NEWS SCAN: Flu vaccine applications, drinking water success, measles in Yemen and Europe, polio in Pakistan

Mar 6, 2012

GSK seeks approval for quadrivalent, H5N1 flu vaccines
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) announced yesterday that it has submitted licensing applications in the United States and the European Union for its quadrivalent influenza vaccine, according to a press release. The company said the indication is for adults and children ages 3 and older. It submitted a supplemental biologics licensing application to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and a new application to European regulatory authorities. Deciding which of the two influenza B strain lineages to include each season in trivalent seasonal flu vaccine is often a difficult choice for global flu experts, and quadrivalent vaccines have been proposed as a way to simplify the process, allowing officials to recommend influenza B strains from both Yamagata and Victoria lineages.  On Feb 29 the FDA approved the first quadrivalent flu vaccine, an inhaled live attenuated influenza vaccine developed by MedImmune and modeled after its FluMist product. GSK also said it has submitted an FDA application for its H5N1 avian influenza vaccine for humans. Made in Quebec, the pandemic vaccine has already received EU approval under the brand name Pumarix, an inactivated vaccine against a 2005 Indonesian clade virus. The H5N1 vaccine program was supported with a contract from the Biomedical Advanced Development and Research Authority (BARDA) of the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Mar 5 GSK press release

WHO lauds global success in access to safe drinking water
The world has already exceeded the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for 2015 of halving the number of people with no access to safe drinking water, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared today. Between 1990 and 2010, more than 2 billion people gained access to sustainable, safe drinking water sources such as protected wells and piped supplies, the agency said in a new release. A report by the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation said that by the end of 2010, 6.1 billion people, or 89% of the world's population, used improved drinking water sources. The MDG target for 2015 was 88%, and the report said the world may reach 92% access by then. United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called MDGs "a vital tool for improving the lives of millions of the poorest people." The report also mentions, though, that the world is still far from meeting the 2015 MDG for sanitation, which is 75% of the world's people having access to improved sanitation. Only 63% now have such access, and the report estimates the number will climb to only 67%.
Mar 6 WHO press release
Mar 6 WHO/UNICEF report

Measles kills 126 children in Yemen, increases in Europe
Yemen is asking for international help in dealing with a measles outbreak that has killed 126 young children since mid 2011 and infected more than 3,000 other people, according to IRIN News, the UN's humanitarian news service. After reporting 211 measles cases and no deaths from 2007 through 2009, the country has logged 3,767 cases since the middle of last year, the report said. Seventy percent of the cases and all the deaths were in children under 5 years old, and most cases occurred in the last 4 months. The article blames within-country conflict and malnutrition for exacerbating the outbreak.
Mar 5 IRIN News story
Elsewhere, the European Union is reporting increased measles cases, with almost 4,000 cases in Ukraine already this year, according to a report today from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). For the week ending Mar 3, the ECDC said Ukraine reported 200 new measles cases, bringing its 2012 total thus far to 3,956. Other countries' totals: United Kingdom, 111 (57 confirmed); Spain, 493; Sweden, 16; and Latvia, 3. Last year Spain had almost 2,000 cases, Sweden 26, and Latvia 1. The ECDC said the cases may signal the start of a new measles season. The report did not mention France, which last year had more than 14,000 cases by the end of October, according to a Dec 2 report in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).
Mar 6 ECDC news release
Mar 6 ECDC report
Dec 2, 2011, MMWR report

Unrest interfering with polio vaccine drive in Pakistan
Political unrest in some regions of Pakistan has prevented health workers from delivering thousands of doses of polio vaccine to children in their current vaccination campaign, according to a story today in Lahore-based The Nation newspaper. In a press conference yesterday, Pakistani officials said that in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and some areas of Fata, families were forced to flee because of terrorism and were unable to receive the vaccine. The officials also said religious extremists in some areas don't allow polio teams to administer the oral vaccine. They said that, of 198 polio cases in 2011, 72 were in Balochistan. The country has also reported 12 cases so far this year.
Mar 6 The Nation story

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