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Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

U.S. House Democratic Whip Hoyer Calls On Republicans To Allocate Separate Zika Funds

The Hill: Hoyer blasts GOP plan to use Ebola cash in Zika fight
“The second-ranking House Democrat on Tuesday went after the Republicans’ plan to tap Ebola funds to fight the Zika virus. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the Democratic whip, said the continuing threat posed by Ebola means Congress should allocate separate funds to combat Zika. ‘The Republican suggestion is very short-sighted. Ebola has not disappeared,’ Hoyer told reporters in the Capitol…” (Lillis, 2/23).

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U.N. Women Head Calls For Expanded Reproductive Rights In Latin America Amid Zika Outbreak; Debate Over Abortion Access Continues

CNSNews.com: Head of U.N. Women: Expand ‘Reproductive Rights’ in Zika-Affected Countries ‘Not Only Because of Zika’ But It’s the ‘Right Thing to Do’
“U.N. Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of U.N. Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka told CNSNews.com Tuesday that ‘reproductive rights’ of women in countries affected by the Zika virus must be advanced ‘not only because of Zika but also, because it’s the right thing to do.’ … CNSNews.com asked Mlambo-Ngcuka to comment on the difficulty in addressing the Zika virus given the Catholic culture in the countries affected by it and their opposition to ‘reproductive health services,’ such as birth control and abortion. … According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, and Nicaragua ban all abortions, while Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Paraguay, Suriname, and Venezuela allow abortion only to save a woman’s life…” (Brown, 2/23).

Scientific American: Zika Awakens Debate over Legal and Safe Abortion in Latin America
“…The increasing cases of microcephaly have given unprecedented urgency to the debate on Latin American women’s right to access safe abortions and the enforcement of restrictive laws in the region. … In Latin America the rules vary from extremely restrictive in nations such as El Salvador, where women have been imprisoned after deciding to undergo a voluntary abortion and, even in some cases, after suffering a miscarriage; to legal in Uruguay, where since 2012 abortion is authorized during the first 12 weeks of gestation, making the nation one of the exceptions in the region along Cuba, Guyana, Puerto Rico, and the capital of Mexico…” (Roman, 2/23).

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WHO's Chan Warns Zika Response Will Be 'Long Journey,' Meets With PAHO Head, Brazil President

Agence France-Presse: Zika virus fight a ‘long journey’: WHO chief
“The head of the World Health Organization warned Tuesday that the fight against Zika, a mosquito-transmitted virus linked to serious birth defects, will be long and complex…” (2/23).

CIDRAP News: WHO, PAHO chiefs meet in Brazil over Zika
“…Top officials from the WHO, including Director-General Margaret Chan, MD, MPH, and Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Carissa Etienne, MD, were scheduled to meet with Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, [Tuesday] as part of an effort to assess the country’s Zika virus situation and response to the outbreak…” (Schnirring, 2/23).

Reuters: Brazil will make Olympics safe from Zika virus: WHO official
“World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Margaret Chan said on Tuesday Brazil is doing a good job tackling the Zika virus and ensuring that the Olympic games it will host in August will be safe for athletes and visitors…” (Boadle, 2/23).

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U.S., Brazilian Teams Work To Research Microcephaly, Zika Link; Brazil Confirms More Cases Of Birth Defect

Associated Press: Logistics cause delays on first day of Brazil Zika study
“U.S. and Brazilian health workers seeking to determine if the Zika virus is causing a surge in birth defects ran into the chaotic reality of northeastern Brazil on their study’s first day Tuesday. Traffic and logistical problems shredded their schedule, delaying or preventing meetings with mothers and babies…” (Barchfield, 2/23).

Reuters: Proving Zika guilty: A long and painstaking task
“Evidence is building for the theory that Zika can cause newborn brain defects and the World Health Organization is promising more answers in weeks, but nailing a definitive link will be neither simple nor swift…” (Kelland, 2/24).

