Call for G20 Leaders to Take Pandemic Action

Ahead of this year’s G20 Leaders’ Summit, over 50 global, regional, national, and local organizations are calling on leaders to put forward actions that ensure everyone has the tools to curb COVID-19 and prevent future pandemics. As health crises continue to set development progress back, impact our economies, and undermine the world’s ability to tackle other global challenges, joint and coordinated measures, policies, and investments remain urgent and necessary. 

While Indonesia’s G20 Presidency has advanced key agreements and proposals on PPR — such as the new Financial Intermediary Fund for Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response (known as the Pandemic Fund) — there are further opportunities within reach for breaking the cycle of “panic and neglect” on pandemics. The Annual Meetings provide a critical opportunity to reassert leadership, deliver finance at scale, and kick-start the package of measures needed to pandemic-proof our world. 

Specifically, the group of organizations call on G20 Leaders to:

  • Deliver finance at scale for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
    1. Channel US$100 billion in special drawing rights (SDRs) to the IMF’s Resilience and Sustainability Trust (RST).
    2. Release a roadmap to unlock new lending from multilateral development banks (MDBs).
  • Invest in pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response — with equity at its heart.
    1. Meet the Pandemic Fund’s US$10.5 billion target and advance a sustainable funding plan.
    2. Fund the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) 2.0, FIND — the global alliance for diagnostics — and public health institutes.
    3. Fund and support the Global Fund, Gavi, and other organizations also crucial to PPR. 
  • Prevent and prepare for the next pandemic by fixing gaps in the system and in policies.
    1. Endorse the creation of a high-level body to tackle global health threats and advance its set up through the UN High-Level Meeting for Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response in 2023.
    2. Ensure equitable access to pandemic countermeasures and initiate a process to address this gap now and for the future
    3. Reinforce the importance of a One Health approach.

Outbreaks can be prevented, and new pathogens can be contained — but ongoing pandemics are a political choice. Decisive leadership can deliver a path to health security for people worldwide, where most outbreaks can be prevented, and new pathogens can be contained. We already know the solutions and investments required. Against the consequences and harm of pandemics, their cost is not only modest but is also much less considering the human, economic, and health dividends they reap. 

Read the full letter. If your organization would like to sign the letter to G20 Leaders, please reach out to Aminata

 

Shock and Gloom — But a Window of Political Opportunity?

The World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Annual Meetings came back in full force and in person Oct. 10-16, with road closures and large black security vehicles once again clogging streets of downtown Washington, D.C. As a veteran of the meetings and a global health and development advocate the week left me in turn feeling depressed, bewildered, and cautiously hopeful.  

Here are my top 5 takeaways:

