locally

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Vaccines

As part of activities to mark the World Immunisation Week, April 24 to 30, the Federal Government of Nigeria has advanced plans to locally produce essential vaccines in the country and refurbish the moribund in Yaba, Lagos.

Also, Nigeria has began the ‘switch’ from using trivalent Oral Polio Vaccine (tOPV) to bivalent Oral Polio Vaccine (bOPV) in the routine immunization programme. The National Switch Committee commenced the historic switch in Nigeria on April 19, 2016, and is expected to complete the process and submit report to the World Health Organisation on May 2, 2016.

Also, the World Health Organisation (WHO) in a statement ahead of the World Immunisation Week, noted: “Immunization averts two to three million deaths annually; however, an additional 1.5 million deaths could be avoided if global vaccination coverage improves. Today, an estimated 18.7 million infants – nearly one in five children – worldwide are still missing routine immunizations for preventable diseases, such as diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus.”

Every year the world specifically dedicates a week in April 24 to 30 to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease. The Global theme for 2016 is the same as that for 2015, which is “Close the Immunization Gap campaign.” For WHO Afro regional countries the week is named “Africa Vaccination week-AVW” and the theme for 2016 is “Close the Immunization gaps. Stay polio free!”

Executive Director, NPHCDA, Dr. Ado Gana Muhammad, told The Guardian in an exclusive interview to mark the World Immunisation Week that the Federal Government’s plan to locally produce vaccines is still ongoing.

Muhammad said: “Government plan is still very much on the table. With the coming of this new administration and on the need to be self-sufficient in local vaccine manufacturing, another round of meeting chaired by the Minister of Health (HMH) and attended by the Minister of State for Health (HMSH), Permanent Secretary (PS), NPHCDA and May and Baker (M&B) pharmaceuticals took place in March 2016, in Abuja in order to explore avenues to move this project forward. The FMOH is providing leadership to make it happen.”

On the planned resuscitation of Yellow Fever (YF) vaccine plant in Yaba, Lagos, the NPHCDA boss said: “The Government of Nigeria plan and in line with the global best practices is to resuscitate Yaba YF vaccine plant using a Public-Private Partnership arrangement. Since 2005, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the FMoH and a local pharmaceutical company, May & Baker that was followed by the signing of a Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) in 2007.
This shows how serious the country is committed to in the production of YF both for our domestic use and subsequently for export.”

WHO Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan, said: “Last year immunization led to some notable wins in the fight against polio, rubella and maternal and neonatal tetanus.

“But they were isolated wins. Polio was eliminated in one country (Nigeria), tetanus in three, and rubella in one geographical region. The challenge now is to make gains like this the norm.”

Source: The Guardian

Anti-vaccination Parents Face Jail Time After Uganda Passes New Law

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Uganda passed a new law this month targeting parents who refuse to vaccinate their children.

“Anti-vaxxers” could face up to six months in prison in the central African nation of Uganda after claims by the Health Minister and others that a growing religious “cult” is preventing parents from having their children immunized.

The new law was signed by President Yoweri Museveni on March 10, but it wasn’t announced until this week. 

The Immunization Act would require parents to have their children get shots for diseases such as measles, polio, tuberculosis and meningitis – or face jail time.

Children would also be denied education as it requires them to possess an immunization card to attend school.

The ‘anti-vaxxer’ organization known as the 666 has been hiding children in slums to prevent them from receiving shots, Health Minister Sarah Achieng Opendi told the BBC. 

“It started in a few districts in eastern Uganda, but now it has spread and now we are seeing it all over the country,” she said.

666 members were arrested in 2014 after discouraging followers from participating in a national identity card registration. Local media claims the 666 are unwilling to participate in anything to do with numbers and also prohibit visiting hospitals to receive medical treatment.

There was an estimated 10,000 members of the 666 in Uganda in 2014. Previously no law was in place that would allow for their arrest if found to be preventing children from being vaccinated.

Opendi claims 3 percent of the country’s children have not had the required immunizations, including for polio and meningitis. 

About 3 million children under the age of five years old die each year in the African region, with a considerable number of those deaths preventable by vaccine, according to the World Health Organization.

Western countries, including the US, have seen a rapid rise in the anti-vaxxer movement, particularly among affluent white parents and celebrities like Jenny McCarthy, Jim Carrey, and Donald Trump.

In California, the rate of “vaccine refusal” doubled from 2007 to 2013 to 3.06 percent, with 5.43 percent exempt in private schools compared to 2.88 percent in public, according to the American Journal of Public Health.

Fears link the vaccines to autism and other side effects, including a resurgence in the disease they supposedly prevent and paralysis.

They cite patients in India who had previously been given a polio vaccination.

