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Windrush Scandal: A Historian on Why Destroying Archives Is Never a Good Idea | The Good Men Project.

[January 5, 2021]

This is not the first time the government has had to admit to this kind of practice.

Dora Vargha, University of Exeter, writes:

Archival practices rarely make headlines. Databases are sexy, archives less so – at least for most people. Whenever we do read about archives, it’s almost exclusively in the context of something disappearing. Apparently, we never know a good thing until it’s gone.

Most recently, it transpired that the Home Office apparently destroyed Windrush landing cards eight years ago. These, it now seems, were crucial documents in establishing the legal status of Caribbean-born residents who arrived in the 1950s and 1960s. The question of exactly who is to take the blame for this action remains under debate.

This is not the first time the government has had to admit to this kind of practice. A few months ago the Foreign Office admitted to its role in key documents “disappearing” from the National Archives. Among them were papers on the colonial administration of Palestine, the Falklands, Northern Ireland’s Troubles and a score of other sensitive issues.

It’s unclear why the landing cards were destroyed. The Home Office says the decision was taken on data protection grounds and that does seem to be a valid argument. Of course, that argument, too, can be, and frequently is, abused.

Memory loss.

Perhaps we should all pay more attention to archives. As the Windrush case shows, their broader significance tends to only come to light when they stop working.

By definition, archives are the result of a selection process. They are dynamic and forever changing. Someone, somewhere chooses what goes in and what is left out. Someone decides who can have access to it, what is restricted and what is destroyed. Archival practices are complex, working with different layers of intentionality that do not always map onto each other. A social historian or climate scientist, for instance, might be interested in different kind of documents than the governing bodies of the archive deem worthy of keeping. A citizen looking to clarify her legal status may prioritise state archival practices that differ from the record-keeping intentions of ministries.

In this case, it’s very difficult not to connect the dots between the Home Office’s stated goal of a “hostile environment” for immigrants and the wilful destruction of landing cards. There is a very clear tension between the aims of those collecting official records in this case, those regulating, limiting or preventing access to them, and those seeking access to them.

In extreme cases, access to a whole archive can be cut off. The post-1945 collection of the Hungarian National Archives has been in the process of “moving” for over a year (without a new building ready to accommodate the archives). Incidentally, it is not in the interest of the current Hungarian government for research to be conducted on post-war history which risks contesting its telling of the past. But one need not go to a professed “illiberal democracy” to encounter such practices: the archives of the international organisation UNICEF have been “reviewing its archives and archival policies” for years, without any sign of opening their collection for public access.

Archives are pertinent to the story that an institution or government wants to tell of itself. In some cases, that story can become too uncomfortable and archives are crucial tools to make those institutions accountable.

Archives are vital because institutional memory, as the practices of government departments reveal, is usually extremely short. Administrators, managers, directors move between departments and offices, leaving their knowledge behind. This regularly results in government departments going around in circles, “inventing” solutions to problems that have been attempted repeatedly in the past – and failed.

As the Windrush case shows, archival neglect can have severe impact on people too. During my own research, I was faced with the destruction of masses of polio patient files in Hungary. People lost the only remaining evidence of their hospitalisation, diagnosis and treatment from their childhood. As post-polio syndrome hit many of them, and with their parents deceased, they could only guess the medical interventions they had and the course of action they might need to pursue.

None of the above need be intentional –- but the little importance assigned to learning about that past and tending to the archives is. And this needs to be addressed, especially if we are talking about publicly funded organisations.

Archives matter.

When we hear the word archives, we might imagine a big building where bespectacled historians and literary scholars mull over musty papers in silence. But archives are all around us: they might be in the cellar of a government office, a hospital’s filing room, a company’s computer, somebody’s attic. They might not even be documents or texts. Archives can be collections of specimens like seeds or blood, fossils and minerals.

Users of archives might be similarly varied. From scientists and human rights activists and everyday people piecing together their family tree, to bureaucrats, journalists, architects and lawyers.

Sometimes it feels like historians have to make the point that history matters – and which history matters – over and over again (even Stephen Fry chipped in), and few seem to be listening. But awareness of the stakes in maintaining an institutional memory should not be confined to academic debates. They concern all of us, and we might not realise it until it’s too late – or until the traces of our lives, as we know them, are gone.

Dora Vargha, Lecturer in Medical Humanities, University of ExeterThe Conversation


This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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GACVS sub-committee on novel OPV2 safety | GPEI.

[Published: 5th January 2021]

Terms of Reference.

On  Friday 13th November, 2020, the type 2 novel oral polio vaccine (nOPV2) became the first vaccine authorized by WHO for use under Emergency Use Listing (EUL)[i]. This will allow its rollout for limited initial use in countries affected by circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2) outbreaks. The role of nOPV2 is to protect against type 2 poliovirus – to rapidly prevent and minimize outbreaks, prevent infection and paralysis, save lives, and ultimately, to contribute to polio eradication.

The GACVS Sub-Committee was established in time with nOPV2 initial use under EUL, to ensure that an independent group of experts provides a systematic, timely and coordinated ongoing review of safety data and outcomes related to nOPV2 use in the field. The GACVS Sub-Committee on nOPV2 Safety will advise WHO and its Member States on safety outcomes following the use of initially pre-licensed type 2 novel oral poliovirus vaccine, during the EUL period, prior to the availability of Phase III clinical trial results.[ii] This will ensure that the overall decision to accelerate the timeline to roll out nOPV2 from its initial to wider use under EUL and beyond, will be informed and based on sound evidence.

