Media/Policy Watch [to 1 August 2015]

Media/Policy Watch
This section is intended to alert readers to substantive news, analysis and opinion from the general media on vaccines, immunization, global; public health and related themes. Media Watch is not intended to be exhaustive, but indicative of themes and issues CVEP is actively tracking. This section will grow from an initial base of newspapers, magazines and blog sources, and is segregated from Journal Watch above which scans the peer-reviewed journal ecology.

We acknowledge the Western/Northern bias in this initial selection of titles and invite suggestions for expanded coverage. We are conservative in our outlook in adding news sources which largely report on primary content we are already covering above. Many electronic media sources have tiered, fee-based subscription models for access. We will provide full-text where content is published without restriction, but most publications require registration and some subscription level.

Accessed 1 August 2015
Vaccines That Alter Evolution
An evolutionary biologist has finally found experimental backing for a controversial idea that could change the course of vaccine development. In 2001, Penn State professor Andrew Read proposed that “leaky” vaccines – ones that allow transmission of disease organisms – might prompt the evolution of more dangerous strains. Many existing vaccines are […]
Faye Flam, Contributor Jul 28, 2015

How Big Data Can Make People Healthier In Emerging Markets
In many emerging markets, reliable data on healthcare systems is limited or nonexistent. This makes it difficult to address urgent healthcare challenges in some of the world’s least developed countries. But a growing number of tech entrepreneurs and public health activists are finding ways to fill the data gaps. And as smartphones and other […]
Techonomy, Contributor Jul 30, 2015

New York Times
Accessed 1 August 2015
New Meningitis Strain in Africa Brings Call for More Vaccines
Meningitis may be poised for a ferocious comeback in Africa, international aid organizations are warning, and vaccine manufacturers must step up production if the outbreak is to be averted.
Meningitis is caused by one of several strains of the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis. A vaccine introduced five years ago has all but defeated meningitis A infections in Africa. But infections with another strain, Type C, are on the rise.
Some experts fear the new strain will explode next year, while others say too little is known to predict its course reliably.
Meningitis C vaccines exist but are expensive: $20 per shot is the lowest price offered thus far to an international public health consortium, led by the World Health Organization, that stockpiles vaccines for emergencies.
The consortium, the International Coordinating Group for Vaccine Provision for Epidemic Meningitis Control, is seeking five million doses. To be effective, they must be shipped and injected before January, when meningitis normally returns to Africa with the dry harmattan winds.
Unless something drastic happens — a surge of donor money, or huge price cuts — the consortium’s experts do not hold out much hope…

Washington Post
Accessed 1 August 2015
Kenya’s Catholic bishops call for polio vaccine boycott
28 July 2015
By Fredrick Nzwili | Religion News Service
NAIROBI, Kenya — Roman Catholic bishops in Kenya have urged citizens to boycott a mass polio vaccination campaign, unless the safety of the vaccine has been confirmed through scientific tests.
The oral vaccination campaign, by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, is scheduled to begin in Kenya on Aug. 1.
Ahead of the campaign’s launch, the bishops questioned the safety of the vaccines, saying the manufacturer failed to provide requested information and the government disregarded the bishops’ request for tests.
Their concerns heightened after a recent unrelated incident in which about 30 children who received an injection of an anti-malarial drug in a dispensary in western Kenya appeared to be paralyzed. The drug, believed to be quinine for advanced cases, was found to contain the pain drug paracetamol, according to the bishops. Paracetamol is also known as acetaminophen.
The government Ministry of Health defended the vaccine in a statement issued Tuesday (July 28.)…

The Post’s View
Putting out the fire, next time
By Editorial Board
26 July 2015
THE EBOLA virus has not been eliminated from West Africa, but the public health crisis has eased. The virus, for which there is no ready cure, infected more than 27,000 people and caused more than 11,000 deaths since the outbreak began in early 2014. The pain and suffering have been immense. Now it is time to confront another hard problem: addressing the weaknesses in global response that allowed the virus to spread so rapidly. Without the urgency of another outbreak, national governments and the World Health Organization will be disinclined to change the way they do business. But change they must, or there will be another wave of disease, panic and unnecessary death.
The WHO’s lethargic response to Ebola in West Africa has brought calls for creation of a new organization that would have responsibility for emergency response. The belief in the need for rapid response to infectious disease has been gathering steam with a succession of outbreaks that spanned national borders: severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS; bird flu; swine flu; Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS; and Ebola virus disease. Although different in transmission, virulence and danger to people, all of these tested the ability of humankind to respond.

Now, a panel appointed by WHO Director General Margaret Chan has examined all aspects of the organization’s response to the Ebola outbreak and concluded that a new organization is not the right answer. The panel declared in a report that such an agency would take too much time to set up and be unnecessarily duplicative. Instead, the panel said, the WHO “must re-establish its pre-eminence as the guardian of global public health.”

This is a tall order, and the panel’s report explains why. A sea change in thinking and organization will be needed. The WHO “does not currently possess the capacity or organizational culture to deliver a full emergency public health response,” the panel stated. “There are no core funds for emergency response.” The WHO’s overall weakness in this field was underscored by the stark fact that it was not the WHO but rather Doctors Without Borders, a charity, that took the early lead in warning about Ebola and in battling the virus in West Africa.

The panel offered a host of valuable ideas for improvement, including creation of a WHO center for emergency response and a contingency fund to support it. The WHO says it is already working on the fund. The panel also pointed out that the WHO was slow in declaring a “public health emergency of international concern” because messages from the field about Ebola either “did not reach senior leaders or senior leaders did not recognize their significance.” A more sensitive early warning system is needed. The WHO is made up of member states, but they, too, performed poorly. Many have failed to implement stronger standards for public health adopted a decade ago with the goal of spotting and reporting local outbreaks that could become a global emergency. This neglect is irresponsible and could be repaid in deadly epidemics to come.