KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

Some U.S. Senate Democrats Call For U.S. Zika Coordinator, More Funding For Response

abc7NY: Sen. Charles Schumer to call for Zika czar after 16th confirmed case in New York
“New York Senator Charles Schumer wants the White House to appoint a ‘Zika czar’ to coordinate the U.S. response to the mosquito-borne virus that is being blamed for serious birth defects after the 16th case in was confirmed in New York state. Schumer said Friday that the Zika czar would coordinate between federal agencies and foreign governments to prevent the spread of the virus and that the position should be filled before the start of mosquito season in the U.S…” (2/12).

The Hill: Dems urge GOP to fund birth control, fight Zika
“A group of Democratic senators is urging Republican leaders to prioritize more funding for birth control for women worldwide who might be exposed to the Zika virus. … Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), ranking member on the Senate Health Committee, is leading a group of about 30 Democrats calling for more funding for domestic and international programs that help prevent unwanted pregnancies…” (Ferris, 2/12).

New York Times: Obama May Meet Zika Head On in Cuba
“…So far [the risks of Zika in Latin America and the Caribbean] have yet to alter schedules at the White House. ‘Over all, the president is not changing travel plans based on Zika,’ said Peter Boogaard, a White House spokesman. Neither are other senior officials in the administration…” (Harris, 2/15).

Washington Post: Why Zika is ‘much more insidious, cunning, and evil’ than Ebola
“Global health authorities and government officials are mobilizing to battle the fast-spreading Zika virus, sending rapid-response teams to affected regions, issuing travel warnings for pregnant women, accelerating vaccine trials, and even deploying mosquito-fighting troops to hard-hit areas in Brazil…” (Sun/Dennis, 2/16).

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WHO, U.S. Officials Discuss Zika Diagnostics, Vaccine Development, Mosquito Control Measures

Bloomberg Business: Zika Fears Spur Pharmaceutical Gold Rush Amid Vaccine Vacuum
“…More than 15 companies have been in touch with the World Health Organization about developing vaccines, and about 20 are working on diagnostic tools, the global health agency said Friday…” (Spalding, 2/15).

Financial Times: Zika epidemic prompts pharma rush to develop vaccine
“…In update briefings in Geneva and Washington on Friday, senior officials from the World Health Organization and the U.S. National Institutes of Health contrasted the industry’s response to Zika with its slow reaction to previous epidemics, particularly Ebola…” (Cookson, 1/12).

New York Times: Zika Virus Test Is ‘Weeks, Not Years’ Away, WHO Says
“Scientists are ‘weeks, not years’ from developing a test for the fast-spreading Zika virus, but large-scale clinical trials for a potential vaccine are at least 18 months away, the World Health Organization announced on Friday…” (Chan, 1/12).

New York Times: Prepare for ‘Guerrilla Warfare’ With Zika-Carrying Mosquitoes, Experts Warn
“It was standing room only at the annual conference of the American Mosquito Control Association this week. … [T]his year an ominous urgency infused the session. Mosquitoes in this hemisphere have an unpredictable new weapon, the Zika virus — a threat that left the participants comparing notes like field commanders before summer battle…” (Tavernise, 2/12).

Reuters: Genes, bugs and radiation: WHO backs new weapons in Zika fight
“Countries battling the Zika virus should consider new ways to curb disease-carrying mosquitoes, including testing the release of genetically modified insects and bacteria that stop their eggs hatching, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday…” (Hirschler, 2/16).

USA TODAY: Commercial test for Zika virus could be available within weeks
“…An easy-to-use test would diagnose patients more quickly and help researchers monitor populations to determine whether the virus is spreading. That could speed up research, said Marie-Paule Kieny, assistant director-general for health systems and innovation at the WHO…” (Szabo, 2/12).

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Debate Over Abortion Access In Zika-Hit Nations Continues; Latin American Catholic Leaders Reassert Church's Position Against Contraception, Abortion

Associated Press: Brazil’s Zika-related abortion debate sparks backlash
“…Alarm in recent months over the Zika virus, which many researchers believe can cause microcephaly in the fetuses of pregnant women, has prompted calls, both inside and outside Brazil, to loosen a near-ban on abortion in the world’s most populous Catholic country. But push for abortion rights is creating a backlash, particularly among the families of disabled children. The Catholic Church and Pentecostal faiths, strong forces in this deeply religious country, have also been fighting back…” (Barchfield, 2/14).

