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She Hunts Viral Rumors About Real Viruses | The New York Times.

[Oct. 13, 2020]

For Heidi Larson, the founder of the Vaccine Confidence Project, dispelling vaccine hesitancy means building trust -- and avoiding the term "anti-vaxxer."

Heidi Larson walks to her office at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Heidi Larson walks to her office at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Edu Bayer for The New York Times.

Jenny Anderson writes:

In late September, Heidi Larson, an anthropologist and the founder of the Vaccine Confidence Project in London, sat on a Zoom call with the project team for Verified, a United Nations-led group that is working to combat a rising tide of misinformation about potential vaccines for Covid-19.

Dr. Larson, 63, is arguably the world’s foremost rumor manager. She has spent two decades in war torn, poor and unstable countries around the globe, as well as in rich and developed ones, striving to understand what makes people hesitant to take vaccines. She is obsessed with the origin and evolution of rumors, which she calls “collective problem solving,” and has come to see most anti-vaxxers — a term she considers too oppositional — not as uneducated, science-denying individualists but as people with genuine questions and doubts in search of guidance. “This is a public cry to say, ‘Is anyone listening?’ she writes in her recently released book “Stuck: How Vaccine Rumors Start and Why they Don’t Go Away.”

These are busy days for a rumor manager, as they are for rumormongers. The Vaccine Confidence Project, which began in 2010, comprises more than a dozen staff with backgrounds in political science, psychology, mathematical modeling, epidemiology and more. They monitor news, social-media outlets and community conversations in nearly every country and in 63 languages, to catch wind of rumors that might undermine the acceptance of critical vaccines. Above all, with hard data gathered from the many surveys and questionnaires the team administers, they have shown that what once seemed like the ghost of a problem is something troublingly tangible and real.

In September, the team published a paper in The Lancet that mapped shifts in vaccine confidence in 149 countries from 2015 through 2019, with data from more than 284,000 adults. For instance, in Indonesia during that period, the perception that vaccines are safe fell from 64 percent to 50 percent after Muslim leaders questioned the safety of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, that the vaccine contained forbidden ingredients. In Poland, a highly organized anti-vaccine movement has helped drive down vaccine confidence from 64 percent in November 2018 to 53 percent by December 2019.

With a global pandemic now in full stride, and vaccines of varying quality vying for release, the consequences of hesitancy could not be higher. In the United States alone, a study by the Pew Research Center found, the share of adult Americans who say they would “definitely” or “probably” get a Covid-19 vaccine fell from 72 percent in May to 51 percent in September.

This trend is often blamed on the viral spread of misinformation on the internet, and it plays a role. In the Zoom meeting with the Verified team, Alex de Figueiredo, the lead statistician for the Vaccine Confidence Project, presented findings from a study they had conducted testing how negative social media posts might affect a person’s decision to take a Covid-19 vaccine.

Three thousand people in Britain were asked: If a Covid-19 vaccine existed, would you definitely take it? Fifty-four percent of respondents said yes. Then most were shown a series of negative social media posts, including a post from David Icke, an English conspiracy theorist, claiming that a Big Pharma whistle-blower had said that “97 percent of corona vaccine recipients will become infertile.” After exposure, the percentage of the study’s respondents who expressed a willingness to take a vaccine dropped more than 6 percentage points.

For a vaccine to create herd immunity — Dr. Larson prefers the term “community immunity,” to avoid conjuring images of animal herding — in a population, 60 to 70 percent of people need to take it, scientists expect. Even a 6 percentage point decline in acceptance could endanger that goal.

Vaccine confidence “is every bit as important as how effective the vaccine is,” said Daniel Salmon, director of the Institute for Vaccine Safety at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Vaccines don’t save lives. Vaccinations save lives.”

But to focus on the inaccuracy of any given rumor is to miss the point, Dr. Larson has learned. During the call with the Verified team, a young woman with that group asked Dr. Larson how they should respond to the data. Shouldn’t they target social media companies and press them to take down the anti-vaccine posts?

[Continue reading in source article]

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Ten crises that need your attention | ReliefWeb.

[News and Press Release] [Source: OCHA] [Posted: 13 Oct 2020] [Originally Published: 13 Oct 2020] [Origin: View original]

COVID-19 has hit dozens of countries that are also dealing with humanitarian crises. Rather than divert vital funding from these humanitarian operations, which are keeping tens of millions of people alive, the Global Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID-19 has required significant additional funding.

As of the end of September, 259 million people need our help. This is almost triple the number of people in need at the same time last year. Critical funding provides these people with life-saving support including food; malnutrition treatment; cholera, measles and polio prevention; emergency education and protection. But if funding for these efforts is diverted, millions of the world’s most vulnerable people will lose their lives.

We highlight 10 crises that the international community cannot neglect.

