Update on report-writing progress

It has been a few weeks since I updated this blog – not because I haven’t been doing anything but because, now that I’m back in the UK, I have needed to spend time reflecting on exactly what recommendations I’m going to come up with and how my report will be structured.

It has also been an opportunity to update the format of this blog, in preparation for my report’s release, so have added two new sections:


Contact me

At the present time I expect that my report will be ready on 1 November 2014. In the meantime, I might be a little bit more quiet on this blog whilst I concentrate on pulling together all of the information I gathered during my 10 weeks away from the UK. If anything happens in the meantime I’ll update things here!

Until then, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

You might also be interested to know that the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust has opened its call for applications for the 2015 Fellowships. What are you waiting for!? Get your application in here before 17:00 (BST) on Friday 23 September 2014!


Polio. A public health emergency of international concern.

Well done easyJet!

I didn’t think I’d be saying that at the start of a very short post about the recent international spread of wild poliovirus.

The timing of this video is excellent – and I really hope that people about to embark upon their summer holidays who are flying with easyJet pay particular attention to the video. Combat the spread of this disease is a task of mammoth proportions.

In May 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a statement declaring that the recent international spread of wild poliovirus is a public health emergency of international concern. In order to prevent further spread of polio, the WHO has issued temporary recommendations under the International Health Regulations (2005).

The current situation regarding polio vaccine for travellers to Afghanistan, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Israel, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia and Syria has been updated.

These ten countries are all experiencing grave problems with outbreaks of polio and have put more stringent procedures in place about vaccine requirements for travellers. The previous UK advice for polio vaccine was to boost every ten years, but these ten countries are now requiring travellers who are going to settings with extremely poor hygiene (e.g. refugee camps), or likely to be in close proximity with cases (e.g. healthcare workers), and/or who are visiting for ≥ 6 months to have a booster dose of polio-containing vaccine if they have not received vaccination in the past 12 months.

A booster dose of vaccine within 1-12 months of travel, boosts intestinal mucosal immunity and reduces the risk of poliovirus shedding, and so may help in the international public health response to reduce transmission of polio in these countries.

Very recently, the government of Pakistan stepped-up its requirements, and now requires all departing travellers who have spent ≥ 4 weeks in Pakistan to produce a valid vaccination certificate at the time of their departure. This certificate should show that polio vaccine has been administered in the last 1-12 months. I think that the other affected countries are likely to follow suit and also put these more stringent procedures in place. This vaccine must be recorded in a proper international yellow fever certificate vaccination booklet.

ADVICE MAY CHANGE, of course, and it is possible that other countries may soon give the same advice as Pakistan and require vaccination within the last year for anyone who is travelling for more than four weeks, regardless of occupation/purpose of travel. Further advice may be released by the WHO in due course but people travelling to one of these ten countries ought to ensure that they receive individual medical advice as soon as possible before travelling.

Aside from the really excellent choice of campaign, I really like the way that easyJet’s video has been produced – it doesn’t have crew dressed in perfectly pressed uniforms as if they have just stepped off a model shoot and, in my view, it maintains the dignity of the children and families who feature in it. I’ve written more about dignity in my blog, Living on a Railway Line.

Polio is a very nasty disease indeed and I hope that, through efforts such as these, UNICEF and other organisations will be in a much better place to help deal with the current international public health emergency that really does exist.