  • Shock and gloom. The revised projections for global economic growth from the IMF were pretty dire: a sharp slowdown from 6% in 2021 to 3.2% in 2022, and set to decline again in 2023, with inflation rates higher than in several decades and triggering an acute cost-of-living crisis. IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva minced no words about the dangers afoot, saying there has been “shock after shock after shock” leading to historic fragility, a likely recession, and expectations of a global output loss of about US$4 trillion (about the size of Germany’s economy) over the next four years. The new edition of the World Bank’s Poverty and Shared Prosperity report found that since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, progress toward reducing global poverty has essentially halted and global inequality  increased. The headline on the World Bank’s own website — Development in Crisis — pretty much sums it up.
  • What pandemic? There was much hand wringing on what to do about the worsening poly-crises confronting the world today. Among the headlines were the launch of the IMF’s new Food Shock Window and the World Bank’s Second Ministerial Roundtable on Support for Ukraine, while the discussion at the Development Committee focused around two papers on the Food and Energy Crisis: Weathering the Storm and Achieving the Climate and Development Goals: The Financing Question. Notably absent from the conversations and commitments, however, was the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic (and when it did get a mention, it was mostly referred to in the past tense). A few important exceptions were the excellent speeches at the Center for Global Development delivered by three women leaders: U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Indonesian Minister of Finance Sri Mulyani, and German Minister for Economic Cooperation Svenja Schulze, all of whom highlighted the need to increase investments in pandemic preparedness. There was also a spotlight on the learning losses as a result of prolonged pandemic-related school closures.
  • Next generation of protests. Two decades ago, protests were a common sight outside the Spring and Annual Meetings, pressing for debt relief and an end to structural adjustment and globalization. In the wake of major policy shifts like the adoption of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, increased disclosure and stronger accountability mechanisms, and the inclusion of civil society in the Meetings which I was proud to help facilitate over time those protests had largely shifted to constructive dialogue. The protesters were back on the streets (and in the building) this year, once again demanding debt cancellation and climate action further fueled by World Bank President David Malpass’ widely criticized comments during the United Nations General Assembly.
  • A few billion here and there. Recent Annual and Spring Meetings had produced some significant commitments to help countries struggling to cope with the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, namely through a general allocation of special drawing rights (SDRs) equivalent to US$650 billion and creation of a Resilience and Sustainability Trust (RST) at the IMF to be funded by channeling SDRs from wealthy countries to low- and lower-middle-income countries. Georgieva announced that the RST was now operational with US$37billion in pledges (of which US$20 billion has been delivered thus far) and that agreements had been reached for the first three countries — Barbados, Costa Rica, and Rwanda — to receive support from the RST. Also in September, the World Bank formally launched a new Financial Intermediary Fund for Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response (Pandemic Fund). With less than US$1.5 billion pledged so far and a first call for proposals not slated until late this year or early next, the Pandemic Fund still has a long way to go to reach the annual financing target of more than US$10 billion to close critical preparedness gaps and achieve its transformative potential. We are told more donors and pledges are expected soon, yet discussions on a sustainable financing pathway are some months away. But, on the bright side…
  • Reform is in the air. An undercurrent across the Meetings was that the two Bretton Woods Institutions created in 1944, are no longer fit-for-purpose  in 2022 to address a “world on fire” as the Vulnerable 20 (V-20) group of nations put it at their ministerial. Secretary Yellen set the stage with her pre-Meetings call to action to “rethink our overall development finance strategy” and “evolve our multilateral development bank (MDB) system” to meet this moment of unprecedented global challenges with the highly interconnected threats of climate change, pandemics, and fragility topping the priority list. Variations on this theme were echoed throughout the week by an array of leaders including former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, Schulze, and many others. The wonky-sounding Independent Review of the MDB Capital Adequacy Frameworks, commissioned by the G20, gained support for a set of actionable MDB reforms that could unlock hundreds of billions of dollars in additional capital for global public goods. Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley also doubled down on her call to leaders from the global South and North to come together and build a movement around the Bridgetown Agenda to modernize the international financial institutions with “the urgency of now”.   The conversation moved beyond the  rhetoric: A coalition of countries led by Germany G7+ Presidency requested the World Bank management to produce a roadmap for reform by December this year.

Will any of this actually lead to significant change? Time will tell, but something feels different. Pandemic Action Network is committed to heed Prime Minister Mottley’s call to action and help build the political will and the movement to make it happen. One thing we are sure of: From the climate crisis to the COVID-19 crisis to the next pandemic, the world can’t afford to wait.   

 

Misinformation in the Era of Pandemics

Of all the long-term consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, one that will have far-reaching and long-term health impact is the worrying rise in anti-vaccine sentiment. We know that COVID has had a dramatic impact on vaccine confidence, but that faltering confidence is unfortunately not limited to the COVID vaccine. New research and data show that misinformation and distrust surrounding the COVID vaccine has spilled over to other routine vaccines, such as measles, resulting in decreasing vaccination rates and increasing the risk of outbreaks. At the root of this trend is a pervasive and increasingly powerful engine of misinformation.

Vaccine misinformation is not new, but COVID has made it more mainstream and profitable. In the U.S., the archetype of the original anti-vaxxer was a parent opting for a more “natural” lifestyle for their children, but since the politicization of vaccines, the movement has gained traction, particularly among white conservatives. Anti-vaccine Google searches have also increased during the pandemic, peaking after various WHO announcements. Support for getting a COVID vaccine varies by region — 74.8% in West and Central Africa and 97.2% in Asia Pacific region — while vaccine confidence in the U.S. has decreased by 20% since the COVID-19 pandemic began. According to NPR, “articles connecting vaccines and death have been among the most highly engaged with content online this year.” And, what is fueling this surge in anti-vaccine misinformation? Profit. The anti-vaccine industry boasts annual revenues of at least US$36 million, according to the Center for Countering Digital Hate.

These days, many people including parents rely on the internet for medical information, but the facts are not the only thing they are finding. Studies show that “using the internet and social media as a source was associated with vaccine hesitancy.” In one study, 45% of parents who relied on the internet for vaccine information were vaccine hesitant, and parents who rely on the internet for vaccine information were significantly associated with vaccine hesitancy.

What does this mean for global health? 

  • In the short term, we are seeing more outbreaks of preventable diseases and thus more preventable deaths. Measles cases in January and February of 2022 surged 79% worldwide compared to the same time last year. 
  • Long term, this trend points to severe consequences. Outbreaks of measles or polio would divert staff and funds away from other health crises and be very expensive, with vaccine-preventable diseases posing an economic burden of US$9 billion in 2015 alone. Rather than focusing on R&D for new treatments or emerging diseases, we will be diverting funds to solve outbreaks that were preventable in the first place, wasting valuable time and resources.  

