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Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

Syrian Government Vows To Deliver Polio Vaccinations To Children

“Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad vowed on Monday that the government will deliver polio vaccination to children after fresh reports of infections in Syria emerged last week,” Xinhua reports. “Mekdad told reporters that the government does not hinder humanitarian aid efforts to reach different places within the country, adding that some aid organizations reported it was the armed rebels who hindered aid efforts and robbed supply convoys,” the news service writes (11/5). “The outbreak was confirmed as a previously planned immunization campaign was being launched to vaccinate 1.6 million children against polio, measles, mumps and rubella, in both government-controlled and contested areas of Syria,” Reuters notes, adding, “[Mekdad] did not say how the government, fighting a 2-1/2-year-old war with rebels battling to topple President Bashar al-Assad, could guarantee delivery of supplies” (Evans, 11/4).

In related news, Minister of Social Affairs Kindah al-Shammat said “on Sunday that jihadis from Pakistan … who have come to the country to wage jihad are responsible for the outbreak of polio in the rebel-controlled north,” the Associated Press/CBS News reports. “Also Sunday, the leader of the main Western-backed opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, called on aid and medical supplies to be allowed into blockaded parts of the embattled country, particularly where contagious diseases were spreading,” the news service writes (11/3).

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World Bank, E.U. Pledge $8.25B To Boost Economic Growth In Sahel

“The World Bank and the European Union are pledging $8.25 billion to boost economic growth and fight poverty in Africa’s Sahel region,” according to an announcement made on Monday during a trip to the region by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, the Associated Press/Washington Post reports. “The E.U. is donating $6.75 billion over seven years,” while “[t]he World Bank is contributing $1.5 billion over two years,” the news service adds (11/4). “Ban, Kim and top officials from the African Union, African Development Bank and European Union [were] in Mali on Monday and [will] travel to Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad” in an effort “to highlight the battle against poverty [in some of] Africa’s worst-off nations,” Agence France-Presse writes, noting, “Eleven million of the 80 million people living in Sahel countries lack sufficient food, the region has had three severe droughts in a decade and Ban says it is ‘awash with weapons’” (11/1).

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WHO Reports Additional Laboratory-Confirmed MERS Case In Saudi Arabia

The WHO “said Monday it has been informed of an additional laboratory-confirmed case of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection in Saudi Arabia,” RTT News reports. “The patient was a 56-year-old woman from Saudi Arabia’s eastern region, who became ill on October 26 and died on October 30,” the news service writes, noting, “She had no contact with animals, but had contact with a previously laboratory-confirmed case” (11/4). “Globally, from September 2012 to date, WHO has been informed of a total of 150 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV, including 64 deaths,” the health agency notes in a press release, adding, “Based on the current situation and available information, WHO encourages all member states to continue their surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) and to carefully review any unusual patterns” (11/4).

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ScienceInsider Reports On Dutch Court Case Involving Sensitive Bird Flu Research

ScienceInsider reports on a “legal battle between Ron Fouchier and the Dutch government over the publication of controversial research on the H5N1 avian influenza virus.” According to the news service, “On Friday, Fouchier’s employer, Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, formally appealed a ruling by a Dutch court that the government was within its rights when it put limits on Fouchier’s freedom to publish his work with the virus.” ScienceInsider writes, “The appeal is the latest twist in the long-running saga of two papers showing how a few mutations can make H5N1 more transmissible among mammals.” The news service describes the case and other research organizations’ stances on sensitive studies (Enserink, 11/4).

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Cambodia, Nigeria Make Progress Vaccinating Children Against Measles, Rubella

Cambodia has immunized one million children with the measles and rubella vaccines, and aims to reach all four million children between the ages of nine months and 15 years in the country, according to the health ministry, Xinhua/Global Times reports. “I urge every family in the country to bring their children to join in this campaign as it continues across the country in the next two months,” Health Minister Mam Bunheng said in a statement, according to the news agency. Cambodia has not recorded a measles case since 2011, the news agency notes (11/5). Meanwhile, “[a]bout 1.2 million children will be vaccinated against measles in a preventive program” in the southeast of Nigeria, Xinhua reports. “As of September, the West African country had recorded 53,842 cases of measles, of which 330 died, marking a sharp rise from a year ago, when there were 104 deaths from 8,243 reported cases,” the news agency writes (11/5).

