Opinions: Polio Vaccines; Alternatives To DDT, Insecticides; Food Price Volatility; Global Poverty; Foreign Aid For Vaccines

Oral Vaccine Alone Cannot Eradicate Polio

“No one denies” that the oral polio vaccine “has considerable merits. It’s cheap to make. It’s easy to administer; you don’t need a trained nurse with a clean syringe [like the inactive vaccine needs], just a volunteer with a dropper. And it gives excellent immunity. … But there are problems with the method,” Wendy Orent, author of the book Plague: The Mysterious Past and Terrifying Future of the World’s Most Dangerous Disease, writes in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece.

Orent goes on to mention different concerns about the oral vaccine. “Very rarely, it causes something called vaccine-acquired paralytic polio. … Not only does it have the capacity to pass polio through fecal matter, it sometimes does not work in tropical settings,” she writes before outlining the “impediments” associated with Jonas Salk’s inactivate vaccine, which include that it is more expensive to manufacture and administer. But she argues that a combination of both vaccines, known as the Gaza System, might be the most successful approach.

“At this stage, few propose moving away from the oral vaccine until wild poliovirus has been eradicated. But it seems unwise not to take advantage of the forgotten hero, the inactive vaccine,” according to Orent. “The inactive vaccine, that once and future hero, is our safest bridge to a polio-free world – a world without any circulating virus, wild or vaccine-derived,” she concludes (2/9).

Don’t Scale Back, Suspend Use Of DDT Until There’s Scientific Proof Safe, Effective, Affordable Alternatives Are Available

In a Times LIVE opinion piece, Richard Tren, director of Africa Fighting Malaria, and Donald Roberts, Professor Emeritus of Tropical Public Health at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, caution against scaling back and eventually suspending the use of DDT for malaria control and insecticides for insect-borne diseases before there is scientific evidence that “safe, effective and affordable alternatives are available.”

After describing several recent experiments on “so-called environmentally sound malaria control” conducted by Global Environment Facility and the U.N. Environment Program, Tren and Roberts write, “In reviewing the evaluations of these experiments, we found the claims of success to be based on manipulated and false data.” The authors offer several reasons for what they call “tawdry false reporting,” before concluding, “SADC [Southern African Development Community] governments must vigorously oppose the U.N. agencies that seek to put their own political power and budgets ahead of the lives of their countries’ children who are at risk from malaria” (2/9).

G20 Must Address The Real Causes Of Food Price Volatility

“If the world has a poor harvest this year, food prices will rise to previously unimaginable levels. Food riots will multiply, political unrest will spread, and governments will fall. The world is now one poor harvest away from chaos in world grain markets,” Lester Brown, founder of the Earth Policy Institute, writes in a Christian Science Monitor opinion piece.

“Over the longer term, expanding food production rapidly is becoming more difficult as food bubbles based on the overpumping of underground water burst, shrinking grain harvests in many countries. Meanwhile, increasing climate volatility, including more frequent, more extreme weather events, will make the expansion of production more erratic,” Brown writes before noting recent developments that support his arguments.

To address the causes of food price volatility, Brown puts forward several recommendations. He writes that a “worldwide effort to raise water productivity, similar to the one launched by the international community a half-century ago to raise cropland productivity” is needed. “On the demand side, we need to accelerate the shift to smaller families. There are 215 million women in the world who want to plan their families but lack access to family-planning services,” he adds. “On the climate front, the goal of cutting carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050 – the widely accepted goal by governments – is not sufficient. … And in an increasingly hungry world, converting grain into fuel for cars is not the way to go,” according to Brown.  

“If President Sarkozy can get the G20 to focus on the causes of rising food prices, and not just the symptoms, then food prices can be stabilized at a more comfortable level,” he concludes (2/8).

Notable Improvements In Ending Global Poverty

“It’s easy to assume, faced with images of continuing destitution in rural Africa and South Asia, that things have just kept getting worse. But they haven’t. In fact, over the last two decades the pattern has reversed. The world has got a lot less poor – and the nature of the poverty that remains has changed in important ways,” Charles Kenny, who holds fellowships at the Center for Global Development and the New America Foundation, writes in a Foreign Policy opinion piece.

Kenny highlights evidence to support these points. “The decline in global poverty is unambiguously good news for billions of people worldwide. But it will pose some problems for the world’s aid agencies. As the majority of poor people shifts toward living in middle-income countries, donors are going to have to think about moving away from a model of helping poor countries to one of helping poor individuals,” he notes. “But these challenges should force donor agencies to recognize how the new map of poverty actually opens up opportunities for aid. … And it’s worth keeping in mind that poverty is about a lot more than money,” according to Kenny. To illustrate, he points to China, which has experienced major economic growth over the last two decades, while its “progress in health improvements has slowed dramatically.”

“So aid agencies will have an important role to play in improving outcomes for those merely neighboring on absolute destitution and improving the broader quality of life through the extension of health and education services, among other things. … The end of poverty, in short, is not yet in sight. Still, we’ve made a pretty great start,” he concludes (2/7).

Budget Cuts Should Not Disproportionately Reduce Foreign Aid, Especially For Vaccines, Polio

“As Washington follows many states into an era of budget-cutting, the line of special pleaders will be unending, and many of them will have good arguments. One reason we wish that President Obama and Congress would get serious about a long-term debt reduction plan … is that if the pain isn’t shared among Medicare, Social Security and defense spending, deserving items such as foreign aid, national parks, college scholarships and research will have to take a disproportionate hit,” a Washington Post editorial states.

It highlights some of the points from Bill Gates’ annual letter and notes his focus on polio. “If [polio is] not eradicated, Mr. Gates said during a visit to The Post this week, it’s likely the world would see something like 200,000 new cases every year – that’s 200,000 children killed or crippled,” the newspaper writes.

“Even among the deserving special pleaders, though, foreign aid, particularly for vaccines, merits a place at the front of the line. ‘This year 1.4 million children will die from diseases for which there are already vaccines,’ Mr. Gates notes. For very little money, Americans could dramatically reduce that number. It’s hard to imagine a better investment,” the editorial concludes (2/4).

The KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report summarized news and information on global health policy from hundreds of sources, from May 2009 through December 2020. All summaries are archived and available via search.

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