So what can we do to stop this wave of vaccine misinformation? Vaccine misinformation and hesitancy varies by community, so responses must be tailored and specific

  • To learn more about who is funding vaccine misinformation efforts and how governments are responding, check out the Center for Countering Digital Hate.
  • You can sign their petition calling on major technology companies to take action and remove vaccine misinformation along with superspreaders from their sites. 
  • For more information on vaccine education efforts, check out our resource hub on vaccine education.

In our global society and communications landscape, we cannot ignore the rising tide of health misinformation. Just like a virus, what starts with misinformation about one disease in one community, can quickly evolve to infect other communities around the world.

 

It’s About Time: Pandemic Action Network Statement on Welcoming the UNGA Resolution on a High-Level Meeting for Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response

Pandemic Action Network welcomes the resolution adopted by Member States today at the United Nations General Assembly calling for a high-level meeting on pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response. 

Such a high-level meeting of political leaders is long overdue in the wake of a deadly pandemic that has cost millions of lives and trillions in economic losses and has setback decades of progress in health and societal outcomes. Since its inception in early 2020, Pandemic Action Network has been calling for a high-level UN meeting to address the urgent priorities of pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response at the highest political levels. While sometime before September 2023 is better than nothing, we urge leaders from every nation to prioritize this high-level meeting and make sure it lays the foundations to elevate, accelerate, and sustain efforts to combat pandemic threats at national, regional, and global levels. 

This initial meeting, which should kickstart accountability measures, must be followed with a sustained series of high-level meetings to commit to the actions needed. The creation of a high-level council to tackle global health threats at the heads of state and government levels, inclusive of civil society and the private sector, should be one of the meeting’s primary aims. Such a council is much needed to ensure speedy and coordinated international action and accountability to address both existing and emerging pandemic threats.

As we now navigate this era of pandemics amidst pandemic fatigue, this high-level meeting is more urgent than ever.

The Pandemic Fund Action Hub

 

The Pandemic Fund Action Hub

Track, Analyze, Engage

On June 30, 2022, the World Bank’s Board approved the establishment of a new Financial Intermediary Fund (FIF) to mobilize new investments that strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response (PPR) capacities at national, regional, and global levels, with a strong focus on low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Such a decision — supported by multiple countries and experts — is a crucial step towards a future where pandemics no longer represent a global existential threat.

This nascent Financial Intermediary Fund for Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response (Pandemic Fund) was established on September 8, 2022, after a group of founding donors agreed on the minimum necessary aspects for its operation. The World Bank hosts the Fund’s secretariat with support from the World Health Organization. Further work and agreements are required to ensure this new financial instrument will deliver on its transformative promise to make the world safer from pandemics. Among these are its focus and scope, structure, operations, governance, and financing, which experts estimate needs to reach a minimum of US$10 billion annually.

Since the process of designing and establishing the Pandemic Fund is moving swiftly, Pandemic Action Network has set up this dynamic resource hub to organize and facilitate access to relevant information. Moreover, this Action Hub aims to inform our partners and any civil society group about key developments and opportunities to mobilize, collaborate and shape the Pandemic Fund’s design and future operations.

Key documents

In this section, you will find public and official documents related to the governance and operation of the Pandemic Fund. Some of them can be preliminary versions or drafts under review by the Fund’s Governing Board.

Fund Pledge Tracker

Pandemic Action Network and the ONE Campaign are keeping a record of the pledges made to the Pandemic Fund. The goal is to better understand its funding sources and sustainability and to promote transparency and accountability through regular monitoring.

Access the Pandemic Fund’s Pledge Tracker

Civil Society Organization (CSO) Consultation Process

For this new Pandemic Fund to be successful and sustainable — and achieve its transformative promise to make the world safer from pandemics — there must be an inclusive approach to the current design process. CSOs must have room to inform the design, governance, priorities, and stand-up process. While we are supportive of the promise of the Fund, CSOs and low- and middle-income countries should be co-creators and decision-makers at every step of the Fund’s design and operation in order to ensure its success. Evidence from other mechanisms where CSOs have played an active role shows their involvement and contributions strengthen their functioning and enhance participation, accountability, and representation of affected communities. 

To catalyze needed progress toward meaningful inclusion, Pandemic Action Network, together with partners, the Center for Indonesia’s Strategic Development Initiatives (CISDI), the Eastern Africa National Networks of AIDS Service Organisations (EANNASO), and WACI Health, managed the official CSO consultation process to the Fund ahead of its establishment.