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Deutsche Welle Interviews Global Network For NTDs Managing Director

Deutsche Welle interviews Neeraj Mistry, the managing director of the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, about the challenge of eliminating neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). According to the interview transcript, Mistry examines why NTDs “fail to get the attention they need,” provides examples of “what can happen if these diseases are treated,” and reflects on the role NTDs “should play in the post-2015 development agenda,” among other topics (Rasper/Isenson, 11/4).

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One HPV Vaccine Dose Enough To Produce Immune Response, Study Shows

“Just one dose of the HPV vaccine Cervarix appears to provide enough of an immune response to protect women from two strains of human papillomavirus (HPV) and ultimately cervical cancer, according to a new study published Monday,” CNN’s “The Chart” blog reports (11/4). “The HPV vaccine is currently recommended as a three-dose series, but doctors have found it difficult to finish out the series for many girls,” HealthDay News notes (Thompson, 11/4). “The study focused on a population of nearly 7,500 women ages 18 to 25 in Costa Rica. Although all were supposed to receive the recommended three doses of the HPV vaccine at different times, about 20 percent of participants did not,” Al Jazeera America writes (11/4). Researchers found that women who had received one, two or three doses “had antibodies against virulent strains of HPV, known as 16 and 18,” Agence France-Presse/GlobalPost notes (11/4). If the number of recommended doses could be reduced from three to one, the vaccination schedule would be simplified and less expensive, making it more accessible in developing countries, according to study co-author Mahboobeh Safaeian of the National Cancer Institute, LiveScience/NBC News reports (Rettner, 11/4).

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WHO Approves Japanese Encephalitis Vaccine

The WHO “has approved a new vaccine for [Japanese] encephalitis,” a disease “that kills thousands of children and leaves many survivors with permanent brain damage,” the New York Times reports. “Less than one percent of those infected get seriously ill, but it kills up to 15,000 children a year and disables many more,” the newspaper writes, noting there is no cure. “The low-cost vaccine, approved last month, is the first authorized by the agency for children and the first Chinese-made vaccine it has approved,” the newspaper writes (McNeil, 11/4).

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Editorials and Opinions

Letters To Editor Respond To New York Times Editorial On Polio In Syria

Two letters to the editor of the New York Times respond to an editorial on the spread of polio in Syria, published in the newspaper last week. “You’re right to say that the best way to help end the suffering of Syrians is to end the civil war,” but “the Syrian people can’t afford to wait for the outcome of talks,” Bernice Romero, senior director for public policy and advocacy of international humanitarian response for Save the Children, writes in the first letter. “Governments and armed groups need to ensure aid and access for humanitarian workers now to reach those in need, including those affected by polio,” she states, concluding, “To have a fighting chance to contain the polio outbreak, relief agencies need to vaccinate scores of children inside Syria within weeks. We can’t afford to wait months; we need resources and safe humanitarian access now.”

In a separate letter, Mercy Corps Chief Executive Neal Keny-Guyer offers four recommendations for the response in Syria. “The international community needs to meet the United Nations’ request for $4.4 billion,” “allocate more flexible funding for aid efforts,” “support all of Syria’s neighbors — both politically and financially — and help them manage the strain of millions of new residents,” and “support the United Nations’ call for all parties to respect the world body’s guiding principles of humanitarian emergency assistance and for greater humanitarian access,” he writes. “The better the job we do taking care of people, the better the prospects for a safe Syria, where people can expect a better future,” he concludes (11/4).

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Opinion Pieces Respond To FT Magazine Interview With Bill Gates

Financial Times Magazine on Friday published an exclusive interview with Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, about his views on whether technology can be used to “solve a tangle of entrenched and interrelated problems that afflict humanity’s most vulnerable: the spread of diseases in the developing world and the poverty, lack of opportunity and despair they engender.” According to the interview, “Bill Gates describes himself as a technocrat,” but “he is under no illusions that [access to the internet] will do much to improve the lives of the world’s poorest” (Waters, 11/1). “‘I certainly love the IT thing … But when we want to improve lives, you’ve got to deal with more basic things like child survival, child nutrition,’ Gates said” in the interview, Mashable notes (Strange, 11/5). The following is a summary of two opinion pieces written in response to the interview.

