KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

World's Leading Scientists, Research Journals, Funders Pledge To Share Data On Zika

Deutsche Welle: Top scientists pledge to share Zika data to hasten global response
“Top research institutions, funders, and publishers said in a statement on Wednesday they would come together to share data in response to the public health emergency posed by the rapid spread of the Zika virus…” (2/11).

Reuters: World’s top scientists pledge to share all findings to fight Zika
“…Signatories to Wednesday’s agreement to share the fruits of that research included the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Health Organization (WHO), France’s Institut Pasteur, the U.K. Academy of Medical Sciences, and the Wellcome Trust global health charity. Scientific journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine, Nature, Science, and The Lancet, pledged to ‘make all content concerning the Zika virus free to access’…” (Kelland, 2/10).

Science: A plea for open science on Zika
“…The initiative to draw up and circulate the statement came from Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust in London. ‘It’s extremely heartening to see so many leading international organizations united in this unprecedented commitment to open science, reinforcing the decision by the WHO to declare Zika a Public Health Emergency of International Concern,’ Farrar says. [The] pledge does not cover sharing of physical samples, which has been flagged as an issue in the current outbreak…” (Vogel, 2/10).

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WHO, CDC, Other Scientists Continue Research Into Possible Causal Link Between Zika, Microcephaly

CIDRAP News: WHO addresses Zika fears as more microcephaly findings surface
“The World Health Organization (WHO) [Wednesday] released a comprehensive backgrounder on Zika virus issues related to childbearing-age women, covering reports of sexual transmission and contraception resources, as researchers promised open data sharing and reported new Zika-related microcephaly findings…” (Schnirring, 2/10).

Nature: Proving Zika link to birth defects poses huge challenge
“Public health authorities are investigating whether the Zika virus has caused an apparent surge in the number of infants born with microcephaly, or abnormally small heads, in at least seven countries. But conclusively determining whether the mosquito-borne virus is to blame could take months to years, researchers say…” (Hayden, 2/9).

Reuters: WHO advises women on Zika protection but no travel advisories
“The World Health Organization advised women on Wednesday on how to protect themselves from Zika, particularly if pregnant, but also reassured them that most women in areas affected by the mosquito-borne virus will give birth to ‘normal infants’…” (Nebehay/Kelland, 2/10).

USA TODAY: CDC confirms link between Zika, microcephaly in Brazilian babies who died
“The Centers for Disease Control has identified the Zika virus in the tissue of two babies who died in Brazil from microcephaly — the strongest link yet between the virus and the birth defect that has stricken developing fetuses, the CDC director told a House panel Wednesday…” (Kelly, 2/10).

Wall Street Journal: New Study Links Zika Virus to Microcephaly
“A study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine provides new evidence of a link between the Zika virus and microcephaly, a birth defect in which babies are born with undersized brains and skulls. Researchers in Ljubljana, Slovenia, found the mosquito-borne virus in the brain tissue of a microcephalic fetus that had been carried by a 25-year-old European woman who had symptoms of the disease in the 13th week of her pregnancy, when she was living in Brazil. … The findings in the new study ‘do not provide absolute proof that Zika virus causes microcephaly,’ Eric J. Rubin, professor of immunology and infectious diseases at the Harvard School of Public Health, and colleagues wrote in an accompanying editorial. But it ‘makes the link stronger,’ they said, noting that proving causation in certain situations can be difficult…” (McKay, 2/10).

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Experts See Barriers In Current Vaccine R&D System for Zika, Other Neglected Diseases, International Business Times Reports

International Business Times: Zika Vaccine: Why Developing One Will Take Years In A Skewed System
“…[T]he world of vaccine development has grown vastly more complicated, to a point where critics describe it as failing to meet the needs of public health in a timely fashion. Nowhere has this gap become more apparent than in the face of emerging threats like the Zika virus, a vaccine for which researchers have warned could take up to a decade to bring to market. … ‘The model is flawed,’ Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas and director of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, said of vaccine development by large companies. ‘It’s only done in response to crisis situations.’ … ‘The problem with the system right now is that it’s relying on monopolies of companies who want to recoup research and development costs with sales,’ said Josh Michaud, an associate director on the global health policy team at the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation…” (Whitman, 2/10).