New York Times: Zika Virus in Colombia Presents Complicated Choice About Abortion
“…Unlike in Brazil, in Colombia some expecting mothers are being given the choice to end their pregnancies, under laws that allow abortions in some cases. … Most pregnant women who have contracted the disease in this country have not given birth yet, and no cases have been confirmed of infants born with abnormally small heads, a condition known as microcephaly. This has put women here in Colombia in the difficult position of considering — and, in some cases, having — abortions even before any microcephaly cases have appeared in the country…” (Casey, 2/15).

New York Times: Catholic Leaders Say Zika Doesn’t Change Ban on Contraception
“As the Zika virus spreads in Latin America, Catholic leaders are warning women against using contraceptives or having abortions, even as health officials in some countries are advising women not to get pregnant because of the risk of birth defects. … After a period of saying little, bishops in Latin America are beginning to speak up and reassert the church’s opposition to birth control and abortion — positions that in Latin America are unpopular and often disregarded, even among Catholics…” (Goodstein, 2/13).

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Brazil's Military, Cabinet Ministers Educate Public In Zika Prevention Drive

The Guardian: Brazilian soldiers to be deployed in ‘mega’ Zika prevention drive
“Hundreds of thousands of Brazilian soldiers are to be deployed in towns and cities in a one-day push to raise awareness of mosquito breeding grounds amid the Zika virus outbreak…” (Gayle, 2/13).

New York Times: Brazil Pushes Public to Do Its Part in Fighting Zika Spread
“Nearly a quarter of a million soldiers, sailors, and other military personnel began fanning through Brazilian cities over the weekend as part of an ambitious campaign to combat the mosquitoes that are spreading Zika, the virus believed to be linked to a surge in infants born with severe brain damage…” (Jacobs, 2/14).

NPR: Brazilian Military Takes Aim At Mosquito Problem
“…The ‘Zero Zika’ campaign, which the Associated Press calls ‘unprecedented,’ aims to reach three million homes in 350 cities across Brazil. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is also hitting the ground to spread information, and the AP reports that Rousseff was planning to send cabinet ministers to each of Brazil’s 27 states as well… (Domonoske, 2/13).

PRI: Zika is a window into a much bigger story in Brazil
“…Zika is only part of a much bigger story in Brazil. It’s a story about mosquitoes, public health, water, and women, which is why The World has sent its Across Womens’ Lives team to Brazil for the next two weeks. They’re there to report on how Zika fits into the story of Brazilian women’s struggles to improve their lives in a time of rapid and often disturbing environmental change…” (Thomson, 2/15).

Reuters: Brazil enlists army, cabinet in campaign against Zika
“… ‘Brazil and the world have lost the battle against dengue, but we won the war against yellow fever, which is carried by the same mosquito. We will win the war against Zika,’ Rousseff said as she launched the campaign, which also targets other mosquito-borne diseases…” (Cascione, 2/13).

Wall Street Journal: Brazil State Bans Pesticide After Zika Claim
“Brazil’s southernmost state halted the use of a mosquito larvicide that an Argentine doctors’ group warns could be behind the recent surge of babies born with microcephaly. The ban was imposed despite assertions by the federal government and U.S. health authorities that there is no scientific basis linking use of the chemical to the birth defect…” (Johnson/Jelmayer, 2/15).

Washington Post: Brazil reports explosion of dengue, a bad omen for spread of Zika virus
“Brazil on Friday reported a nearly 50 percent jump in cases of dengue fever reported over a three-week period in January, a worrying finding because the disease is carried by the same mosquito that spreads the Zika virus. ‘This is a very strong indication that the Zika cases are increasing and that the combat against the mosquito is not being efficient,’ said Marcos Lago, an associate professor of infectious diseases and pediatrics at the State University of Rio de Janeiro…” (Phillips, 2/12).

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Some Public Health Experts Believe Venezuela's Zika Outbreak Worse Than Reported By Government

Washington Post: Venezuela faces ‘worst-case scenario’ as Zika outbreak expands
“…[T]he Zika epidemic has struck as the socialist-ruled country is spiraling into economic chaos and the public health system has been stripped of many basic tools of modern medicine. … While other nations bombard their airwaves with public-service warnings about mosquitoes and publish tallies of new cases, Venezuela has played down the epidemic and choked off information about its spread. … Public health experts and doctors believe that the government is dramatically lowballing the Zika toll, which officially stands at around 5,000 cases. Some independent experts estimate that there have been more than half a million cases…” (Partlow, 2/15).