Read more on Exposure.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit

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UNICEF monitors polio vaccination exercise in Ayawaso West Municipality | GhanaWeb.

[10 October 2020]

Polio immunization
Polio immunization

Madam Anne- Claire Dufay, Country Representative, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Ghana, has toured the Ayawaso West Municipality in the Greater Accra Region, to assess the second round of poliomyelitis (polio) vaccination exercise.

The second round of the polio vaccination exercise which started on October 8-11 is expected to cover children under five years.

The field visit took Madam Duafy to the Legon Hospital and its environs within the Ayawaso West Municipality.

Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious viral disease, caused by the poliovirus, which largely affects children under five years of age.

The virus is transmitted by person-to-person and spread mainly through the faecal-oral route or, less frequently, by a common vehicle (example contaminated water or food) and multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system and cause paralysis.

Madam Dufay in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA) during the field visit called for intensive efforts towards polio eradication in the country.

She noted that recently Africa achieved the status of being certified free of wild poliovirus, one of the three strains of the deadly virus; however, the fight against polio was not over.

She emphasized that Ghana was wild polio-free but had not gotten rid of type 2 wild poliovirus, as such children were still at risk, saying there was an urgent need to immunize children under five years to ensure that they were protected from the deadly virus.

Between June 2019 and as of the end of September 2020, Ghana has reported a total of 31 confirmed cases of children affected by the (circulating Vaccine-Derived Polio Vaccine type2) cVDPV2 in nine out of 16 regions.

Following risk assessments and decisions by Ghana Health Service and its development partners, different rounds of campaigns were implemented in those high-risk regions to stop poliovirus circulation.

A total of 4,568,864 children under five years were targeted in the house-to-house exercise in the four-day programme from 10th -14th September 2020 and the same number of children was targeted in the eight regions for the second round, which began on October 8.

Madam Dufay said that during the second round of the campaign, the teams were also administering vitamin A supplements to children aged six months to fifty-nine months, and this was an additional component for children to grow well and stay healthy.

The Country Representative, who said Ghana was doing well with regards to the fight against polio, added that UNICEF and its partners would continue to support the Ministry of Health and the Ghana Health Service to immunize all children.

Dr Louisa Matey, the Ayawaso West Municipal Director of Health, also told the GNA that in the Greater Accra Region, 2,254 teams had been deployed, however, in Ayawaso West Municipality, 45 teams had been deployed with a target of vaccinating 18,600 children.

She noted that elite communities were not cooperating with the teams saying, they preferred taking their children to facilities rather than the polio vaccination team coming to them.

"So, we want to talk to the Associations; the people who can make a difference in their decisions and see how best we can come to a compromise in getting access to the apartments and having the children vaccinated,” Dr Matey stated.

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Q&A: ‘We can eradicate polio from the world’ | Al Jazeera English.

[12 Oct 2020]

Nigerian doctor Tunji Funsho talks to Al Jazeera about immunisation efforts in Africa, which was declared wild polio-free this year.

Dr Tunji Funsho was named one of TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people of the year [Photo credit: Rotary International]

Dr Tunji Funsho was named one of TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people of the year [Photo credit: Rotary International]

Saba Aziz writes:

The viral polio disease has over the years crippled hundreds of thousands of children in Africa and other parts of the world.

But on August 25, some four years after Africa’s last case was recorded in northern Nigeria, the continent was declared free of wild polio. Still, vaccine-derived strains of the virus remain in more than a dozen African countries.

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries in the world where the debilitating virus remains endemic.

Polio is transmitted from person to person, mainly through a faecal-oral route or, less frequently, through contaminated water or food. It largely affects children under the age of five, multiplying inside the intestines from where it can invade the nervous system and cause paralysis, according to the World Health Organization.

There is no cure for polio, but the disease can be prevented through the oral administration of a vaccine.

Last month, Dr Tunji Funsho, a cardiologist based in Lagos, Nigeria, was named one of TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people of the year for his work in eradicating wild polio in Africa.

Al Jazeera spoke to Funsho, chair of Rotary International’s Nigeria National PolioPlus Committee, about the progress and challenges in tackling the viral disease, as well as the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on immunisation campaigns.

Al Jazeera: Africa was declared wild polio-free earlier this year. What does this certification mean for the continent as a whole and its people?

Tunji Funsho: It’s a major milestone for us. As recently as 1996, when the Kick Polio out of Africa initiative was inaugurated through the prompting of Rotary International by former South African President Nelson Mandela, Africa was having 70,000 cases of wild poliovirus every year.

It was that initiative that galvanised African countries to start regular mass campaigns, going from house to house to make sure that we don’t lose any child with the oral polio vaccine.

[See source article for embeded video "POLIO-FREE AFRICA: EXPERTS WARN AGAINST BECOMING COMPLACENT" [2:08]]

Twelve years ago, Africa was responsible for about 50 percent of all polio cases in the world, so we see it as a great milestone. But more importantly, no child will ever again be paralysed by wild poliovirus in the African continent.