Specifically the GACVS Sub-Committee will be asked to:

  1. Establish safety considerations for the use of nOPV2, to complement i) criteria used to recommend transition from initial to wider use of nOPV2 under EUL; and ii) criteria for discontinuing nOPV2 use
  2. Convene regularly to review the analyses of routine safety data from the field, during the initial use of nOPV2 under EUL period (approx. from 3-6 months following its initial implementation, until closure of the EUL period, approx. 12-18 months after implementation)
  3. Convene on an ad-hoc basis as needed, in the event that severe safety signals are reported
  4. Provide expert input, recommendations and guidance on the safety aspects of nOPV2 based on the review of available safety data after each of two mass vaccination campaign rounds deployed for outbreak response; and to formally share these recommendations and updates with the GACVS, Polio Working Group, and SAGE.[iii]


Members / Experts.

  • Co-Chair – Rita Helfand (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, GA, USA; Chair of the Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety/GACVS);
  • Co-Chair – Peter Wright (Geisel School of Medicine, Dartmouth Medical School, NH, USA; Chair of the WHO Polio Data Safety and Monitoring Board);
  • Dure Samin Akram (Health, Education and Literacy Program, Karachi, Pakistan; Vice Chair of the Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety/GACVS).
  • Narendra Kumar Arora (The INCLEN Trust International, New Delhi, India; Member of the Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety/GACVS);
  • Fred Zepp (University Medical Center of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany; Member of the nOPV2 Data Safety and Monitoring Board);
  • Zubairu Ilyasu (Bayero University, Kano State, Nigeria; Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Kano, Nigeria)
  • Beckie Tagbo University of Nigeria, Ituku-Ozalla Campus, Enugu State Nigeria; University of Nigeria teaching Hospital, Ituku-Ozalla, Enugu State, Nigeria);
  • Elizabeth Brickley (Dartmouth College, NH, USA London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, UK; Member of the WHO Polio Data Safety and Monitoring Board).

WHO secretariat.

  • Carolyn Sein
  • Madhav Balakrishnan

Related documents [PDF Format].

Declarations of Interest.

All members completed a declaration of interests form. Three members reported relevant interests. All interests were assessed and deemed not to constitute a conflict to participating in meetings. The reported relevant interests are summarized below:

Peter Wright

  • He serves as Chair of the Polio DSMB to review safety events and data related to WHO polio clinical trials. This interest was perceived as non-personal, non-specific and financially non-significant.
  • He served on the nOPV Scientific Advisory Board 4 years ago. This interest was perceived as non-personal, specific and financially non-significant*.
  • His academic institution provides laboratory support to handle and process Sabin and nOPV2 samples with funding from research grants. This interest was perceived as non-personal, specific and financially significant for the institution*.
  • His academic institution has submitted a grant proposal to provide laboratory support to handle and process nOPV1 and nOPV3 samples. This interest was perceived as non-personal, non-specific*.

Fred Zepp.

He serves as the Chair of the nOPV2 DSMB to review safety events and data related to nOPV2 clinical trials. This interest was assessed as non-personal, specific and financially insignificant*.

Elizabeth Brickley.

  • She serves as on the Polio DSMB to review safety events and data related to WHO polio clinical trials, with specific expertise in epidemiology. This interest was assessed as non-personal, non-specific and financially insignificant*.
  • She reviewed and conducted in-depth analysis related to nOPV2 candidate vaccines for Phase I and contributed to the preparation of scientific manuscript related to this analysis as a first author, which was submitted and is currently under review. This interest was assessed as non-personal, specific and financially non-significant*.

* According to WHO’s Guidelines for Declaration of Interests (WHO expert), an interest is considered “personal” if it generates financial or non-financial gain to the expert, such as consulting income or a patent. “Specificity” states whether the declared interest is a subject matter of the meeting or work to be undertaken. An interest has “financial significance” if the honoraria, consultancy fee or other received funding, including those received by expert’s organization, from any single vaccine manufacturer or other vaccine-related company exceeds 5,000 USD in a calendar year. Likewise, a shareholding in any one vaccine manufacturer or other vaccine-related company in excess of 1,000 USD would also constitute a “significant shareholding”.

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Pakistan: DC Calls For Effective Efforts To Make The Country Free Polio Virus | UrduPoint.

[Tue 05th January 2021] Faizan Hashmi writes:

RAWALPINDI, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 5th Jan, 2021 ) :Deputy Commissioner Capt ? Anwar Ul Haq on Tuesday said that Polio is a National issue and it is responsibility of all to play an effective role to make the country Polio free.

Presiding over a meeting to review anti-polio arrangements here at his office, , he directed the officials of health authority to ensure the administrating of polio drops to children under five years of age studding in Madrasas.

Anwar said that success of anti-polio drive depends upon the attitude and working of polio workers.

The DC said that unfortunately Pakistan is one of the two remaining countries in the world where polio was still categorized as an endemic viral infection and collective efforts were needed to completely wipe it from the country.

Chief Executive Officer Health Dr Faiza Kanwal while giving briefing about the arrangements for the five day anti-polio campaign being commenced from January 11.

She said that 2964 polio teams would go door-to-door and administer polio drops to 885,000 children less than five years in all tehsils and Union Councils of the district.

She said that 663 area incharges, 240 medical officers, and Allied/tehsil Headquarter hospitals would participate in the campaign.

Dr Kanwal said all possible steps have been taken by the concerned to make the campaign a success while anti-polio drops would also be administered at 307 fix centers.

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