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Number Of Guillain-Barré Cases Rising In Zika-Affected Nations But No Proven Link Between Virus, Syndrome, WHO Says

HealthDay News: WHO: Neurological Disorder on the Rise in Zika Zones
“More cases of the rare but potentially devastating neurological disorder Guillain-Barré syndrome are appearing in some Latin American countries where the Zika virus is also present, according to the World Health Organization…” (Thompson, 2/15).

Reuters: Guillain-Barré on rise in 5 Latam countries, no proven link to Zika — WHO
“The United Nations-affiliated health group said in a weekly report Saturday that Guillain-Barré syndrome, which can cause temporary paralysis, has been reported in Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Suriname, and Venezuela. … Investigations continue to determine the cause, WHO said, noting that there was no laboratory confirmation of Zika virus in patients with GBS in Colombia and El Salvador…” (Nebehay, 2/13).

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After Discovering Zika In 1947, Uganda Virus Research Institute Continues To Investigate Disease

Foreign Policy: Uganda Discovered the Zika Virus. And the Solution for It.
“…[I]t’s the Zika virus — which has infected tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people in the Americas in recent months and may be linked to a spate of children born with underdeveloped brains in Brazil — that’s now bringing Ugandan epidemiologists unexpected attention. [Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI)] scientists first discovered Zika in the blood of a rhesus monkey back in 1947. And while Uganda has never had an outbreak of the virus, the country’s unique approach to monitoring the spread of similar diseases could hold the key to stopping future epidemics in their tracks…” (Green, 2/10).

The Guardian: Zika forest: birthplace of virus that has spread fear across the world
“… ‘[The Zika forest] is a global epicenter of pathogens and viruses,’ says Louis Mukwaya, head of the entomology department at the Ugandan Virus Research Institute (UVRI) and a world-renowned mosquito researcher. Leopards, snakes, and monkeys live in its 24 acres, but breeding in its trees are more than 70 species of mosquito. Together, they harbor dozens of deadly pathogens that could potentially be transferred to man. It is extremely rare to find so many species in one small patch, which makes the forest ideal for research…” (Vidal, 2/13).

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Airstrikes Hit Multiple Syrian Hospitals Supported By UNICEF, MSF As Fighting Escalates

New York Times: Syrian Hospitals Hit as Battlefield Grows More Chaotic
“…As always, caught in the middle are civilians, with four hospitals bombed in a single day on Monday, and Turkey and the Syrian insurgents accusing Russia of targeting them deliberately to drive them out of the area. Two of the hospitals were supported by UNICEF, including a pediatric and maternity hospital, and at least 50 people were killed in all of the attacks, including children, said Farhan Haq, a United Nations spokesman…” (Barnard et al., 2/15).

PBS NewsHour: In Syria, airstrikes on hospitals and school kill dozens
“…In a statement, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said, ‘We at UNICEF are appalled by reports of attacks against four medical facilities in Syria … Apart from compelling considerations of diplomacy and obligations under international humanitarian law, let us remember that these victims are children’…” (2/15).

Reuters: MSF-backed hospital in Syria destroyed by air strikes — statement
“…A hospital supported by medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in the Idlib province of northern Syria was ‘deliberately’ hit by air strikes on Monday and eight people are missing, MSF said in a statement…” (Irish/Pennetier, 2/15).

U.N. News Centre: UNICEF chief ‘appalled’ by reports of attacks on hospitals, schools in northern Syria
“…Two of the strikes occurred at Azaz in Aleppo and another two occurred in Idlib, where one of the hospitals was reportedly struck four times. In addition, UNICEF said there are reports that two schools were attacked at Azaz, reportedly killing six children…” (2/15).

VOA News: U.N.: Nearly 50 Dead in Strikes on Syrian Medical Facilities, Schools
“… ‘Such attacks are a blatant violation of international laws,’ U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said, according to his spokesman…” (Dettmer, 1/15).

Wall Street Journal: Hospitals in Syria Bombed as Fighting Escalates
“Violence in northern Syria escalated Monday, casting deep doubt on a planned cease-fire as the U.S. accused the Assad regime and its ally Russia of bombing civilian hospitals…” (Dagher et al., 2/15).

