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World Health Assembly Begins In Geneva

As the 64th World Health Assembly gets underway in Geneva, the body will consider “an array of subjects pertaining to reforms of the organisation and its financing, vaccines, fake medicines, and influenza pandemic preparedness, as well as communicable and non-communicable diseases,” Intellectual Property Watch reports (Saez, 5/13).

Health ministers from the 193 member states are also slated to address whether “to destroy the two last known remaining stocks of the virus that causes smallpox, a scourge that was eradicated in 1980,” Nature News reports (Butler, 5/13). “Smallpox, one of the world’s deadliest diseases, … is kept alive under tight security today in just two places – the United States and Russia,” the Associated Press reports (Cheng, 5/13). 

According to the Wall Street Journal, “[t]he U.S. has been making its case [for not yet destroying the stocks] to health officials in meetings in many countries over the past several weeks, arguing that scientists need more time to finish developing antiviral drugs and vaccines to protect the public from a potential outbreak. In particular, the U.S. believes the live virus is needed to finish developing a vaccine without the serious side effects that older-generation vaccines can have in people with immune deficiency disorders, along with two other antiviral medications” (McKay, 5/16). The Associated Press continues, “Meanwhile, officials from developing countries are anxious to close the last chapter on the disease” (5/13).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.