Tuesday, June 07, 2005

I’d rather be a monkey with Ebola, than an Angolan without

All of the major news agencies are reporting the wonderful news that two vaccines-in-development, one for Marburg and one for Ebola, were 100 percent effective in a study of 12 macaque monkeys. Monkeys given just one shot of vaccine and later injected with a high dose of virus did not even get sick. Normally, all the animals would be expected to die.

The story is newsworthy because of the recent outbreak of the Marburg virus in Angola where virtually 100% of those who have contracted the virus have died. (About 400 people).

Will the vaccine save the lives of Angolans exposed to the virus in future? If the monkey survival rates are any indication, there’s a good chance the vaccines will work. But I bet the vaccine will not work as well in the human population of Angola. Here’s why:

  • Population of Angola: 10.8 million
  • Urban Population: 35%
  • Life Expectancy: 40 years
  • Infant Mortality: 194 per 1,000 live births
  • Under Five Mortality: 260 per 1,000 live births
  • Maternal Mortality Rate: 1,500 per 100,000 live births
  • GNP Per Capita: $500 (by comparison, the GDP per capita of Canada is $31,500 and of the USA is $40,100)
  • Percentage Population With Access To Safe Drinking Water: 38%

So, why won’t the vaccines work as well on the people of Angola?

Because the monkeys that were tested with these vaccines had a much, much better standard of living than the people of Angola, that’s why.

Your average lab chimp gets clean water and enough good food every day to keep him a healthy chimp (otherwise, the drugs he’s being injected with would cause more serious negative side effects, which researchers don’t like to see).

But in Angola, large segments of the population do not have access to basic goods and services, including food, clean water and health care. Fully 70% of the people live below the poverty line. And only 1 in 3 have access to safe water to drink.

You want to curb death by disease in developing countries? It's easy:

Improve the living conditions of your average citizen of a war-torn country to match that of your average laboratory monkey.

Give these people access to clean water, enough food and good sanitation, for God’s sake. Is it really that hard to figure out?

Think about it. Four HUNDRED people have died over the last two months from the Marburg virus. Over the same two months, thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of people have died from malnutrition, water-borne diseases and stepping on one of the 12 MILLION landmines that scatter the countryside in Angola.

Why focus on the Ebola and Marburg vaccines, and not on improving the standard of living in Angola? The answer is dead simple. CNN said it best,

The research has been financed by the Canadian government and U.S. military, which want vaccines in case of a domestic outbreak or a biological attack by terrorists.

And all of those mal-nourished, immune-suppressed people of Angola will become human guinea pigs for the experimental vaccines to benefit paranoid Canadians and Americans. The international community will hold it’s head high proclaiming it has done this for humanitarian purposes. Bullshit. Bullshit. Bullshit. I’m disgusted with the Canadian government. No comment on the U.S military since children may be reading.


Blogger Gina said...

yes, but....Being in Biochemistry before becoming a mother one thing that keep me up at night what hemorrhagic fevers, ebola is just one of these. A great book, The Coming Plague, talks about newly emerging diseases that are springing up because of man's progress in to more and more previously uninhabited areas. The descriptions of hemorrhagic fevers gave me nightmaries and if I lived in an area that ebola was a threat, I wouldn't care if the vaccine made me blind, I'd reather have that then the possiblitiy of a horrible death.

June 07, 2005  
Blogger Toad734 said...

A: We are spending all our money on a war

B: Bush would say "not my problem"

C: Angola has no Oil, nor does Sudan

D: No one told them to put the landmines there

E: The problem with foreign aid is that it never reaches its target, such as the oil for food program. What ends up happening is that you divert money from poor people in rich countries and give it to the rich people in the poor countries. It's like robbing Peter to pay Paul.

June 08, 2005  
Blogger Donna said...

Gina - I think I'll take a pass on that book...sometimes knowledge is a dangerous thing! I may end up on antidepressants.

Toad -
A: in the case of the US, you aren't spending ALL your money on war. You're spending some of it getting ready for the inevitable result of having so many countries despise your gov'ts policies (thus the anti-terrorist vaccines).

B: Really, who cared what Bush says? Wher ethe hell are the democrats and lefty do-gooders?

C: POint well made

D: I wonder who sold them the materials to make the landmines. I do believe the USA has been a landmine manufacturer. But I could be wrong. I do know they have provided arms to both sides of civil wars in other countries.

E: Often true...the USA has got an appalling and increasing poverty class who really should be helped before hand-outs are made overseas. But Canada could be doing much, much better in this area.

June 08, 2005  
Blogger Toad734 said...

Actually the US hasn't manufactured landmines in some time, I believe Italy corners the market in the department, though China and Russia may still manufacture as well.

June 09, 2005  

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