Last week, Robert De Niro defended the screening of an anti-vaxxer documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival which he later withdrew from the festival after much pressure.

“Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe” by activist Andrew Wakefield is based on his own research which was published in a British medical journal in 1998 before being retracted in 2010. 

The film explores the link between vaccination and autism.

De Niro defended his decision to screen the film at the festival he helped create in a statement. 

He asked personally for the film to be screened as he has an autistic child and wants “all of the issues surrounding the causes of autism to be openly discussed and examined,” but added that he was not personally endorsing the film.

The parents of Ezekiel Stephan are currently on trial in Canada after he died from meningitis. 

They are charged with failing to provide the 19-month-old with the necessities of life. Instead of medical treatment, the toddler was given home and herbal treatments, including smoothies and apple cider vinegar.

Source: RT

This Vaccine Could Help You Quit Smoking

Your inmune system would destroy nicotine molecules before yhey reach your brain.

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Quitting smoking is really hard—even with the advantage of medication, just 25 percent of people can stay smoke-free for six months. That’s because nicotine, the primary chemical in tobacco that can act as both a stimulant and a sedative, is one of the most addictive substances there is. To help those trying to quit, scientists came up with the idea of a nicotine vaccine that can train a smoker’s body to attack nicotine molecules before they reach the brain, eliminating their effect and, thus, the person’s desire to smoke. Now researchers from the Scripps Research Institute in California have developed a more effective nicotine vaccine, according to a study published recently in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry

Nicotine vaccines aren’t a new idea—a few years ago, two were tested in clinical trials. But those ended because the vaccines weren’t very effective, working in just 30 percent of patients. A few years ago, the same Scripps scientists created a more effective vaccine by slightly tweaking the molecules to which the body forms an immunity. All molecular compounds have a “handedness,” which refers to how the different chemical components fit together, and the researchers created a vaccine for only the left-handed nicotine molecule, which is by far the most common. That change made the vaccine 60 percent more effective in mice, according to a study published last year.

Now the researchers have worked to further improve the vaccine by altering the molecules that alert the immune system, over time training it to attack nicotine. They determined that, with just the right concentration of carrier proteins and nicotine molecules, the mice developed a robust antibody response, showing that the vaccine was working. In addition, the mice showed a “severely blunted” response to nicotine when dosed with the vaccine.

In future studies the researchers plan to investigate the physical dynamics between the various molecules in the vaccine and the immune system to determine the concentration of antibodies necessary to make the vaccine work. They also plan to test the vaccine on rats, which they say will provide them with “better insight” into how the vaccine could be clinically feasible.

Though a nicotine vaccine hasn’t made it to the market yet, studies like this one show that it’s possible for one to be more effective. They may also open the door to the idea of using a vaccine to treat other addictions; the same researchers are also working on a vaccine against the opioid fentanyl. If they make it to the market, these new treatment methods could eventually help many people dealing with addiction.

Source: Popular Science

World’s First Malaria Vaccine Approved

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The world’s first malaria vaccine has been approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), setting the stage for a final assessment by the World Health Organisation (WHO) before the drug can be accepted by countries ravaged by the disease.

GlaxoSmithKline, the pharmaceutical company behind the drug Mosquirix, announced the approval by regulators last week, indicating that the European assessors had adopted a positive scientific opinion for its use in children aged six weeks to 17 months.

The drug, also known as RTS,S, was co-developed with the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, and prevents malaria caused by the Plasmodium alciparum parasite. Global anticipation for the vaccine is immense, with despairing statistics highlighting how much of a problem malaria still is in the developing world.

Figures from 2013 indicate that the disease claims a child every single minute, with an estimated overall death toll that year of 584,000 people. The disease is prevalent in tropical and subtropical regions, with sub-Saharan Africa as the worst affected area: of the 584,000 deaths in 2013, 90 percent occurred in the region, with 83 percent in children under the age of five.

“Today’s scientific opinion represents a further important step towards making available for young children the world’s first malaria vaccine,” said Sir Andrew Witty, CEO of GlaxoSmithKline, in a statement. “While RTS,S on its own is not the complete answer to malaria, its use alongside those interventions currently available such as bed nets and insecticides, would provide a very meaningful contribution to controlling the impact of malaria on children in those African communities that need it the most.”

Having been approved by the EMA, the drug will now be reviewed by independent advisory groups on behalf of the WHO, to devise recommendations on how it could be used alongside other medicines to help prevent the disease in countries where it is approved for use by national regulators. It’s believed that the WHO’s recommendations may be announced this yeavr, but the national processes involving specific sub-Saharan countries will take additional time to be resolved. It’s hoped the vaccine will become available within the next few years.

Source: Science Alert