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4B People Worldwide Face Severe Water Scarcity For At Least 1 Month Annually, Study Shows

The Guardian: Four billion people face severe water scarcity, new research finds
“At least two-thirds of the global population, over four billion people, live with severe water scarcity for at least one month every year, according to a major new analysis…” (Carrington, 2/12).

Huffington Post: Global Water Shortage Risk Is Worse Than Scientists Thought
“…About 66 percent, which is four billion people, of the world’s population lives without sufficient access to fresh water for at least one month of the year, according to a new paper published Friday in the journal Science Advances…” (Bellware, 2/15).

Mother Jones: Worldwide Water Shortages Might Be Worse Than We Thought
“…Arjen Hoekstra, a professor at the University of Twente in the Netherlands and the study’s lead author, says better living standards and the expansion of agriculture are among the factors that have increased demand for water and caused resources to dry up across the globe. And during the hot months of the year when water is already scarce, people draw from rivers and groundwater, further threatening water sources and the people who rely on them…” (Rathod, 2/12).

New York Times: Two-Thirds of the World Faces Severe Water Shortages
“…Dr. Hoekstra and his colleague Mesfin M. Mekonnen designed a computer model to create what they say is a more accurate picture of water scarcity around the world. Severe water scarcity can lead to crop failure and low crop yields, which could cause food price increases as well as famine and widespread starvation…” (St. Fleur, 2/12).

Washington Post: Over half the world’s population suffers from ‘severe’ water scarcity, scientists say
“…Water demand is increasing across the globe as populations and agriculture expand, but the study says that there is enough total global water for all needs. However, the problem is that there isn’t always enough in every place where it is needed, when it is needed…” (Mooney, 2/12).

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Health Workers Begin Polio Vaccination Campaign In Pakistan Despite Threats

Reuters: Despite threats, thousands join anti-polio drive in Pakistan, a last bastion of the disease
“More than 100,000 health workers fanned out across Pakistan on Monday, stepping up a drive to eliminate the polio virus this year from one of its last bastions, despite continuing militant threats to vaccination teams. Pakistan accounts for more than 70 percent of the world’s cases of polio…” (Hassan et al., 2/15).

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With Increasing Number Of HIV Cases In Philippines, Experts Worry About More Infections Among Women, Infants

Thomson Reuters Foundation: FEATURE — Women and infants in Philippines at higher risk of HIV from “downstream” infections
“…Along with Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka in the Asia-Pacific region, the Philippines saw the rate of new HIV infections increase by more than 25 percent from 2001 to 2011. Increasing infections among injecting drug users combined with low condom use and high fertility rates have health experts worried about ‘downstream’ HIV infections — when the virus spreads to people who are not typically at risk of HIV, like children who acquire the virus through mother-to-child transmission…” (Santos, 2/15).

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51 Dead In Angolan Yellow Fever Outbreak, Health Official Says

Reuters: More than 50 killed in Angola yellow fever outbreak: government
“Fifty-one people have now died in a yellow fever outbreak in Angola, less than two months after it started spreading in the capital, the national director of health said. Health experts say the outbreak has been exacerbated by a breakdown in sanitation services and rubbish collection in Luanda and other cities, leading to an increase in the mosquitoes that carry the disease…” (Coroado/Mapenzauswa, 2/15).

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Editorials and Opinions

Editorial, Letter To Editor Discuss Issues Surrounding U.S. Response To Zika Virus

San Jose Mercury News: Support Obama plan to help stop Zika where it started
Editorial Board

“…Americans should get behind President Obama’s $1.8 billion proposal to keep the [Zika] virus from spreading from South America to the United States. … Congress should approve the request and get the president’s plan rolling as soon as possible. … One of the major public health problems throughout the world is that vaccines are less profitable than other health products. That means vaccine advancements rarely happen unless governments sense a crisis and provide funding for the research. This is one of those times when the market will not produce what’s needed, and government has to step in. Congress should increase the funding for vaccine research in its next budget” (2/14).