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Obstacles Remain To Abortion, Contraception Access For Latin American Women Affected By Zika

Huffington Post: GOP Congressmen Oppose Abortion Rights For Women With Zika In Developing Countries
“Pregnant women in South and Latin America who contract Zika, a rapidly spreading mosquito-borne virus linked to severe birth defects and deformities in babies, should not have access to abortion, Republican House leaders said Wednesday. ‘This push for more abortion access is heartbreaking, especially since there are different degrees of microcephaly,’ Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, said at a hearing about the virus…” (Bassett, 2/10).

Reuters: Catholic group urges pope to allow contraception to fight Zika
“A Roman Catholic group appealed to Pope Francis on Wednesday to allow Church members to ‘follow their conscience’ and use contraception or to let women have abortions to protect themselves against the Zika virus. … Catholics for Choice, a liberal advocacy group based in Washington, said in a statement it would run ads in the International New York Times and El Dario de Hoy in El Salvador on Thursday, the eve of a papal trip to Cuba and Mexico…” (Pullella, 2/10).

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Latin American Health Authorities Face Challenges In Preventing Zika But Use Many Methods

Agence France-Presse: Fish, other mosquitoes now warriors in Zika battle
“With larva-chomping fish and genetically modified insects, Latin Americans are deploying legions of little helpers to destroy mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus in the world’s latest mass health scare…” (Marquez et al., 2/10).

Associated Press: In Central America, gangs an obstacle in battle against Zika
“For health workers battling Zika across much of Central America, the immediate menace is not the mosquitoes that transmit the virus. It’s the gangsters who control the streets, and sometimes threaten their lives…” (Sherman, 2/10).

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News Outlets Examine Zika's History, Related Viruses, Other Diseases Responsible For Microcephaly

The Atlantic: The Zika Virus’s Family Tree
“…The yellow fever virus that plagued Memphis [in 1878] eventually lent the Latin version of its name (‘flavus,’ meaning ‘yellow’) to the group of viruses that share its molecular characteristics. In addition to yellow fever, the flaviviruses include West Nile, dengue, Japanese encephalitis, and Zika … Among other shared traits, the flaviviruses spread quickly and easily — a characteristic that the world is now re-learning with the current Zika outbreak…” (Coombs, 2/10).

The Guardian: Climate change may have helped spread Zika virus according to WHO scientists
“…It’s still not clear what role rising temperatures and altered rainfall patterns have had on the spread of Zika, which is mainly spread by mosquitos; the increased global movement of people is probably as great an influence as climate change for the spread of infectious diseases. But the World Health Organization, which declared a public health emergency over the birth defects linked to Zika, is clear that changes in climate mean a redrawn landscape for vector and water-borne diseases…” (Milman, 2/11).

New York Times: Experts Study Zika’s Path From First Outbreak in Pacific
“…[I]n 2007, Zika appeared on Yap and nearby islands in Micronesia, 800 miles east of the Philippines, where nearly 50 people had been infected. Six years later, it showed up in French Polynesia, 5,000 miles to the southeast of Yap, where thousands contracted the virus. Zika has now infected an estimated 1.5 million people in Brazil and is rapidly spreading through many parts of the Americas…” (Ramzy, 2/10).

Quartz: The CMV virus causes microcephaly in babies, and it’s much wider spread than Zika
“…[E]ven in places not hit by [Zika] virus, kids are at risk of being born with microcephaly, or a smaller-than-average brain. Many of those cases are caused by a virus you’ve probably never heard of: Cytomegalovirus or CMV. And unlike Zika, which is currently only being actively transmitted in Latin America and a few other dots on the world map, CMV exists virtually everywhere…” (Campoy, 2/10).

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Wider Use Of Vaccines Instead Of Antibiotics Would Help Lower Drug Resistance, Antimicrobial Resistance Review Head Says

Financial Times: O’Neill ‘superbug’ review promotes wider use of vaccines
“Vaccines should be used more widely in health care and agriculture as an alternative to antibiotics, according to a U.K.-led review into the problem of drug-resistant ‘superbugs.’ Lord Jim O’Neill, the Treasury minister and former Goldman Sachs economist heading the panel, said vaccines were a crucial part of the solution to a global threat he described as a ‘slow-motion car crash’…” (Ward, 2/11).

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Overuse Of Antibiotics In Agriculture Threatens Human Health, Food Security, FAO Says

U.N. News Centre: U.N. agriculture agency warns of threat to food security from overuse of antibiotics
“…Speaking to European ministers of health and agriculture at a conference on antimicrobial resistance in Amsterdam, FAO Deputy Director-General Helena Semedo emphasized that antimicrobial agents foster increasing resistance among the very microbes that cause the infections and disease they were designed to quell, thereby threatening to reverse a century of progress in human and animal health…” (2/10).

