Vaccine supply for yellow fever dwindles

U.S. health officials warned Friday that the country’s supply of yellow fever vaccine is dwindling and will likely be gone by the summer — with no way to make more because of a manufacturing problem.

The shortage comes at a troubling time. Multiple outbreaks of yellow fever, which is transmitted by mosquitoes and was eradicated in many countries by the 1920s, have popped up around the world in recent years in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo and, most recently, Brazil.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it has been collaborating with the Food and Drug Administration and Sanofi Pasteur, which makes the vaccine, to address the shortage by expanding access to a different type that will be imported from France. That vaccine, Stamaril, is considered investigational and is unlicensed in the United States.

Stamaril is being made available outside the FDA’s regular review process through an “expanded access” provision, which allows for a wider distribution of a drug beyond a limited clinical trial in emergency situations. However, the number of clinics offering the vaccine will be reduced from about 4,000 to 250, according to Marty Cetron, who oversees the CDC’s division of global migration and quarantine.

Cetron said travelers should be vaccinated before heading to an area where the disease is present. Estimates of the people infected range from 84,000 to 174,000 annually. About 60,000 are believed to die globally each year from the disease, which is transmitted by the mosquito that carries the Zika virus.

— Ariana Eunjung Cha

Former educator gets four years in prison

The former head of Chicago Public Schools was sentenced to more than four years in prison on Friday for steering $23 million in city contracts to education firms for a cut of more than $2 million in kickbacks.

A tearful Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who held top education jobs in Detroit and Cleveland before being tapped to lead the nation’s third-largest school district, apologized in a 15-minute statement before she was sentenced, saying: “What I did was terribly wrong. … I’m ashamed, and I’m sorry.”

But U.S. District Court Judge Edmond Chang said her brazenness in bilking an already cash-strapped school district suggested she never believed she’d get caught in a city with a long, ignominious history of corruption.

The former Chicago Public Schools chief executive faced a maximum 20 years behind bars; prosecutors asked for a term of seven and a half years. During sentencing, Chang said, he factored in her age and her acts of kindness, including paying for the funerals of some students.

Prosecutors allege Byrd-Bennett, 68, agreed to the scheme at the start of her tenure in 2012, knowing the 400,000-student district was buckling under major financial strain.

She had a national reputation as an education reformer, earned a $250,000 annual salary and had multiple pensions from previous jobs.

SUPER Academy and Synesi Associates LLC owners Gary Solomon and Thomas Vranas pleaded guilty to related charges. Chang sentenced Solomon — who prosecutors say masterminded the scheme — to seven years in prison last month. Vranas received an
18-month sentence earlier Friday.

— Associated Press

George H.W. Bush released from hospital

Former President George H.W. Bush has been released from a Houston hospital where he received treatment for a mild case of pneumonia and chronic bronchitis during a two-week stay.

Bush spokesman Jim McGrath said in a statement that Bush, 92, was discharged from Houston Methodist Hospital on Friday.

Bush was admitted to Houston Methodist Hospital on April 14 for treatment of a persistent cough. Doctors determined he had pneumonia. After the pneumonia was treated, Bush remained hospitalized because of chronic bronchitis.

Bush, who was president from 1989 to 1993, was hospitalized for 16 days in January with pneumonia.

During that hospital stay, which included time in intensive care, doctors inserted a breathing tube and connected him to a ventilator.

— Associated Press

Doctor is convicted of Medicare fraud

A prominent Florida eye doctor accused of political corruption was convicted of Medicare fraud Friday, increasing the odds that federal prosecutors could pressure him to testify against Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).

Salomon Melgen faces 15 to 20 years in prison on 67 counts, including health-care fraud, submitting false claims and falsifying records in patients’ files, if he doesn’t strike a deal before his sentencing, which is scheduled for July 14.

The doctor, 62, collected more money from Medicare than any other physician in the nation — $21 million — at the height of the fraud in 2012. Melgen and Menendez face trial on Sept. 6 in New Jersey on charges the doctor bribed the senator for favors, including intervention in the fraud probe. The senator denies any wrongdoing.

— Associated Press