Ebola watch: Govs get slammed for Ebola quarantine, bipartisan vaccine bill in the works

New Jersey Gov Chris Christie and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have received a lot of flack for their quarantine policies, particularly Christie, after a nurse returning from Sierra Leone was forcibly quarantined in a hospital soon after arriving at Newark International airport. He since stepped back from that policy and called for health workers to stay […]

New Jersey Gov Chris Christie and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have received a lot of flack for their quarantine policies, particularly Christie, after a nurse returning from Sierra Leone was forcibly quarantined in a hospital soon after arriving at Newark International airport. He since stepped back from that policy and called for health workers to stay in their homes for 21 days.

Christie got a letter from the Dean of Johns Hopkins School of Public Health Dr Michael Klag, which was posted on the school’s website. The school’s graduates include Kaci Hickox, the nurse at the center of the controversy.

“While I applaud your concern for the health of the citizens of New Jersey and recognize your responsibility to protect their health, I do not think that this policy does so.  Instead, it increases paranoia without materially protecting health.”

A New England Journal of Medicine article posted on its website pointed out that experience has shown stopping an epidemic like Ebola requires controlling it at its source. Imposing a quarantine will be a barrier that will put off healthcare workers.

It said:

“The calculus is simple, and we think the governors have it wrong. The health care workers returning from West Africa have been helping others and helping to end the epidemic that has killed thousands of people and scared millions. At this point the public does need assurances that returning workers will have their temperatures and health status monitored according to a set, documented protocol. In the unlikely event that they become febrile, they can follow the example of Craig Spencer, the physician from New York who alerted public health officials of his fever.”

In a move to unencumber pharmaceutical companies developing Ebola vaccines, a bipartisan bill is in the works in the U.S. Senate. In an emailed announcement, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee). Both sit on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, of which Harkin is chairman and Alexander is a ranking member. It is expected to be introduced when Congress recovenes November 12.

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The bill would immediately add Ebola to the list of tropical diseases that qualify for the FDA’s priority review voucher program, which is designed to encourage new drugs for neglected tropical diseases, according to the statement from Harkin’s office.

Congress activated the program in 2007 to promote the development of new treatments and vaccines for neglected tropical diseases, according to the statement.