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Much Of U.N. Humanitarian System Resistant To Reform Despite Calls For Change

The Guardian: ‘Outdated and resistant to change’: how can we fix the humanitarian system?
“…This month’s report from the secretary general, published ahead of the World Humanitarian Summit in May, recognizes that the overall humanitarian system is ‘seen as outdated and resistant to change, fragmented and uncommitted to working collaboratively, and too dominated by the interests and funding of a few countries.’ To many, this means the question of whether the U.N. and the system it heads should be reformed is unavoidably central to the core mission of the summit. But it’s increasingly clear that much of the U.N. is reluctant to change…” (Wall, 2/10).

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Gates Foundation Continues To Invest In Expanding Access To Family Planning Options

Devex: Gates Foundation gives shot in the arm for family planning
“…The foundation continues to invest, too, in expanding the range of contraceptives available to women such as injectables that community health workers can deliver directly from pharmacies or eventually that women and girls can self-administer from the comfort of their own homes, Kellie Sloan, director of family planning at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, told Devex associate editor Richard Jones in an interview on the sidelines of last month’s International Conference on Family Planning in Nusa Dua, Indonesia…” (Jones, 2/11).

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Ugandan Parliamentary Committees Recommend Closing AIDS Commission To Cut Costs; Activists Object

Thomson Reuters Foundation: Key Ugandan HIV control body under pressure to close, activists object
“Two parliamentary committees want to cut costs by closing down the Uganda AIDS Commission (UAC), set up 24 years ago to oversee and coordinate HIV prevention and control — despite activists’ fears that this could damage the fight against HIV/AIDS. … Parliament’s budget and health committees have recommended dissolving the UAC in order to cut costs and end the duplication of roles between the commission, a semi-autonomous agency under the Office of the President, and the AIDS Control Programme, which is under the Ministry of Health…” (Lirri, 2/10).

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India Begins Deworming Campaign Aimed At Millions Of Children Nationwide

Associated Press: India launches campaign for deworming millions of children
“Millions of Indian children are getting deworming treatment in a massive national campaign to prevent parasitic worms from infecting them and impairing their mental and physical development. … The campaign is targeting 270 million children across the country for Wednesday’s effort and another next week for children missed the first time, the Health Ministry said in a statement…” (Sharma, 2/10).

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Angola Reports 37 Dead Since December In Yellow Fever Outbreak

Reuters: Angola says 37 dead in yellow fever outbreak
“A yellow fever outbreak in Angola has killed 37 people since December with eight new cases reported in the last 24 hours, the country’s national director of health Adelaide de Carvalho said late on Wednesday…” (Coroado/Toyana, 2/11).

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African Nations Take Longer Than Other Countries To Remove Potentially Harmful Drugs From Markets, Study Shows

SciDev.Net: African nations poor at withdrawing unsafe drugs
“Regulators worldwide take several years to withdraw medicines after adverse effects are spotted, and African countries are more likely than those in other regions to keep harmful drugs on the market, a study reveals…” (Owings, 2/10).

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Editorials and Opinions

Vaccines Hold Potential To Protect Against Drug Resistance

Project Syndicate: Vaccines Versus Superbugs
Jim O’Neill, commercial secretary to the U.K. Treasury, honorary professor of economics at Manchester University, visiting research fellow at Bruegel, and chair of the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance.

“…[W]e are not moving fast enough to develop the types of vaccines that could be used to prevent antimicrobial resistance. … Maximizing the potential of vaccines to fight antimicrobial resistance … requires the wider application of existing vaccines in humans and animals. But it also entails developing new vaccines, which, in the short-term, could be kick-started by a $2 billion Global Innovation Fund for early-stage research in vaccines and other viable alternatives to antibiotics. And in areas where research and development is not an attractive proposition, developers must be provided an opportunity to make a return from useful products. … Vaccines hold the potential to have a huge impact on drug resistance, if they are included as part of a broad series of interventions to combat the problem. Fortunately, awareness of this challenge is starting to take root. … The momentum now gathering in the public and private sectors is creating an opportunity that must not be missed” (2/11).

