GENEVA: Faced with a global resurgence of measles, health experts called today for countries to step up the fight against vaccine resistance, warning the movement was spreading like a contagious disease.
World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus joined experts and health ministers from a range of countries at an event on “promoting vaccine confidence”, amid rising concerns that resistance to immunization is allowing preventable diseases to flourish.
“No country can afford to be complacent about immunization,” Tedros told the meeting in Geneva, where the WHO is hosting its main annual gathering.
The WHO says cases of measles — a highly contagious viral infection that can prove fatal — surged 300 percent in 2018.
The resurgence of the once all-but-eradicated disease is linked to the growing anti-vaccine movement in richer nations, which has been identified as a major global health threat.
“It’s a contagious disease,” Seth Berkley, who heads the GAVI Vaccine Alliance, told AFP, warning that misinformation about vaccine safety “spreads at the speed of light.”
The anti-vax phenomenon has adherents across Western countries but especially in the US, where it has been fuelled by the spread on social media of medically baseless claims, debunked 20 years ago, that the jab could cause autism.
The United States, which sponsored Tuesday’s event with the EU and Brazil, lamented the “misinformation” causing vaccination rates in the country to decline.
“Vaccines are some of the most thoroughly tested medical products we have. Vaccines are safe, effective, and lifesaving,” US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told the meeting.
He slammed “social media conspiracy groups (that) confuse well-meaning parents so they hesitate to get the recommended vaccinations.”This misinformation has real impacts,” he said, pointing to the more than 700 measles cases in the US so far this year.
Azar dismissed questions about whether past statements by President Donald Trump in support of some anti-vaccination movement claims may bear some responsibility for the problem.
Pointing to recent comments by the president urging Americans to “get your kids vaccinated”, he stressed Trump was “extremely firm” in his support of vaccination.
EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukatis meanwhile suggested that vaccine skepticism was in part linked to the fact that vaccines have been so effective that most people have no concept of how devastating the diseases they prevent can be.
“We have become victims of our own success,” he said.
Among the measures being taken to inoculate populations against the spread of misinformation about vaccine safety was putting pressure on social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to remove or flag demonstrably false information.
“This is wrong information that is killing people,” Berkley said.
According to WHO, vaccines save some three million lives annually.
“Vaccines do not cause autism. Vaccines actually cause adults,” said Katherine O’Brien, who heads WHO’s immunization department.
Health dept contradicts report of baby’s death due to polio
OKARA: The spokesman of Health Department Friday contradicted the report by a private news channel regarding the death of a four-year-old girl Asma Bibi due to polio and termed it fabricated, baseless and against the facts.
The spokesman said the girl Asma Bibi d/o Muhammad Yar, a resident of 37/4L was brought to DHQ Hospital Okara where child specialist Dr. Muhammad Sadeeq reported her AFP COX on detection of her body organs non-responding to Health Department’s Surveillance System.
The girl was discharged by the child specialist after finding her all previous reports satisfactory.
The spokesman termed the report that the girl was died due to polio as misleading and against the facts.
For stomach cancer, aerosol chemotherapy offers breath of hope
DIJON: “Classic chemotherapy was awful… but with this treatment, I feel hope,” says French pensioner Jacques Braud, who is undergoing treatment for stomach cancer with a new form of therapy dispersed by aerosol.
Several hours before going into theatre, Braud is waiting in his room, looking surprisingly relaxed with a book in hand.
This is a place he has been before. At the age of 76, Braud is about to face his second bout of chemotherapy after the cancer in his stomach spread to two other organs.
But this time it is different.
He is being treated at the Georges-Francois Leclerc hospital in the eastern city of Dijon, one of seven hospitals in France that are trialling pressurised intraperitoneal aerosol chemotherapy, or PIPAC, a technique developed in Germany in 2013.
Although is it still being tested, chemotherapy by aerosol has shown promising results against certain cancers, in a treatment with fewer side effects that offers hope to some of the weakest patients.
Unlike traditional chemotherapy, the drugs are not injected into the bloodstream.
Instead, the patient is put under general anaesthetic and the treatment introduced by laparoscopy, by which a small incision is made in the abdominal wall and the chemotherapy is introduced into the peritoneal cavity by an aerosol spray.
World Blood Donor Day to be observed tomorrow
ISLAMABAD: Like other parts of the globe,World Blood Donor Day will be observed on Friday (June 14) across the globe including Pakistan to raise awareness of the problem and thank donors worldwide.
Safe blood supplies are a scarce commodity, especially in developing countries, many events will be holding around the world on June 14 to mark World Blood Donor Day.
These include football matches, concerts and mobile blood donation clinics. In 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) called upon communities world-wide to symbolically “paint the world red” by coloring, covering or lighting monuments and landmarks.
Despite about 92 million yearly blood donations worldwide, safe blood is constantly on high demand, especially in developing countries.
World Blood Donor Day falls on the birthday of Karl Landsteiner (June 14, 1868). He created the ABO blood group system, which is still used today to ensure the safety of blood transfusions.
The day serves to thank voluntary, unpaid blood donors for their life-saving gifts of blood and also to raise awareness of the need for regular blood donations to ensure that all individuals and communities have access to affordable and timely supplies of safe and quality assured blood and blood products, as an integral part of universal health coverage and a key component of effective health systems.
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