🗓️ Upcoming Sessions

    • None scheduled; please check back.

📚 Previous Consultation Outcomes

    • October 14, Civil Society & Communities Town Hall: Feedback from October 7, 2022 Pandemic Fund Board Meeting
      The Town Hall provided a readout of the October meeting of the Pandemic Fund Governing Board meeting on October 7, shared updates on decisions taken, tasks ahead, and invited feedback, reflections, and priority-sharing from civil society and community colleagues. The Town Hall also provided updates on formally establishing an active civil society and communities constituency, as well as a Civil Society Technical Working Group to facilitate regular, proactive channels for information sharing, and increase opportunities for experts from civil society and communities to inform technical decision-making around the Fund. 

      Readout & Notes

    • September 15, Civil Society & Communities Town Hall: Feedback from First Pandemic Fund Board Meeting
      During this meeting, interim civil society Board Members Jackline Njeri Kiarie and Elisha Dunn-Georgiou, along with alternate Board Members Nitish Debnath and Olya Golichenko, provided a readout of the first meeting of the Pandemic Fund Governing Board meeting (Sept. 8-9), shared updates on decisions and tasks ahead, and gathered feedback from civil society and communities colleagues.

      Presentation Deck (Sept. 15) | Readout & Notes

    • August 30 & 31, Second Round Consultations | Summary of Proceedings and Key Messages
      This document summarizes the discussions from August 30 and 31 and presents the ideas and recommendations emphasized by CSO participants on the scope and priorities of the PPR FIF. Annexes contain meeting notes, attendee information, and written feedback.

      Summary of Proceedings and Key Messages (Aug 30/31)

    • August 16 & 17, First Round Consultations | Summary of Proceedings and Key Messages
      This document summarizes the discussions from August 16 and 17 and presents crucial ideas and recommendations emphasized by multiple participants on three issues: governing board, civil society engagement, and technical advisory panel. Annexes also contain meeting notes and written feedback provided.

      Summary of Proceedings and Key Messages (Aug 16/17)

📹 Recordings

👥 Participation

Additional figures will be provided soon.

Interim CSO Representatives for the PPR FIF Governing Board

📢 Call for Nominations

Founding contributors in the new Financial Intermediary Fund (FIF) for Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response (PPR) reached an agreement that its Governing Board should include two voting seats for civil society organization (CSO) representatives. Pandemic Action Network, the Center for Indonesia’s Strategic Development Initiatives (CISDI), the Eastern Africa National Networks of AIDS Service Organisations (EANNASO), and the Platform for ACT-A Civil Society & Community Representatives initiated a civil society-led selection process and issued a global call for nominations to select two interim CSO representatives for the PPR FIF Governing Board on August 26, 2022.

This interim selection process took place on an abbreviated timeframe to ensure that the interim CSO representatives could participate in the first Governing Board meeting, scheduled for September 8-9, 2022. The application deadline was September 2, 12 pm ET, and the eligibility criteria and nomination form remain available for anyone interested.

👥 Selection Committee

The group of organizations and networks facilitating the civil society-led selection process believed it was key that the composition of the Selection Committee reflected regional and thematic diversity. With this in mind, the group agreed to integrate it with seven (7) members. They were:

    • Ashley Arabasadi, Management Sciences for Health
    • Harjyot Khosa, International Planned Parenthood Federation (South Asia Regional Office)
    • Lizzie Otaye, EANNASO
    • Mike Podmore, Platform for ACT-A Civil Society & Community Representatives/STOPAIDS
    • Nahashon Aluoka, Pandemic Action Network
    • Neil Vora, Conservation International/PPATS Coalition
    • Olivia Herlinda, CISDI

⏱️ Timeline

👤 Selected Representatives

On behalf of the Selection Committee, we are pleased to announce that Jackline Njeri Kiarie (Amref Health Africa — Global South) and Elisha Dunn-Georgiou (Global Health Council — Global North) were selected as interim civil society representatives for the new Financial Intermediary Fund (FIF) for Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response (PPR) Governing Board. Nitish Debnath (One Health Bangladesh) and Olya Golichenko (Frontline AIDS, United Kingdom) will act as alternates. They have all accepted their positions.

This process has aimed to ensure that a diversity of civil society experience, global perspectives, and regional representation inform PPR FIF decision-making, starting from the first meeting of the Fund’s Governing Board, scheduled for September 8-9. These representatives will serve for an interim period of approximately six months until full-term CSO representatives are named through a longer-term, civil society-led selection process. 