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Expanding Access To Reproductive Health Services Integral To Comprehensive Zika Response

Huffington Post: Accelerating Progress on Zika Through Better Family Planning
Ward Cates, president emeritus; Kathleen Shears, senior science writer; and Rose Wilche, director of research utilization, all at FHI 360

“…The spread of Zika in the Americas adds urgency to the need to help all women — and their male partners — avoid unintended pregnancies. … Placing the burden of protecting unborn children from the virus’s effects solely on women who have limited reproductive rights and contraceptive options is discriminatory and unsustainable. Expanding access to reproductive health services must be part of a comprehensive response to the Zika virus … By integrating these five approaches into the response to Zika [– expanding contraceptive options, improving access to family planning services, engaging men, supporting youth, and changing gender norms –] we can begin to provide women and couples in the Americas with the family planning services they need to protect the health and well-being of their families” (2/10).

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Questions Persist In Mosquito Gene-Editing Debate

The Guardian: Should we wipe mosquitoes off the face of the Earth?
Archie Bland, writer and commissioning editor for the Saturday Guardian

“…Whatever the priorities, no scientist disputes that if the technology were to be perfected, the gene-drive plan [to alter the genetic code of male Aedes aegypti — the mosquitoes that carry Zika, dengue fever, and chikungunya — so they could only produce sterile offspring] would be a remarkable boon to public health. Yet there may be other, more abstract, objections contained in the eerie idea of that word: extinction, the permanent eradication of a species that has evolved and survived for thousands of years. … In the end, if the technical and ecological objections can be overcome, it seems unlikely that philosophical arguments for the sanctity of Aedes aegypti will hold sway…” (2/10).

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World Must Come Together, Commit To Achieving SDGs

Huffington Post: Sustainable Development: Investing in the Future
Susan Blumenthal, public health editor at the Huffington Post, senior fellow in health policy at New America, clinical professor at Tufts and Georgetown University Schools of Medicine, and senior policy and medical adviser at amfAR; and Jacob McAuliffe, fellow at New America

“…Though the scope may seem daunting, the [Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)] reflect the diverse and complex challenges that face societies around the world. … The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will hopefully galvanize unprecedented global collaboration for improving the lives of billions of people in the 21st century. Governments, businesses, non-profit organizations, foundations, and global institutions of all sorts must work together to achieve the SDGs. The commitment to ensure that everyone has a fair shot in life is a transformative principle that will require innovation, cooperation, and dedication to achieve a healthier, fairer, and more prosperous world by 2030, a world that leaves no one behind. The time for action is now” (2/10).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

Health Affairs Studies Explore Return On Investment, Financing Of Vaccines

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists”: Vaccines: The Best Shot for Children and Economies
Logan Brenzel, senior program officer on the vaccine delivery team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, discusses the February issue of Health Affairs, which explores the return on investment, costs, and financing of immunizations (2/9).

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CFR Expert Brief Discusses Tobacco Carve-Out In TPP

Council on Foreign Relations: TPP Tobacco Exception Proves the New Rule in Trade
In this expert brief, Thomas J. Bollyky, senior fellow for global health, economics, and development, discusses the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, signed last week, and how the pact “is the first U.S. trade deal to exempt antismoking measures from the lawsuits that investors may bring under the agreement.” Bollyky says the carve-out “reflects the particular status of tobacco in international law and established U.S. trade policy, and was negotiated and included at the insistence of TPP member countries…” (2/4).

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Mapping Project Aims To Fill In Hepatitis C Data Gaps

Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks”: Data mapping highlights realities of global hepatitis C impacts, resources
Antigone Barton, senior writer and editor of “Science Speaks,” discusses findings from a report by mapCrowd, a crowdsourcing project launched by Médecins du Monde and the Treatment Action Group that is designed to gather and publicize data on hepatitis C. Barton writes, “The report notes inadequate surveillance and data collection has yielded insufficient data on the burden of hepatitis C among people who inject drugs. The team that put the project together hopes to change that, as well as other gaps in hepatitis responses, and is inviting volunteers who can contribute data to mapCrowd to let them know…” (2/10).

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Aidspan Publishes New Issue Of 'Global Fund Observer'

Aidspan: Global Fund Observer
Aidspan, an independent watchdog of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, published Issue 280 of the “Global Fund Observer.” The newsletter features articles on various topics including the Board’s approval of 10 targets for key performance indicators for 2016; approved funding for $414 million in grants; and the release of the fund’s mid-2015 results (2/10).

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