Media/Policy Watch

Media/Policy Watch
This watch section is intended to alert readers to substantive news, analysis and opinion from the general media and selected think tanks and similar organizations 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.
The Atlantic
Accessed 1 July 2017
[No new, unique, relevant content]
A Clever New Way to Predict Next Year’s Flu
A study suggests an unusual strategy to make vaccines more effective.
Sarah Zhang
Jun 27, 2017
…In search of new ways to understand flu evolution, a group of scientists in Seattle decided to try something unusual. They didn’t bother to look at ordinary people sick with the flu. They instead decided to track how H3N2 viruses change in people with weakened immune systems, who come down with the flu for months at a time. Surprisingly, the mutations that arose in these patients ended up being some of the same ones that dominated global trends years later. Just four patients were microcosms for the greater world when it came to flu evolution…

How the World Can Prepare for the Next Pandemic
Global outbreaks like the 2014 episode of Ebola are a certainty in a connected world, which means public-health authorities have to think across borders too.
David A. Graham
Jun 30, 2017

Accessed 1 July 2017
John Oliver Brought Emotions To A Data Fight, And I Think He Won
30 June 2017
Kavin Senapathy, Contributor
The vaccine segment of Last Week Tonight is a lesson in persuasion.

Foreign Policy
Accessed 1 July 2017
Laurie Garrett: Science Won’t Save Vaccines From Lawsuits Anymore
Europe’s highest court has just cleared the way for vaccine-truthers to sue manufacturers, even without any evidence.
26 June 2017

The Guardian
Accessed 1 July 2017
John Oliver on vaccines: One of humanity’s most incredible accomplishments
26 June 2017
On Last Week Tonight, the host used his monologue to focus on the growing anti-vaccine feeling, ‘amplified by the human megaphone that is the president’.
John Oliver talked about vaccines on Sunday night, exploring their history, politicization and the growing number of skeptics.
“Vaccines are one of humanity’s most incredible accomplishments and they’ve saved millions of lives,” Oliver began. “There was a time when a new one was cause for huge celebration. It’s true – people lined up for the polio shot like it was an iPhone.
“But despite their success, small groups are both skeptical and vocal about vaccines, which is nothing new,” he continued. “But these days their voice has been amplified by the human megaphone that is the president of the United States.”…

New York Times
Accessed 1 July 2017
Stopping Pandemics Before They Start
Ebola was finally stopped by rushing a vaccine to Africa. Now a project is planning to be more ready for the next pandemic threat [CEPI].
June 27, 2017 – By TINA ROSENBERG – Opinion
U.N. Brought Cholera to Haiti. Now It Is Fumbling Effort to Atone.
JUNE 26, 2017
Even as the United Nations expresses growing alarm over a cholera outbreak in war-ravaged Yemen, the organization is increasingly worried about the fallout from a stubborn cholera scourge in Haiti that was caused by its own peacekeepers more than six years ago.

A $400 million voluntary trust fund for Haiti to battle cholera was created last year by Ban Ki-moon, then the secretary general, when he apologized for the United Nations’ role after having repeatedly denied any responsibility. But the fund, meant in part to compensate cholera victims, garnered only a few million dollars and is now nearly empty.
Entreaties by Mr. Ban’s successor, António Guterres, for charitable contributions have gone unanswered. Moreover, a proposal announced on June 14 by Mr. Guterres’s office to repurpose $40.5 million in leftover money from the soon-to-be disbanded peacekeeping mission in Haiti for use in the cholera fight has faced strong resistance from other countries…

Washington Post
We’re closer than ever to eradicating Polio — and yet there’s Syria
25 June 2017
By Editorial Board June 25
WONDERFUL AS it is to recall the glories of the manned space program — the exhilaration and sense of infinite possibilities for humanity — there were also setbacks, disasters and disappointments. Something similar is happening now with polio and the world’s longest and most ambitious quest to eradicate the poliovirus, which is highly contagious, largely strikes children under 5 years old and can cause permanent paralysis. Thanks to vaccination, the eradication effort is closer to success today than at any time in 30 years. Yet all of a sudden, a new outbreak has appeared in Syria. Is the goal about to be lost?

Not exactly, but the mixture of optimism and worry is warranted. As recently as the mid-1980s, polio paralyzed more than 350,000 children a year in 125 countries where it was endemic. As Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates pointed out recently, that’s 40 cases an hour. By contrast, so far this year, the last three endemic countries have reported a total of only six cases of wild poliovirus, fewer than at any moment ever: four in Afghanistan and two in Pakistan, and none so far this year in Nigeria. This is an extraordinary accomplishment by people, biomedicine and philanthropy. Just a few years ago, Pakistan, for example, appeared to be spinning out of control, with vaccination workers murdered while on the job, and whole sectors beyond reach of immunization. Globally, some 16 million people are walking today who might otherwise have been afflicted with paralysis from polio, Mr. Gates noted.

The numbers are so low today that eradication may indeed be within reach, if there is not another setback in the remaining endemic countries. For this, immunization and surveillance must be sustained. On June 12, philanthropists and governments once again backed the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, a public-private partnership aimed at the second-ever eradication of a disease, after smallpox. At the Rotary International convention in Atlanta, $1.2 billion was pledged. Up to $150 million raised in the next three years by Rotary International, which has been at the forefront of the battle since 1985, will be matched two-to-one by the Gates Foundation, which pledged a total of $450 million, including the match. The remaining will come from other donors, all to make sure there is no relapse and a final fight to the finish.

The one dark spot is Syria, where a fresh outbreak has paralyzed 17 children, most from Mayadin, south of Deir al-Zour, and one child from Raqqa, where the Islamic State is headquartered. This is the second polio outbreak of the war. It was caused by a weakened form of the virus from the polio vaccine itself, which in rare cases mutates and becomes virulent against the unvaccinated, spreading through contaminated sewage or water. The real culprit is the upheaval of war. Fortunately, there is an effective vaccine and a fair amount of experience in extinguishing such an outbreak, and with enough effort and immunization, it can be contained.

The moonshot may yet succeed.