While ensuring interim CSO representatives are in place for this week’s first PPR FIF Governing Board meeting required an extremely abbreviated timeframe, 66 submissions were received from 27 countries during the one-week open call for nominations. We are confident that the selected individuals will be strong representatives of the diversity of global civil society, advocate determinedly for community voices and priorities in the PPR space, and collectively demonstrate the vital and constructive role of civil society in global decision-making.

Analysis & Resources

Closing the Gap: Pandemic Fund Tracker

Acting on the lessons learned from the COVID-19 crisis and the recommendations of several expert panels — including the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response and the G20 High-Level Independent Panel on Financing the Global Commons — the World Bank’s Board approved on June 30, 2022, the establishment of a new Financial Intermediary Fund (FIF) to mobilize new investments to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response (PPR) capacities at national, regional, and global levels, with a focus on low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). 

This nascent FIF for Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response (Pandemic Fund) is currently under design. Its strength and potential will depend on its vision, focus, structure, and governance — including transparency and inclusivity in all design and decision-making processes — as well as robust and sustainable funding, which experts estimate needs to reach a minimum of US$10.5 billion annually. 

Now is the time for leaders from around the world to support the Pandemic Fund so that it can deliver on its promise of addressing critical gaps in pandemic PPR and strengthening country-level capacity. Support from a broader base of countries — as well as from philanthropies and the private sector — is necessary for cementing sustained, global investments in pandemic preparedness as a global public good that bring tangible benefits to all and prevent another deadly and costly pandemic. But to fulfill the Fund’s mission, contributions must also be truly additional to financial commitments for other global health and development priorities and programs

Based on publicly-available information and intelligence gathered through our Networks, this tracker aims to record pledges made to the Pandemic Fund, with the goal of better understanding funding sources and sustainability, and promoting transparency and accountability through regular tracking.

Access the Tracker’s Data

Summary Analysis

Last updated November 18, 2022

As of this day, the World Bank claims the Pandemic Fund has raised pledges of US$1.4 billion. So far, we have identified US$1.41 billion has been publicly announced. Further contributions amounting to US$9.1 billion are needed to reach the US$10.5 billion annual baseline experts have estimated necessary.

19 donors 15 governments, 3 philanthropic organizations, 1 nonprofit organization, and 0 private sector organizations have pledged to the Pandemic Fund. According to the World Bank, six additional donors committed to contributing, but their pledges have not been announced. 

While it is crucial that as many countries as possible contribute to the Pandemic Fund, G20 and OECD members are essential donors. Because of their roles globally, these countries must set an example in contributing to and sustaining global public goods, such as pandemic preparedness and response. The following map shows the pledge status of such a group of countries.

Financial Intermediary Fund for Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response Tracker (Pandemic Fund)

Is the tracker's data accurate and up to date? If not, do not hesitate to share any intel or modification suggestions with us.

Methodology

  • Included pledges have been verified either by a government or multilateral website, and/or the World Bank, and/or a credible top-tier news outlet.
  • “Additionality” is defined as additional to existing global health and development spending — the term is used to qualify that the financial resources pledged are new compared to other financial resources already committed to global health, international aid, or other funding mechanisms. Donor-specific budget rules are also considered in the assessment.

More about the Pandemic Fund

Statement on the Introduction of the Senate FY23 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Legislation

Statement by Pandemic Action Network Co-Founder Carolyn Reynolds

“The Senate FY23 State and Foreign Operations (SFOPs) bill tabled today takes meaningful steps toward urgently needed new investments in global health security, pandemic preparedness, and the global COVID-19 response. Critically, the Senate bill takes action on long overdue emergency funding — US$5 billion — to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The amount remains far short of the global needs, but is a needed investment to help deliver vaccines to the last mile and help countries adapt to the current stage of this persistent pandemic that continues to upend lives and livelihoods around the world. Our Network is pleased to see that the bill’s emergency title makes meaningful down payments of US$950 million in pandemic preparedness priorities, including up to US$550 million for the Financial Intermediary Fund for Pandemic Preparedness at the World Bank (Pandemic Fund). If approved, this would bring total U.S. contributions to the Fund this calendar year to US$1 billion, and set the bar for partner countries to marshal the US$10 billion needed annually to deliver on the promise of this historic Fund.  

While less than the US$1 billion for global health security in President Biden’s budget request or the FY23 House bill, the Senate’s US$745 million allocation for global health security programs also protects meaningful increases in this account from FY22 that will allow USAID and State to expand efforts to help countries build and sustain capacities to detect, prevent, and respond to emerging disease threats before they become emergencies — including through investments in the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation (CEPI) and the Pandemic Fund. 

