Polio and Sanitation

KHAGARIA: On the sandy banks of Kosi river in north Bihar, a quiet crowd of several hundred people is waiting in the sizzling morning sun. A speck appears in the pale blue summer sky, rapidly growing in size — its a gleaming white helicopter. Within seconds it is hovering above the opposite bank, amidst the cornfields.

The crowd is awestruck at the monstrous machine as it settles down in billowing clouds of sand. Out comes the man everybody has been waiting to see — Bill Gates.

Bill Gates has come to find out why polio eradication is failing in Bihar. He asks questions about immunization strategies and tries to figure out what sort of technical problems are blocking universal vaccine delivery.

People complain of lack of basic health facilities…There are only 49 auxilliary nurse and midwives under the PHC, against a sanctioned strength of 76…So, the delivery of basic health services is itself a distant dream…The villagers hope against hope. Isn’t the spread of polio linked to lack of sanitation and basic health facilities? Gates acknowledges this fact but says that it is for the government to do the needful. “We are concentrating on the eradication of polio, which is achievable through vaccines,” he says. [1]

Polio epidemics first appeared in the mid-nineteenth century. Many doctors and scientists struggled with the mystery: why, as living conditions improved, did incidents of paralysis increase? Out of all the changes that came with modernity, improved sanitation was chosen as the change which caused polio to turn from a mild illness to one that left death and permanent damage in its wake.  Here is an excellent example  from a 2007 medical article which summarizes the concept:

Prior to the 20th century, virtually all children were infected with PV while still protected by maternal antibodies. In the 1900s, following the industrial revolution of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, improved sanitation practices led to an increase in the age at which children first encountered the virus, such that at exposure children were no longer protected by maternal antibodies. Consequently, epidemics of poliomyelitis surfaced . [2] Read more

Vaccine Myths 3.1: The Scourge of Childhood

“…young parents of today do not remember…”

In 1974 the St. Petersburg Times wrote:

So many people are neglecting to get immunity shots that doctors fear the seven one-time scourges of childhood–polio, mumps, measles, rubella, diphtheria, lockjaw and whooping cough–may strike American communities again.

However, just six years earlier, in 1968, newspaper stories said things like this:

Although mumps is a relatively mild childhood disease, it can cause sterility when it strikes adult males.

At that time the recommendation was to give the recently developed shots to boys if they hadn’t had the mumps by the time they hit adolescence. Read more

Prevnar IS Safe – Have a Look at the Studies!

March 16, 2009 by · 8 Comments
Filed under: Vaccine Science 

In November of 2008, a report was published about a halted vaccine trial in India. Here is an excerpt which can be found on Livemint :

New Delhi: Patient trials of an advanced pneumonia vaccine by the domestic unit of US drug giant Wyeth Inc. have been suspended by India’s drug quality regulator after the death of an infant on whom the vaccine was tested in a trial in Bangalore.
The child had a pre-existing cardiac disorder. Indian drug rules prohibit testing on human subjects with such conditions without the prior approval of the drugs controller general of India (DCGI), the drugs quality regulator.

Indian authorities said that the trial was stopped because:

“The baby was suffering from a cardiac abnormality and should not have been included in the trial at all. It seems that the ‘inclusion-exclusion’ criteria protocol has not been adhered to by the investigator,” said Surinder Singh, drugs controller general. “We have suspended all further trials across the country.”

Read more

MRSA and Child Flu Deaths

May 5, 2008 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: News, Vaccine/Disease Analysis 

Image:Staphylococcus aureus, 50,000x, USDA, ARS, EMU.jpg

Recent news stories about a link between MRSA and flu deaths in children raise some interesting questions in light of our Sisyphus series (Part I, Part II and Part III).

“Being a carrier of MRSA has increased a lot, especially among school-aged kids,” said Lyn Finelli, chief of influenza surveillance at the CDC. “And being colonized may put them at risk for a severe staph aureus infection when they get the flu.”

This particular news story blames the problem on antibiotic overuse, and, of course, recommends the flu vaccine to save children from this dangerous situation. Read more

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