Reuters: Brazil health service cracking under strain of microcephaly
“…[25-year-old Miriam Araujo’s] family’s plight [of traveling long distances for health care] shows how unprepared Brazil’s creaking public health service was for Zika when the mosquito-borne virus struck last year…” (Eisenhammer et al., 2/23).

Wall Street Journal: Brazil Confirms 75 More Microcephaly Births Amid Zika Outbreak
“As the head of the World Health Organization met Tuesday with Brazilian government officials to discuss ways of combating the mosquito-borne Zika virus, the country’s health ministry released new figures confirming 75 additional cases of infants born with microcephaly…” (Johnson et al., 2/23).

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CDC Investigating 14 Cases Of Possible Zika Sexual Transmission From Men To Women In U.S.

The Hill: CDC warns: More U.S. Zika cases linked to sex
“Federal health officials said Tuesday as many as 14 people in the U.S. may have contracted the Zika virus through sex, a surprising development that makes researchers rethink the virus’s usual routes of transmission…” (Ferris, 2/23).

NBC News: CDC Reports 14 New Cases of Sexually Transmitted Zika in U.S.
“…Some of those suspected of having been infected sexually have been pregnant women, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says…” (Fox, 2/23).

New York Times: CDC Investigating 14 New Reports of Zika Transmission Through Sex
“…If confirmed, the unexpectedly high number would have major implications for controlling the virus, which is usually spread by mosquito bites…” (Tavernise, 2/23).

Wall Street Journal: CDC Investigates 14 New Reports of Sexually Transmitted Zika Virus in U.S.
“…All of the cases involve men who traveled to areas where Zika is circulating and had symptoms of the virus within two weeks before their female partner’s symptoms began…” (McKay, 2/24).

Washington Post: CDC investigating 14 potential cases of sexually transmitted Zika
“… ‘Like previously reported cases of sexual transmission, these cases involve possible transmission of the virus from men to their sex partners,’ the CDC wrote in announcing the new cases. ‘At this time, there is no evidence that women can transmit Zika virus to their sex partners; however, more research is needed to understand this issue’…” (Dennis, 2/23).

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UNDP Opens Ministerial Meeting Marking 50th Anniversary; Head Says Including Military Spending In ODA Could Hurt Poorest Nations

Devex: UNDP marks 50th anniversary with ministerial meeting
“Representatives from more than 120 countries will gather Wednesday in New York for the United Nations Development Programme’s ministerial, a meeting that’s part commemoration of the agency’s 50th anniversary and part discussion about the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals…” (Saldinger, 2/24).

The Guardian: Redefining aid could undermine fragile nations, says U.N. development chief
“The decision to redefine overseas aid to include some military spending in fragile countries will hinder international efforts to help the poorest nations and could even undermine their stability, the U.N.’s development chief has warned. Last week, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) revised the rules on what can be counted as foreign aid — technically known as official development assistance (ODA) — following lobbying from the U.K. and other member countries…” (Jones, 2/24).

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UNAIDS Calls For More Investment In Female-Controlled HIV Prevention Methods After 'Encouraging' Vaginal Ring Trial Results

U.N. News Centre: More investment needed in developing female-controlled HIV prevention options — U.N. agency
“The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) today welcomed the ‘encouraging’ results of two studies from Africa in which women modestly reduced their risk of infection by inserting a vaginal ring coated with the antiretroviral drug dapivirine once a month. … ‘The results are encouraging and show the urgent need to expand investment in research and development for female-controlled methods of HIV prevention,’ UNAIDS said in a press release…” (2/23).

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Philippines Plans To Reach 1M Children With Widespread Dengue Immunization Campaign

Wall Street Journal: Sanofi’s Dengue Vaccine Made Widely Available for First Time
“Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of France’s Sanofi SA, on Tuesday made the Philippines the first country where its vaccine for dengue fever will be widely available. … The vaccine, branded Dengvaxia, can be administered to people aged between nine and 45 years old. This is the first dengue vaccine in the world … The Department of Health said it is hoping to immunize one million schoolchildren in 12 months starting in April in the three most vulnerable regions of the Southeast Asian country, including the capital, Manila…” (Larano, 2/23).

