NEWS SCAN: Global public health efforts, pertussis vaccine comparison, polio vaccine attack

May 20, 2013

WHO's Chan cites successes, calls for cooperation at annual meeting
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan, MD, MPH, opened the agency's World Health Assembly today with a reference to the H7N9 flu and novel coronavirus outbreaks as she urged nations to continue to cooperate on public health efforts. She applauded the world's response to the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak 10 years ago and the consequent revisions to the International Health Regulations. Those updates have better prepared the world to respond to new threats, such as H7N9 and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), she said. But while she praised China for its H7N9 response and transparency, she remained silent on the MERS-CoV response. Many experts have criticized Saudi Arabia, home to most MERS-CoV cases, for what they see as an inadequate and opaque response. Chan also noted global successes, such as HIV treatments, efforts to prevent pneumonia and diarrhea, and improved health in the world's poorest countries. She also emphasized areas needing improved efforts, such as polio and antibiotic resistance, as well as noncommunicable diseases. Chan called public health "a safe harbor of hope that allows, and inspires, all countries to work together for the good of humanity."
May 20 Chan address

Study: Whole-cell pertussis vaccine far more protective than current vaccine
No-longer-used whole-cell pertussis (DTwP) vaccines better protected kids against pertussis (whooping cough) than acellular pertussis (DTaP) vaccines during a large 2010-11 outbreak in California, according to a study today in Pediatrics. The study involved 10- to 17-year-olds who were born from 1994 to 1999 and received four doses of either pertussis vaccine during the first 2 years of life at Kaiser Permanente Northern California, some of whom received DTwP before it was discontinued in the 1990s because of adverse events. The study included 138 children who had lab-confirmed pertussis, 899 who tested negative, and 54,339 matched controls. Researchers found that kids who received four DTaP doses had an almost six times higher risk of pertussis than those who received four DTwP doses. People who received mixed DTwP and DTaP vaccines had a nearly fourfold higher risk of pertussis than those who received all DTwP vaccines. "The results indicate that a booster dose of Tdap does not overcome the advantage in protection from pertussis afforded to those who previously received four doses of the whole-cell vaccine," lead author Nicola Klein, MD, PhD, said in a Kaiser Permanente news release. "Despite this, boosting the newly emerging cohort of acellular pertussis vaccine-only teenagers with Tdap remains the best means currently available to help protect this group against disease." The study highlights the need for new pertussis vaccines that provide both improved safety and long-lasting immunity, the release said.
May 20 Pediatrics abstract
May 20 Kaiser Permanente news release

Polio vaccinator guard killed in Pakistan
Gunmen today killed a policeman who was providing protection to a polio vaccination team in the Bajur tribal are of northwestern Pakistan, the Associated Press (AP) reported. A regional health official said 624 vaccination teams are involved in the latest push in the area to immunize more than 220,000 children. Officials re-launched vaccination efforts after taking a couple of months off because of previous attacks, the AP said. No one has yet claimed responsibility for today's slaying. Pakistan is one of three countries in which polio is endemic, in addition to Afghanistan and Nigeria.
May 20 AP story

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