The Vaccine Casebook was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 8 pm on Tuesday 4 January 2011. A team of Danish and African health specialists has been monitoring a population there and has come up with interesting findings that could influence public health policies. They have found that immunisations and vitamin supplements can have unexpected effects – both good and bad – on the immune systems of children. They have published many papers in leading medical journals and they have already influenced the WHO (World Health Organisation) to withdraw a measles vaccine that was not safe.
Infections are a major threat to children in many countries and malnutrition makes them less able to fight off the diseases although the researchers do not think that malnutrition is important in the community they are studying, saying that nutritious foods such as fruit and fish are readily found.
After listening to the programme I am intrigued but not clear about what is going on. It is one of those subjects where there is controversy and experts do not all agree. One speaker on the programme said that if the team in Guinea Bissau are correct then there needs to be a "paradigm shift".
It does appear that there is a difference between girls and boys in the way that immunisations act on the immune system and that there can be unexpected dangers for girls. Another finding that is interesting is that the age at which an immunisation is given can change the risks.
You might think that I have forgotten about the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) after writing about some of them but I am back on the case now and I am pleased to see that the Guardian has a section about the goals within its Global Development News.
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