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The story with maternal and neonatal tetanus

We’ve mentioned tetanus a few times in recent blog posts (like here and here) and I thought I’d briefly explain just why tetanus is such a big deal for us. In the U.S., we’re routinely vaccinated against tetanus as kids, and we generally don’t have to worry about it unless we have an accident that makes us vulnerable”like stepping on a rusty nail or falling down some old stairs (as I did a few weeks ago, necessitating a tetanus booster shot).

But, in many countries, tetanus remains a very big problem. It’s a truly awful and painful condition that develops when a bacteria, Clostridium Tetani, contaminates a wound or cut. (For more information than you may want about tetanus, check out this Wikipedia page.) And in some countries, the fatality rate for tetanus is 70 to 100 percent.


tetanus1A.jpg
UNICEF/ HQ00-0003/Giacomo Pirozzi

We’ve mentioned tetanus a few times in recent blog posts (like here and here) and I thought I’d briefly explain just why tetanus is such a big deal for us. In the U.S., we’re routinely vaccinated against tetanus as kids. We generally don’t have to worry about it unless we have an accident that makes us vulnerable, like stepping on a rusty nail or falling down some old stairs (as I did a few weeks ago, necessitating a tetanus booster shot).

But, in many countries, tetanus remains a very big problem. It’s a truly awful and painful condition that develops when a bacteria, Clostridium Tetani, contaminates a wound or cut. (For more information than you may want about tetanus, check out this Wikipedia page.) And in some countries, the fatality rate for tetanus is 70 to 100 percent.


tetanus1A.jpg
UNICEF/ HQ00-0003/Giacomo Pirozzi

In countries where women have little access to health care, and are forced to give birth in unsanitary conditions, mothers and newborns are dangerously susceptible to tetanus because the bacterial spores can easily pass through a newly cut umbilical cord. We refer to this as maternal neonatal tetanus (MNT) and each year it kills approximately 140,000 infants and 30,000 women in developing countries.

This statistic is particularly heartbreaking because the tetanus vaccine has been available for years and is a mere 5 cents per dose. UNICEF has vaccinated tens of millions of mothers and newborns against MNT, and it’s definitely made a difference; nine years ago the number of annual newborn deaths from tetanus was 215,000, which means vaccination campaigns have been saving 75,000 lives each year. And since 2000, UNICEF has helped eliminate MNT completely in 11 counties. We’ll continue to work hard around the world until MNT is nothing more than a brief entry in a dusty medical history book. Even as I write this, for instance, UNICEF is collaborating on a massive campaign in Yemen to vaccinate close to a million women who are pregnant or of childbearing age.

We’re lucky to have excellent partners in the fight against MNT. The Pampers “One Pack=One Vaccine” campaign“with help from the campaign’s ambassador, actress and new mom Salma Hayek”has already helped provide funding for more than 25 million tetanus vaccines. And it’s brought attention to this underreported child survival issue. Have you seen the Pampers “One Pack=One Vaccine” ad yet? You can take a look here.

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