  • Paul Szoldra, Business Insider: “In a fascinating interview in Financial Times Magazine, Bill Gates took a shot at tech billionaires trying to provide internet connections in the developing world, dismissing their efforts as unimportant when compared to providing the basics like running water,” front page editor Szoldra writes. “It’s a not-so-thinly-veiled shot at tech giants like Google and Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who wrote that ‘connecting the world is one of the greatest challenges of our generation’ back in August,” he continues. He notes Gates said in the interview, “Hmm, which is more important, connectivity or malaria vaccine? If you think connectivity is the key thing, that’s great. I don’t.” Szoldra writes, “Nowadays, it seems [Gates is] at odds with some in Silicon Valley who think tech is the way to save the world” (11/2).
  • Tim Worstall, Forbes: “I still would insist that connectivity is indeed what needs to happen and that it will be vastly more productive to worry about that than about any one other point,” Worstall, a Forbes contributor, writes. “Yes, even than malaria vaccines and the eradication of polio, hugely important subjects though those are,” he states, adding, “For the main problem in the world is not disease, nor malnutrition, nor education: it’s poverty. … Thus the great need of our time is to bring the tools of wealth creation to those places that don’t have it” (11/2).

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Rwanda's Emergency Medicine Trainee Program Addresses Gaps In Response To Injuries

“As in most of the developing world, [road accidents] now represent a large and growing cause of death and disability in Rwanda,” Adam Levine, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Brown Medical School, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog. “According to the [WHO], nearly one in 10 deaths worldwide are due to injuries,” he notes, adding, “Yet until now, few resources have been put into training physicians, nurses, and pre-hospital providers in low-income countries to manage injuries correctly and develop the types of trauma systems that have so drastically reduced mortality in North America and Europe over the past several decades.” Levine highlights “emergency medicine faculty from Brown and Columbia Universities, who have been working to develop [a] new emergency medicine training program in Rwanda.” Graduates of the program will “improve to the point where they are prepared to not only provide high-quality care for individual emergency cases on their own, but also to run an entire emergency care system for this rapidly developing country.” He concludes, “And given the expected increase in need for emergency and trauma care in Rwanda and other developing countries over the next several decades, it will be none too soon” (11/4).

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Recent Releases

U.S. Should Ratify Disabilities Treaty

“On Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will begin considering the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Disabilities Treaty), which embodies, at the international level, the principles of non-discrimination, equality of opportunity, accessibility, and inclusion grounded in our own Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA),” Judith Heumann, special adviser for international disability rights at the State Department, writes in the agency’s “DipNote” blog. “More than 130 countries have ratified the Disabilities Treaty, but the United States has not,” she notes, adding, “Joining the treaty is the best tool we have to promote and export our disability rights gold standard, open markets for U.S. businesses, encourage meaningful systemic improvements in other countries, and open the world to Americans with disabilities wishing to work, travel, study, and serve abroad.” She concludes, “The time is now for action on the Disabilities Treaty” (11/4).

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Food Aid Reform Would Allow U.S. To Reach More People With 'Life-Saving Assistance'

Noting a conference committee is meeting “to resolve the differences in the House and Senate versions” of the Farm Bill, including language on food aid reform, ONE’s Ted Brennan writes in the organization’s blog, “It is here in the conference committee where we have a real opportunity to include real food aid reform in the final bill.” He continues, “Specifically, the conferees should [a]uthorize local and regional procurement as a tool for delivering food assistance” and “[r]educe monetization through increased flexibility of program funding and establish cost recovery targets for monetization activities.” Making these reforms “will enable us to reach thousands or even millions more people with life-saving assistance in times of conflict, food crises, and other humanitarian emergencies,” he concludes (11/4).

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Highlights From GAVI Alliance Mid-Term Review Meeting

“I traveled to Stockholm last week for the GAVI Alliance’s Mid-Term Review (MTR) meeting to take stock of the progress GAVI has achieved and explore its challenges and opportunities in the years ahead,” Erin Hohlfelder, global health policy director at ONE, writes in the ONE blog. She highlights four reoccurring themes from the meeting, including an emphasis on results, the concepts of childhood and parenthood as “important motivators,” what to expect from GAVI in its “adolescent” phase, and a desire for data and transparency (11/4).

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Researchers Examining Potential For HIV Prevention Vaginal Ring

The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog examines “the potential for a microbicide-containing vaginal ring that could remain in place for a month” as a tool for HIV prevention, noting “two grants from USAID totaling as much as $40 million” are helping researchers pursue the possibility. The blog discusses ongoing research and includes comments from International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM) Chief Executive Zeda Rosenberg (Barton, 11/4).

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