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Conflict In Ukraine Increasing Country's HIV Cases, NGOs Say

IRIN: How Ukraine’s war is driving up HIV infections
“…NGOs are warning that HIV infections are on the rise in eastern Ukraine, where nearly two years of conflict between pro-Russian separatists and government forces has hit prevention and treatment efforts. … About 30 percent of new infections were in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, now partially under rebel control, where tuberculosis … is also a major health problem. Due to the lack of data being gathered in rebel-held areas, there are no official statistics to support the anecdotal reports by NGOs that HIV infections are on the rise…” (Jovanovski, 2/23).

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Libya Risks Running Out Of Necessary Medicines By End Of March, U.N. Official Says

Reuters: Libya could soon run out of life-saving medicines: U.N.
“… ‘Our estimation is that by the end of March, Libya may run out of life-saving medications which will impact about one million people,’ said Ali Al-Za’tari, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for the North African country. … His main concern at this point is scarcity of medicine needed to combat diseases like cancer, and the state of hospitals in Libya, which has descended into anarchy since the uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi five years ago…” (Georgy, 2/23).

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WFP Appeals For $38M To Provide Food Aid In Malawi

VOA News: WFP Calls for Urgent Funding to Help Hunger-stricken Malawi
“The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) says it is urgently looking for $38 million to buy food for nearly three million people facing starvation in Malawi. The appeal comes after the WFP extended its food relief operation by a month…” (Masina, 2/23).

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Editorials and Opinions

Opinion Pieces Discuss Funding For Zika Response, Potential Economic Costs Of Outbreak

Star Tribune: Congress shouldn’t raid Ebola dollars to fight Zika
Editorial Board

“…The sums [the U.S. government] set aside for Ebola should remain dedicated to preparing for future outbreaks. Raiding some or all of these dollars to fight Zika would undermine the nation’s readiness and potentially slow its response to a future Ebola outbreak. It could also result in the dollars dedicated to Zika falling well short of what is needed. … Numerous top health experts have testified before Congress about the need for rapid, robust Zika funding. Among them: Dr. Tom Frieden of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Much of the money would go to these agencies to help develop better diagnostic tests, treatments, and a Zika vaccine. … Frieden’s and Fauci’s medical expertise should be respected, not disregarded. House Republican leaders should have approved the Zika request. Congressional leaders … must correct this mistake as soon as possible” (2/23).

The Conversation: How do we know the Zika virus will cost the world $3.5 billion?
Jay L. Zagorsky, economist and research scientist at Ohio State University

“…The World Bank estimates Zika will cost the world US$3.5 billion in 2016. … How did the World Bank calculate this figure? How do we put a price tag on Zika and other health catastrophes like Ebola, dengue fever, or even more common problems like the flu? … In general, these figures are generated by adding together estimates of four categories of spending: direct outlays, lost productivity, loss from death, and the impact of avoidance…” (2/23).

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African Ministerial Conference Celebrates Meningitis A Vaccine Successes, Discusses Vaccination Partnerships, Political Leadership

The Lancet: Vaccines for Africa: a ‘limited market’?
Editorial Board

“African leaders are gathering in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this week for the first ever Ministerial Conference on Vaccines in Africa. … There are many examples of highly successful African vaccination campaigns on which to base ongoing efforts. The most obvious recent campaign might be that against meningitis A. … As we enter the 2016 meningitis season, the latest figures up to January 24 show 16 confirmed cases of meningitis C (13 in Niger, two in Ghana, and one in Burkina Faso) and only 4.2 million doses of vaccine available for the whole season, most of it only from March. WHO experts cite a ‘limited market’ for the vaccine as a reason for the shortfall. … [I]n the case of Neisseria meningitidis, one serogroup of which caused very recent devastation and another of which is threatening to do the same, the industry’s stance seems shortsighted at best, and irresponsible at worst” (March 2016).

