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Also In Global Health News: H1N1; USAID’s Global Pulse; Rotavirus Vaccine; Uzbek Doctors; Zimbabwe Development; Malaria Vaccine

Independent Committee Formed To Evaluate WHO’s Response To H1N1; Cuba To Offer H1N1 Vaccine To 1.1 M

WHO flu chief Keiji Fukuda on Monday announced that a group of 29 independent scientists and public health experts has been formed to evaluate the response of the organization and national governments to the emergence of H1N1 (swine flu), the Associated Press reports. According to Fukuda, the committee will hold its first meeting April 12-14 (3/29).

In related news, the AP reports in a second story, “Cuba will begin vaccinating nearly 10 percent of its citizens against swine flu next week, reversing its previous skepticism about the high cost and effectiveness of immunization to combat the virus.” More than 1.1 million people in the country believed to be vulnerable to the virus will receive the vaccine, as early as April 1, the “Communist Party newspaper Granma said Friday,” the AP reports. The vaccines to be distributed were donated by the WHO (3/27).

USAID’s Global Pulse 2010

USAID is sponsoring an online discussion “with anyone who has ideas and or solutions to some of the pressing global challenges,” as part of its Global Pulse 2010, March 29 – 31, Stabroek News reports. According to the news service, Global Pulse 2010 “is part of the strategy of the Obama administration in reaching out to partners across the globe” to discuss “pressing challenges within specified fields – women and girls; education; partnerships; political and civil rights; global health; a sustainable planet and entrepreneurship, trade and economic opportunity among other areas” (3/27). USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, said in a press release, “We will take many of these ideas and change the way we work based on what we hear” (3/24).

EMEA Says GSK’s Rotavirus Vaccine Is Safe

The European Medicines Agency (EMEA) on Friday said there were no safety concerns due to the presence of a pig virus in GlaxoSmithKline’s Rotavirus vaccine, Reuters reports. “The agency’s stance contrasts with the United States and Switzerland, where regulators have temporarily stopped doctors using the vaccine which protects children against a diarrhoea-causing virus called rotavirus,” the news service writes (Sandle, 3/26).

AP Examines Efforts By Uzbek Authorities To Restrict Doctors’ Travel Abroad To Medical Conferences

The Associated Press reports on efforts by authorities in Uzbekistan to restrict the country’s doctors from traveling to international medical conferences. “Limiting Uzbek doctors’ exposure to foreign expertise is likely to further hinder the authoritarian ex-Soviet nation’s troubled health care system, which has struggled to deal with outbreaks of HIV and tuberculosis,” the news service writes (Leonard, 3/26).

U.K. Development Committee Assesses Aid In Zimbabwe

According to a U.K. International Development Committee report from a group of MP’s visiting Zimbabwe, British aid “is reaching the poor and vulnerable but the plight of children in the country remains a serious concern,” BBC News reports. According to the news service, British aid to the country is channeled through aid agencies and not Zimbabwe’s government (3/26). Malcolm Bruce, chair of the committee said, “[T]he donor agencies and aid agencies were able to function in delivering some pretty impressive services in the form of education and health, infrastructure, livelihoods – but that was on the basis of a huge reduction in activity in previous years. So there is a massive backlog and they are by no means turning the situation around,” VOA News reports. The article includes comments from Bruce on E.U. sanctions in Zimbabwe as well as the power-sharing government there (3/26).

Media Examines Potential Malaria Vaccine

Seattle Biomedical Research Institute is readying to test the safety of its genetically engineered malaria vaccine in humans, the Seattle Times’ blog “The Business of Giving,” reports. After determining safety, “[t]he next part involves infecting the vaccinated group with malaria later this year. The trial, to be held at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, involves 26 people. Results will be announced in early 2011,” the blog reports (Heim, 3/26). Xconomy.com examines the potential vaccine’s development over the last nine years and the process by which it will be tested (Timmerman, 3/26).