We urge Congress to move past pandemic fatigue and prioritize these investments to help stop the spread of COVID and to make America and the world safer from emerging pandemic threats. The pieces are there — now we need leadership and action.”

Falling Short: Pandemic Action Network Statement on the 2022 G7 Leaders’ Summit

G7 Leaders fell far short of what is needed to finish the job on COVID-19 and prevent the next pandemic. Leaders are facing compounding and intertwined crises, but this is no time to deprioritize health security, which is fundamental to addressing virtually every other crisis facing humanity. This year’s G7 Leaders’ Summit represents a missed opportunity to take decisive action and fundamentally shift the G7’s record on pandemic preparedness and response.   Instead, we saw more of the “same strategy but different day” cycle of rearranging recommendations and commitments.

On finance, G7 Leaders collectively failed to deliver adequate financing to fund the provision of tests and treatments and delivery of vaccines still needed in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). While we are pleased that the U.K. joined other G7 countries by pledging funding for the emerging global Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response fund at the World Bank, we need to hear that founding partners are committed to an inclusive, representative future fund which will include LMICs, communities, and civil society in its governance from the outset as well as equity in its decision-making. Overall, we need to see a commitment to investing in these ongoing priorities by growing the global pool of funding available for pandemic preparedness and response.

On governance, leaders also missed an opportunity to elevate leadership on pandemic preparedness and response by endorsing the creation of a Global Health Threats Council — as proposed by the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response — and laying the groundwork for a broader coalition of countries and leaders. A political mechanism of this kind is essential to sustain action and investment across countries and advance ambitious proposals, such as those described in the G7’s Pact for Pandemic Readiness

As the G7 focuses on the world’s stability with commitments on climate and food security, proactively preparing for pandemics must be a part of that mix. These existential threats are interconnected. Accelerating climate change means the world is more likely to experience future outbreaks with more regularity. Whether such outbreaks become pandemics or can be quashed in time hinges on the political choices leaders are making right now. And today, the G7 chose complacency and stagnation over progress when it comes to pandemic preparedness.

We urge the G7 to take forward the Pact for Pandemic Readiness and turn it into action with urgency in the remaining six months of this year and beyond. The COVID crisis has laid bare the costs of inaction. We cannot afford to move on without learning the lessons over the last two years — particularly for the most vulnerable and LMIC populations, many of whom still lack access to lifesaving tests, treatments and vaccines. 

The current and future G7 presidencies of Germany and Japan must prioritize getting bold pandemic preparedness and COVID-19 response action back on track as a key part of addressing the world’s interlocking crises — they simply cannot afford not to. Click To Tweet

Call for African Leaders to Support the Pandemic Fund

The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated the devastating impact that epidemics and pandemics can have on the health, security, and prosperity of Africans. It has accentuated the need for a New Public Health Order for Africa — championed by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) — not in the least because of the gross global inequities in access to medical tools including vaccines, diagnostics, therapeutics, personal protective equipment, and other lifesaving medical countermeasures and supplies that have played out during this pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has also underscored the need for Africa to build more resilient health systems and collaborate across borders to be able to prevent, detect, and respond to emerging health threats while addressing ongoing health priorities. 

African civil society organizations (CSOs) have come together to urge leaders of African governments to pledge their support for the proposed new Pandemic Preparedness Fund at the World Bank and to ensure that the Fund advances the aims of the New Public Health Order for Africa through equitable and multilateral support. If well-resourced, the Fund has the potential to be a transformative new source of financing to advance Africa’s health security and to prevent the next pandemic. 

Read the full letter. If your organization is interested in signing on, please reach out to Hanna

 

Call for G7 Leaders to Take Pandemic Action!

Ahead of this month’s G7 Leaders’ Summit and in the face of multiple global challenges, civil society groups (CSOs) from around the world urge G7 Leaders to take action on pandemics to both align the global response to make COVID-19 a controllable respiratory disease across all countries and step up efforts to prepare the world against the next pandemic threat. 

While the outcomes of the last Global COVID-19 Summit and G7 Ministerial Meetings showed renewed political commitment and a much needed reset to the global response, ending this pandemic still demands further action. As noted in May’s G7 Foreign, Health, and Development Ministers communiqués, the pandemic won’t be over until it is over for all. Echoing their words, nearly 40 CSOs call on G7 Leaders to invest now to end the current crisis and prevent the next, including by addressing poverty and inequality as barriers to ending pandemics and through investment in national health capacity and community systems.