allAfrica: Africa: Why First-Ever Ministerial Conference on Immunization is Critical
Keith Klugman, director for pneumonia at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

“…[D]espite all this progress and the commitment of Africa’s leaders to vaccination programs, the continent still lags behind the rest of the world. … Putting this right is the goal of the first-ever Ministerial Conference on Immunization in Addis Ababa this week. … Immunization programs … require good public health care systems right across the country to ensure all children are vaccinated. Urgent action is all needed to ensure this is put [into] place. We also need to step up education campaigns to overcome misinformation and ignorance about vaccines and to spell out clearly the positive benefits for children, families, and communities. These barriers can only be overcome by working together. But with continued strong political leadership and by building partnerships, we can give every child the protection that vaccines bring. This week’s conference is a major step towards this goal” (2/24).

Huffington Post: Thanks to Vaccines, Meningitis A Is Nearly Eliminated in Africa
Orin Levine, director of vaccine delivery at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

“…The introduction in 2010 of this new vaccine [MenAfriVac] against meningitis A has resulted in one of the biggest immunization success stories in sub-Saharan Africa — near elimination of a deadly infectious disease. … Now we are at a crucial moment — coming together to celebrate the success of [the Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP)] partnership, share the lessons learned, and carefully plan for future use of the vaccine so that the meningitis A epidemics don’t come roaring back. Countries now need to sustain the protection that initial mass vaccination campaigns provided by putting the vaccine into their routine immunization programs. This means everything from financing and procuring the vaccines to delivering the vaccines and monitoring coverage in communities. African leadership is the key to this success — it’s only through these efforts that we can make this transition successfully and sustain protection against epidemic meningitis…” (2/23).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

Secretary Kerry Testifies Before Senate Committee On State Department's FY17 Budget Request

U.S. Department of State’s “DipNote”: Secretary Kerry Testifies on State Department FY 2017 Budget Request
Secretary of State John Kerry testified on Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the State Department’s FY 2017 budget request. The blog post notes, “Over the course of his testimony, Secretary Kerry outlined how this funding supports the State Department’s and other development and national security agencies’ efforts to tackle transnational challenges ranging from countering violent extremism, nuclear proliferation, global health, cyber warfare, and widespread migration caused by conflict and instability…” (2/23).

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President Obama's Request For Additional PMI Funding Highlights U.S. Commitment To End Global Malaria

CDC’s “Our Global Voices”: President Obama’s Call to Accelerate Battle Against Malaria Builds on Impressive Gains
Laurence Slutsker, director of CDC’s Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria, discusses the administration’s request to increase resources for malaria control through the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), writing, “Here at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we stand ready to help realize this expanded vision for PMI” (2/23).

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Creating Global Market For Generic Drugs Could 'Maximize Competition, Normalize Prices'

Health Affairs Blog: Addressing Generic Drug Unaffordability And Shortages By Globalizing The Market For Old Drugs
Alfred Engelberg, retired intellectual property lawyer and philanthropist; Jerry Avorn, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and chief of the Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics in the Department of Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital; and Aaron Kesselheim, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and faculty member in the Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics in the Department of Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, discuss the creation of a global market for generic drugs “to maximize competition, normalize prices, and put those who improperly thrive on market failures out of business…” (2/23).

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New Issue Of 'Global Fund News Flash' Available Online

Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria: Global Fund News Flash
The latest issue of the Global Fund News Flash includes an article on the impact of the Global Fund’s investments in the Indo-Pacific region and highlights a short film on drug-resistant malaria in Myanmar (2/23).

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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 281 of the “Global Fund Observer.” The newsletter features articles on various topics, including an announcement that Aidspan is recruiting an executive director, a commentary on how the Global Fund should release more information related to concept notes, and an article on how the fund is addressing antiretroviral shortages in Uganda (2/24).

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