The lesson is if we can do it in Africa, we can do it in the world. If we can do it in polio, we can do it for any other kind of intervention.

Al Jazeera: Despite the certification, there are still vaccine-derived cases in about 16 countries which are currently experiencing outbreaks. So what kind of challenges and barriers does the continent continue to face?

Funsho: The wild poliovirus is quite distinct from the cases of vaccine-derived polio, which is what is happening in countries mostly in West Africa, the Horn of Africa and parts of central Africa.

With the appropriate outbreak response, we can put an end to vaccine-derived polio within six months.

The current outbreaks are festered because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which had restricted, until last month, our ability to mount robust outbreak response campaigns to immunise children.

I’m quite confident, now that we have restarted the outbreak response in some countries, even vaccine-derived [polio] would be a thing of the past.

Al Jazeera: What effect has the coronavirus pandemic had on the progress made in polio eradication in Africa?

Funsho: It has slowed down the ability to respond immediately to outbreaks of vaccine-derived polio.

It has also impacted our routine ability to ensure we continue to increase our routine immunisation because families have not been accessing primary healthcare facilities because of the pandemic. So, there’s been a dip in routine immunisation, which is very important.

The lesson is if we can do it in Africa, we can do it in the world. If we can do it in polio, we can do it for any other kind of intervention.


It has also diverted resources – both human and material – from polio eradication-related activities to COVID-19 containment activities.

But thankfully, at least in most African countries, COVID-19 is now on a marked decline. We’re able now to improve on our routine immunisation and mount our group response campaigns against vaccine-derived polio.

Al Jazeera: Countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan continue to face challenges because of mistrust and a lack of awareness about the vaccine. Polio workers are often targeted or families refuse to immunise their children. Is that something also seen in Nigeria and other African countries?

Funsho: Predominantly in Nigeria we had those kinds of scenarios between 2001 and 2003, as well as from 2008 to 2009, in Kano and Borno state. But, those have been sporadic. Thankfully, we don’t have that kind of challenge any more in Nigeria, which is what helped us get to the milestone.

[See source article for embeded video "AFGHANISTAN POLIO: DISTRUST OF VACCINE PLAGUES COUNTRY" [2:30]]

Al Jazeera: What more needs to be done to ensure that children in Africa and also around the world remain polio-free? What should be the priority?

Funsho: In Africa, in particular, there’s a need to mount robust advocacy governance at every level and invest in resources that will keep all vaccine-preventable diseases at bay, including the wild poliovirus.

In other words, to ensure that every child gets the routine immunisation, as and when due because that is the kind of guarantee that will prevent the resurgence of polio even if it gets imported from another country.

We need to put a lot of efforts to continue to advocate for governments not to assume that, because Africa has been certified polio-free, resources should be diverted and taken somewhere else.

As a matter of fact, a lot of resources need to be poured into primary healthcare so that the routine immunisation can continue and every child born will get the due numbers of the various antigen needs.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Follow Saba Aziz on Twitter: @saba_aziz


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Assessing coverage of essential maternal and child health interventions using health-facility data in Uganda | Population Health Metrics.

[Open Access] [Received 11 May 2020; Accepted 05 October 2020; Published 09 October 2020]



Nationally representative household surveys are the gold standard for tracking progress in coverage of life-saving maternal and child interventions, but often do not provide timely information on coverage at the local and health facility level. Electronic routine health information system (RHIS) data could help provide this information, but there are currently concerns about data quality. This analysis seeks to improve the usability of and confidence in electronic RHIS data by using adjustments to calculate more accurate numerators and denominators for essential interventions.


Data from three sources (Ugandan Demographic and Health (UDHS) survey, electronic RHIS, and census) were used to provide estimates of essential maternal (> 4 antenatal care visits (ANC), skilled delivery, and postnatal care visit (PNC)) and child health interventions (diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, and hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type b and polio vaccination series, measles vaccination, and vitamin A). Electronic RHIS data was checked for quality and both numerators and denominators were adjusted to improve accuracy. Estimates were compared between the three sources.


Estimates of maternal health interventions from adjusted electronic RHIS data were lower than those of the UDHS, while child intervention estimates were typically higher. Adjustment of electronic RHIS data generally improved accuracy compared with no adjustment. There was considerable agreement between estimates from adjusted, electronic RHIS data, and UDHS for skilled delivery and first dose of childhood vaccination series, but lesser agreement for ANC visits and second and third doses of childhood vaccinations.


Nationally representative household surveys will likely continue being the gold standard of coverage estimates of maternal and child health interventions, but this analysis shows that current approaches to adjusting health facility estimate works better for some indications than others. Further efforts to improve accuracy of estimates from RHIS sources are needed.

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