20 – 26 June 2019

Continued: vaccines in the news

Emilie Karafillakis speaks to BBC World Service’s The Real Story (around 18m 25s in) about the reasons why France was found to be the highest country in Europe to mistrust vaccines in the recently published Wellcome Global Monitor report. Emilie said: “If you look back at the situation in France you can see that trust really slowly eroded over ten to fifteen years and it comes back to a few key events that really made people mistrust the way health authorities were responding to certain health crises. One of the first one to start this was the blood contamination scandal.”

On the same topic, Mosaic explore how France could persuade their citizens to get vaccinated. Heidi Larson commented for the piece: “Measles is like a canary in the mine. To protect a population from measles, at least 95 per cent of people need to be vaccinated – a higher threshold than for most other infections. This means that if vaccination rates start falling, it’s going to be the first to show its ugly head”.

Beate Kampmann speaks to the Herald on Sunday about the danger of outbreaks if vaccination levels continue to fall. Beate said:One person with measles will infect at least two others, if they are not protected. That’s a big danger as it spirals out of control, as we have recently seen in many European countries. There is no room for complacency.”

In other news

Peter Piot talks to BBC World Service’s The Inquiry (21m 9s in) about whether vaccines can stop Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Peter said: “Ebola will not be eliminated because it is living happily in bats and we can’t kill all the bats. But if we vaccinate populations at high risk of Ebola then we can limit enormously these outbreaks. I don’t think we can prevent every single case because it comes from an animal but what we can do is prevent that there are these outbreaks that are killing hundreds if not thousands of people.”

Bloomberg feature the work of the UK Public Health Rapid Support Team and how the team are assisting with the current Ebola outbreak in the DRC. On the team’s work supporting low and middle-income countries with disease outbreaks, Director Dan Bausch said:If you’re sitting in your house and you see a fire raging down the block, even if you say it’s not my problem, the best way to protect your house is not to sit there with a bucket of water at your feet. It’s best to go put it out.”

LSHTM Honourary Professor Sally Bloomfield advises on a new report published by Royal Society for Public Health, ‘Too Clean or Not Too Clean’. The report reveals that while the broad value of hygiene is understood by the public, there are some key misconceptions and gaps in understanding that could be increasing the risk of spread of infections. Sally commented: “The problem is that we have become confused about what hygiene is, and how it differs from cleanliness. Whereas cleaning means removing dirt and microbes, hygiene means cleaning in the places and times that matter – in the right way – to break the chain of infection whilst preparing food, using the toilet, caring for pets etc.”

Sally’s comments were covered by BBC News, The Telegraph, The Guardian, Metro and Daily Mail,

Richard Hayes speaks to NPR about the PopART study, which provided HIV ‘test and treat’ to communities in South Africa and Zambia. In total about one million people were tested between 2013 and 2018. Richard said: “We showed it’s feasible and acceptable to deliver this kind of intervention in towns in sub-Saharan Africa. The process was like mobilising an army.”

After the UK’s five biggest gambling companies commit to increase their voluntary donations to help problem gambling, Heather Wardle speaks to BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours programme about how the money could be spent. Heather said: “At the moment there isn’t really anywhere for consumers to go who have concerns or disputes about the actions that gambling companies have taken in regards to them. So having an independent ombudsman who is focused on consumer and consumer safety is a really sensible idea.”

Val Curtis speaks to the BBC about the ‘raw water’ movement, where people drink water that is unfiltered, untreated and unsterilised. Val said: “This seems to me a really backward step. We’ve gone to such great lengths in society to actually solve the problem of the contamination of drinking water by purifying it and supplying it in good condition. And we’ve even improved it by putting chlorine and fluorine in it to kill all the bugs and improve your teeth. These arguments were won years and years ago.”

Michael Marks provides expert comment to The Telegraph on efforts to eradicate yews disease, after a new diagnostic test is found to identify it. Michael said: “Because there’s currently no good estimates in much of the world, it’s plausible that numbers will actually go up as surveillance improves, before they go down.”

Martin McKee and Lucinda Haim speak to The Guardian about why life expectancy is faltering.

Lucinda commented: “When my colleagues and I first questioned the strength of impact that flu was having in increasing deaths, and suggested the role of the cuts should be explored, we were dismissed by health officials.”

On the topic, Martin said: “Health authorities cannot continue to dismiss the possibility of a link between cuts and lowered life expectancies. We need to find precise answers and we need them urgently. The only way to do that is to set up a proper public inquiry – as a matter of urgency.”

Lucinda and Martin then author an opinion piece for The Guardian, The real scandal behind Britain’s falling life expectancy. They write: “In a few weeks Jeremy Hunt or Boris Johnson will be declared leader of the Conservative party. And unless a significant change of course using substantial public service investment is implemented by whichever one of them becomes the next prime minister, he, too, will add his name to the list of leaders who have overseen the worsening health of the people they represent, obliterating the key part of the social contract a government holds with its electorate: to protect the health of the nation.”

James Logan speaks to Which? about rising tropical diseases in Europe. James said: “The mosquito species aedes has now infested most of Europe, with sightings in Belgium, France, Spain and even the UK. It’s not something to scaremonger about – risk is still low compared with the tropics – but people should take precautions, particularly with children.”

On social media

This week’s social media highlight comes from the LSHTM Twitter page, sharing the Facebook Live that Beate Kampmann did for BBC. The Facebook Live answered questions on vaccines and the risks of not immunising children.

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