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The promise and peril of universal health care


Healthy populations translate into productive and stable nations. Universal health care (UHC) is a pragmatic and ethical ideal that, thanks to social and economic progress, seems almost achievable. However, UHC means different things in different contexts. The minimum ideal is that no individual or family should suffer financial hardship because of accessing good-quality medical assistance. Bloom et al. review health priorities around the world and what will be needed in terms of skills, funds, and technology to achieve health care access for all. The September 1978 Alma-Ata Declaration is a landmark event in the history of global health. The declaration raised awareness of "health for all" as a universal human right, whose fulfillment reduces human misery and suffering, advances equality, and safeguards human dignity. It also recognized economic and social development and international security as not only causes, but also consequences, of better health. In addition, it highlighted the power of primary health care and international cooperation to advance the protection and promotion of health in resource-constrained settings. Building on the achievement of Alma-Ata and gaining further traction from the Millenium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations, universal health care (UHC) has emerged in recent years as a central imperative of the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations and most of its member states, and much of civil society. UHC characterizes national health systems in which all individuals can access quality health services without individual or familial financial hardship.

Wars, instability pose coronavirus vaccine challenges in poor nations

FOX News

Dr. Nicole Saphier discusses updated guidance, new coronavirus strain on'FOX & amp; Friends Weekend.' Arifullah Khan had just administered another polio vaccine when the gunfire blasted from the nearby hills. There was so much gunfire it felt like an explosion," he said, recalling details of the attack five years ago in Pakistan's Bajaur tribal region near the Afghan border. A bullet shattered his thigh and he fell to the ground. His childhood friend and partner in the vaccination campaign, Ruhollah, lay bleeding on the ground in front of him. FILE - In this July 13, 2019, file photo, health workers wearing protective suits tend to an Ebola victim kept in an isolation tent in Beni, Democratic Republic of Congo. The task of vaccinating millions of people in poor and developing countries against COVID-19 faces monumental obstacles, and it's not just a problem of affording and obtaining doses. Rumors flew about the Ebola vaccines, including the idea they were meant to kill people, said ...

Pakistan resumes polio vaccinations after coronavirus hiatus

Al Jazeera

Quetta, Pakistan - Pakistan is resuming polio vaccination efforts in high-risk districts across the country after the coronavirus pandemic forced a four-month hiatus in one of the only two countries in the world where the debilitating virus remains endemic. Vaccinators will go door-to-door to vaccinate more than 800,000 children under the age of five in the districts of Karachi, Quetta, Faisalabad, Attock and South Waziristan on Monday, the government-run polio eradication campaign said in a statement. This year, at least 59 cases of polio - a neurodegenerative disease that can cause paralysis of the limbs in young children - have been registered in Pakistan, according to official data. The virus, buoyed by parents refusing to give their children the vaccine and incomplete immunisation campaign coverage, resurged in Pakistan last year, with 147 cases across the country, compared with just 12 the year before. This year, the government says it had planned on stepping up countrywide immunisation drives, but was stymied by the coronavirus pandemic, which made going door-to-door to reach more than 35 million children logistically difficult.

Gunmen kill polio vaccinator in southwestern Pakistan

Al Jazeera

Islamabad, Pakistan - Unidentified gunmen have killed at least one polio vaccination worker in the southwestern Pakistani area of Chaman, government officials say, bringing the death toll from a drive this week to eradicate the virus to at least three. Gunmen opened fire on a team of vaccination workers in the remote village of Sultan Zai, about 100km northwest of the provincial capital Quetta, on Thursday, said Sami Agha, a local government official. "The body of the killed polio worker and another person who was wounded have been transferred to hospital," Agha said in a statement. Security forces have launched a search operation in the area, and the polio vaccination drive in near Sultan Zai has been temporarily suspended, the statement said. Polio, a highly infectious debilitating virus that targets the nervous system of children, has been wiped out across the world, but remains endemic in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

They know the drill: Dentists tapped to speed up Japan's slow vaccine rollout

The Japan Times

In anticipation of a surge in demand in some municipalities for doctors and nurses eligible to administer COVID-19 vaccines, Japan will enlist the help of dentists for its nationwide inoculation program, which is currently progressing at a very slow pace. After gaining approval from a panel of experts, the health ministry decided Friday to allow dentists -- who are deemed ineligible to give COVID-19 vaccines under the Medical Practitioners' Law -- to administer the shots under some circumstances. Japan rigidly controls who can administer coronavirus vaccines, contrasting sharply with countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, where an array of health care personnel besides doctors and nurses -- including dentists, pharmacists, medical students and emergency medical technicians -- have been deployed to help staff the inoculation program. In the U.K., even volunteers from all walks of life who have no medical qualifications have been trained to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines. Currently, less than 1% of Japan's population has been fully vaccinated, one of the lowest levels among developed countries.