Three priority actions:

  1. Fill the financing gaps to advance the delivery of COVID-19 tools still needed such as tests and treatments, increasing transparency to foster coordination and enhance value for money. 
  2. Advance new, equitable, inclusive, and innovative sources of financing for pandemic preparedness and response, including through the new Global Health Security and Pandemic Preparedness Fund.
  3. Build on the G7 Pact for Pandemic Readiness Concept Note of May 20 to drive support for a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach to pandemic preparedness.

The CSOs also strongly urge G7 Leaders to capitalize on the opportunity at the G7 Summit to publicly endorse the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response’s recommendation to establish a Global Health Threats Council and commit to advancing the proposal during the upcoming United Nations General Assembly.

Read the full letter. If your organization would like to sign on, contact Hanna by June 21.

Three Key Areas for Pandemic Action at the World Health Assembly

Last week’s second Global COVID-19 Summit challenged the growing complacency around the pandemic with commitments from over 35 countries as well as from the private sector, philanthropy, and civil society. Next up, this year’s 75th World Health Assembly (WHA75) will be a crucial opportunity to build on that momentum and rally more countries and leaders around a truly global framework to prevent, prepare, and respond to pandemic threats.

Here are three of the key priorities that Pandemic Action Network will be following during these essential debates:

  1. WHO’s vision and role in the global health security architecture

At WHA75, the World Health Organization (WHO) will put forward its vision for Strengthening the Global Architecture for Health Emergency Preparedness, Response and Resilience (HEPR). Broadly speaking, Pandemic Action Network is aligned with WHO’s vision for a stronger global architecture that focuses on improving governance, systems, and financing, grounded in the principles of equity, inclusion, and coherence (read our feedback) but we also think the framework is too WHO-centric. The last two years have shown that leadership and coordination for pandemic preparedness and response must extend beyond WHO, and beyond the health sector. That’s why we support the proposal to establish a governance body at the level of Heads of Government such as a Global Health Threats Council/Global Health Emergency Council — as supported by the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (the Independent Panel) and the G20 High-Level Independent Panel on Financing the Global Commons (HLIP). Pandemic threats must be recognized as the security and economic priorities they are, and translate to leadership and accountability at the highest level. We also think the principle of inclusion must apply not only to all countries, but also to non-state actors (NSAs) — like our Network partners — around the world. We’ll be watching for the final report from the Director-General, the reactions from Member States, and whether low- and middle-income countries and NSAs have an opportunity to be part of the discussions going forward.

  1. Sustainable financing for WHO

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that there is a major discrepancy between the expectations we have of WHO and its level of funding. Increasing WHO’s assessed contributions up to 50% of its budget is likely to be one of the most significant policy decisions we hope to see adopted at the WHA75. While the proposal is certainly not as ambitious as we and others have been urging  — both in terms of amount and time frame for implementation (countries will have many years to increase their assessed contributions) — it will be an important long overdue step. A stronger WHO is in the interest of all governments and their citizens. Investments in WHO produce an estimated economic return of US$35 for every $1 invested. The agreement to improve WHO’s financing model should not only lead to a WHO with increased capacity to detect, prevent, and respond to pandemic threats, but also to one that is more agile, transparent, and accountable. (For a deeper dive on this, watch our conversation with Björn Kümmel, Chair of WHO’s Working Group on Sustainable Financing). We’ll be watching to see if countries are willing to start paying their fair share toward building a healthier, safer world.

  1. Progress on reform of the International Health Regulations (IHRs)

Also looming large is the decision on proposed amendments to the International Health Regulations (IHRs). The IHRs (last updated in 2005) underpin the current international system to govern and drive the world’s response to global health emergencies. A proposal from the U.S. to fast-track amendments to the IHRs and give WHO greater powers in the face of emerging global health threats and potential pandemics drew significant pushback amid concerns about sovereignty. As of May 16, however, it looks like the most controversial amendments will be tabled for a longer country negotiation process, leaving mostly procedural changes on timelines for adoption at WHA75. If this sticks, it’s disappointing but not surprising, as it underscores a persistent lack of urgency and ambition to fix some of the systemic problems that resulted in this deadly pandemic. While not a silver bullet, targeted amendments to the IHRs are a necessary step toward greater accountability for improved pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response. We hold out hope that there will be some consensus around speeding up the reform process, both for the IHRs and on the range of other priorities Member States have been discussing in the Working Group for Preparedness and Response over the past year. 

One year ago, the Independent Panel called for bold action to make COVID-19 the last pandemic. Now, one year later, as the WHA75 comes together, the Panel’s former co-chairs have issued a scathing progress — or lack-of-progress report — that calls out inaction and incrementalism to date. 

