News Scan for Jan 11, 2018

Emergency-vaccine risks
MERS in Saudi Arabia
Dengvaxia and kids' deaths
Brazil yellow fever campaign
Cholera vaccination in Zambia

Report: Drug companies wary of repeated calls for emergency vaccines

A growing number of vaccine makers are expressing concerns about their ability to quickly develop new vaccine candidates against emerging disease threat, such as Zika and Ebola viruses, Stat reported today, based on interviews with pharmaceutical executives, government officials, and infectious disease experts.

Companies such as Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK), Sanofi Pasteur, Merck, and Johnson & Johnson have responded to urgent requests from governments and global health groups when new threats such as Zika arise. However, the companies have grappled with expensive disruptions in their regular operations, research and regulatory hurdles, lack of solid development support from governments, and a lack of a market for the products after the threats diminish.

For example, GSK told Stat that it has proposed dedicating one of its facilities to producing emergency vaccines, but funding commitments haven't come through.

Richard Hatchett, MD, chief executive officer of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), which launched in early 2017 to advance the pipeline for public health threats, said that without private-sector involvement, there will be no emergency response vaccines, and sacrifices taken by pharmaceutical companies during outbreak response are often underappreciated, as are the financial risks they take.
Jan 11 Stat story


MERS kills 3 more in Saudi Arabia

Yesterday the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health (MOH) announced two new fatal cases of MERS-CoV, and reported the death of a previously recorded patient.

An 89-year-old Saudi woman from Khamis Mushait died after presenting with symptoms of MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus). A 79-year-old Saudi man from Abha also died from the coronavirus. In both cases, the source of infection was listed as "primary," meaning it's unlikely either patient contracted the virus from another person.

The MOH also reported the death of an 80-year-old Saudi woman from Riyadh. She had a preexisting illness and was not a healthcare worker.

Saudi Arabia's MERS-CoV case count since 2012 has now reached 1,771, including 719 deaths. Eight patients are still being treated, according to the MOH.
Jan 10 MOH report


Philippines exhumes body of two children in Dengvaxia investigation

Government officials from the Philippines said today they have exhumed the bodies of two children whose parents suspect became ill and then died after receiving Sanofi Pasteur's Dengvaxia vaccine, Reuters reported.

Officials are trying to determine if, after receiving Dengvaxia, the children died from subsequent severe dengue infections. Officials from the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) said one of the children’s bodies showed signs of excessive bleeding, a noted symptom of fatal dengue infection.

The PAO said several parents have contacted them asking to exhume their children's bodies. So far, five pediatric deaths in the country show possible connections to the dengue vaccine.

The Philippines have stopped using Dengvaxia and sued manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur after the French pharmaceutical company said the vaccine should not be used in people who have not had a prior dengue infection. Those recipients have a risk of developing more severe infections after being vaccinated.
Jan 11 Reuters story


Brazil plans yellow fever vaccine campaign

In an attempt to prevent a wide scale yellow fever outbreak, Brazilian health officials announced earlier this week plans to inoculate 19.7 million Brazilians living in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Bahia states against the flavivirus.

Brazil said they would use fractional dosing to extend supplies of the yellow fever vaccine. Using fractioned doses offers immunity for up to 1 year. The campaign will begin shortly, and officials said it will last approximately 2 weeks.

"It is a precautionary measure, designed to offer vaccine coverage to people in areas where the virus has not yet circulated. The vaccines will be diluted, ensuring that quick coverage can be offered in a short period of time", said Brazilian Health Minister, Ricardo Barros, Folha de S.Paulo, a newspaper based in Brazil, reported.

Since July, there have been 11 confirmed yellow fever cases, including 4 deaths in Sao Paulo.
Jan 10 Folha story


Cholera vaccine drive targets 1 million in Zambia's capital

The World Health Organization (WHO) and Zambia's government have launched a cholera vaccine drive to immunize residents of Lusaka, the country's capital, according to a WHO statement yesterday.

The campaign will use 2 million doses of cholera vaccine from the Gavi-funded stockpile, enough to immunize 1 million people.

Zambia's outbreak began in early October and has so far sickened 2,682 people, with Lusaka accounting for 96% of cases. So far, 63 deaths have been reported, 58 of them in the capital. Though sporadic cholera cases are often reported in Zambia during its 5-month rainy season, the burden this season has exceeded the country's average.

Nathan Bakyaita, MD, the WHO's country representative, said, "Zambia is experiencing one of the worst outbreaks of cholera in years. With this campaign, we can stop cholera in its tracks and prevent an even more devastating epidemic."

The WHO said it is working with the country's public health workers to address the underlying causes of the outbreak, which include a lack of clean water, sanitation, and hygiene. Plans are in the works to vaccinate another 1 million people in known hot spots across Zambia later this year.
Jan 10 WHO Regional Office for Africa statement

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