New York Times: Letter to the Editor: U.S. Aid for Abortions for Women With Zika
John Seager, president and chief executive of Population Connection

“As Brazil considers easing restrictions on abortion in the wake of the Zika virus, the White House must also evaluate our own policies that stand in the way of helping women affected by the disease. … And yet it cannot, because since 1973, a flawed interpretation of the Helms Amendment — which only prohibits ‘the performance of abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions’ — has forbidden aid for abortion in all circumstances. … The White House has the power to lift restrictions on American aid for women affected by Zika who need access to safe abortion care — and, in fact, both Democratic candidates have committed to fixing Helms. It’s time for Republican candidates to do the same, and for us all to stop playing political games with women’s lives” (2/15).

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Privatizing Foreign Aid Could Cut Down On Corruption

The Hill: Where does U.S. foreign aid money go?
Claudia R. Williamson, assistant professor of economics at Mississippi State University

“…[I]n a recent paper examining the effectiveness of [U.S. foreign aid] contributions and the practices of the agencies that distribute them, my colleague and I find that these acts of good will may benefit donors with good PR points, more than they benefit recipients. … [P]oor management and lax adherence to standards means foreign aid is wasting tax dollars, and, ultimately, is not helping the poor. Worse than ineffective, many have long suspected that U.S. foreign aid inadvertently ends up supporting corrupt regimes. … While rules are in place, there is no a way to punish politicians who break them and fall back into lax distribution of funds. An alternative is to privatize all foreign aid. … The reality that these dollars are funding unnecessary initiatives and corrupt governments is an outrage and there is no reason to continue on this course when we have a more effective, proven approach right in front of us” (2/12).

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Global Community Must Work To End Child Marriage

The Guardian: Love conquers all? Not for child brides unable to choose sweetheart or spouse
Ashley Judd, humanitarian, writer, and actor

“…Child marriage is both a cause and a consequence of poverty and gender inequality. … Our leaders have agreed that we need to end poverty and fight inequality, and that championing our girls and women is essential to advancing humanity’s common dream of a better world. Most countries have banned marriage for people under 18, and recognize the benefits of having equal numbers of girls and boys in school, university, and the workplace. However, in too many places, laws are simply not being enforced. Therefore, impunity must also end, and girls that speak up, and those that can’t, must have justice…” (2/15).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

Improved Tools, Diagnostics, New Vaccine Needed To End Global TB Epidemic

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists”: TB beats HIV as the leading infectious disease cause of death worldwide
Melvin Sanicas, global health fellow and a program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, discusses findings from the WHO’s Global TB Report and says in order to end the global TB epidemic, “better detection systems need to be in place and tools developed to better diagnose people, and a better vaccine should be developed” (2/14).

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CGD Blog Post Discusses Key Takeaways From Conference Session On UHC

Center for Global Development’s “Global Health Policy Blog”: How to Decide ‘Who Gets What’ in Health: Takeaways from the 2016 Prince Mahidol Awards Conference
Amanda Glassman, vice president for programs, director of global health policy, and senior fellow, and Yuna Sakuma, program associate, both at CGD, highlight takeaways from a session at the 2016 Prince Mahidol Awards Conference (PMAC) in Bangkok, titled, “Missed opportunities and opportunity costs: reprioritizing UHC decisions in light of emergence of new technologies and continued budget constraints.” They discuss how old or existing technologies can be used in low- and middle-income countries, how priority-setting has a role in global health and can make new products more affordable, and the importance of being mindful of incentives for innovation (2/12).

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Blog Post Examines Proposed New WHO Framework For Engagement With Non-State Actors

Global Health Technologies Coalition’s “Breakthroughs”: WHO says ‘no thanks’ to the private sector
Matthew Robinson, GHTC’s policy & advocacy officer, discusses a recent WHO Executive Board meeting on a proposed Framework for Engagement with Non-State Actors (FENSA), which will be discussed at the World Health Assembly (WHA). Robinson provides an overview of the current rules governing engagement with non-state actors — which include nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), civil society organizations (CSOs), the private sector, and philanthropic foundations — the proposed new regulations, and implications for the health R&D community (2/16).

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Strengthening Frontline Health Workforce Essential To Increasing Access To Vaccines

Gavi’s “Vaccineswork”: On the Frontlines: Supporting Health Workers that Deliver Lifesaving Vaccines
Scott Weathers, Global Health Corps policy fellow at IntraHealth International, discusses the role of frontline health workers in delivering vaccines, writing, “Ensuring that frontline health workers are safe, motivated, properly trained, and incentivized must be central considerations of strategies to scale up and sustain access to vaccines” (2/12).

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