Say the Panel co-chairs, Helen Clark and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf:The work underway to transform the international system lacks coherence, urgency, and focus. Reform proposals are being deliberated in different fora, but are not sufficiently connected, and remain still largely stuck in processes that will take years to deliver.”

Sadly, we have to agree. We hope that this year’s critical WHA75 can reverse some of that inertia and serve as a reminder that humanity deserves leadership that is willing to make a pandemic-proof future both a priority and a reality. 

Rallying Cry: The Role of Philanthropy in Preventing Pandemics

I believe humanity possesses the technical expertise needed to prevent future pandemics, but without the right leadership and the right plan more pandemics will continue to happen.   

Today, we face a disturbing future where political leaders are moving on from the COVID-19 pandemic before it is over for everyone and before we have made the changes necessary to ensure a crisis like COVID never happens again. Today, our politicians seem to move from crisis to crisis. This is not only a pathetic level of leadership, it is needlessly costing lives and economic devastation. In truth, we don’t fully know the fallout of this multi-year crisis. How many wasted lives will COVID cost? In fact, already, more American lives have been lost than the last century of wars. How many more pandemics will humanity endure before we generate the political will and allocate the financial resources to prevent new pandemics?

 

 

Future pandemics will be prevented… eventually. But, historically, humanity tends to meander into the future, slowly iterating towards solutions. Thanks to this iteration without a viable plan, we are likely to screw the next pandemic up less badly than COVID-19. The pandemic after that will be managed even better. 

Humanity deserves better than slow iteration on pandemic preparedness. Currently, at the global level, humanity lacks an agreed-upon plan of action and sufficient funding to prevent pandemics. Without a plan and focus, there is no foundation to build political will. 

From a cost standpoint, our failure to prevent pandemics is simply economic insanity. Look at the estimated cost of prevention, compared with the cost of remediation.

 

 

Preventing pandemics can happen. Experts have reliable outlines for what actions and systems are needed. There is even a consensus about what improvements are needed to international systems. The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response is just one of several reviews of the global system to conclude that there are clear, distinct next steps that can be taken to strengthen the funding and operations of the global system for pandemic prevention.

Solving pandemics is essentially a political problem. Political leaders focus on the crisis of the moment, and they are not rewarded for long-term planning. On the contrary, they may be rewarded — as we are seeing now — for prematurely lifting public health guidance and moving on even when we’re in a pandemic. So here we are: seven billion people and no plan. Seven billion people lack the global leadership essential for creating a plan.

Philanthropists can play a critical role in filling this gap.

Philanthropy is free to address big questions and is positioned to solve problems from the point of view of the problems themselves. Philanthropists are uniquely free to take risks and invest money where it will have the greatest impact. We can choose to focus on the long term. 

Most importantly, some philanthropists possess excellent leadership skills. I believe this leadership experience, with the freedom of action we have, lets us as a group address an audacious question: “Can humanity prevent future pandemics?”  

Philanthropy can also strategically partner and fill gaps in the planning and coordination that is required to translate expert recommendation into meaningful systems change. Armed with a plan developed by experts, coordinated philanthropy can support civil society and help governments mobilize to act in a coordinated effort.  

Why not approach preventing pandemics from every angle?  

Or, put another way: If philanthropists can’t play a leadership role, show me the political leaders who will. Without our leadership and focus, no one will mobilize and crystallize the solution. Philanthropists must acknowledge that governmental responses to the COVID-19 pandemic are demonstrably inadequate and that philanthropy — together with civil society and other stakeholders across sectors — has a critical role to play. 

We cannot know if we will succeed. But we must seize this critical opportunity to catalyze coordinated action by global leaders. 

Philanthropy can help sharpen the tip of the spear to create the political will to prevent future pandemics.  

Feedback to WHO’s Director-General on Strengthening the Global Architecture for Health Emergency Preparedness, Response and Resilience

At the 75th World Health Assembly (WHA), the World Health Organization (WHO) will put forward its vision for strengthening capacities for pandemic preparedness and response through a report from the Director-General on Strengthening the Global Architecture for Health Emergency Preparedness, Response and Resilience (HEPR). The report intends to provide a new overarching integrated framework for all the health emergency reforms and processes underway and define the role of WHO.

Recently, as a part of the advance consultation process, Pandemic Action Network submitted feedback to inform the final report that will be delivered at the WHA. Pandemic Action Network supports the overall framing of WHO’s vision for a stronger global architecture that focuses on the critical reforms needed for governance, systems, and financing. This framing mirrors the Network’s strategic planning and reflections on challenges and opportunities at this stage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read our feedback across the three key areas of governance, systems, and financing and stay tuned for the final report from WHO.

Pandemic Action Network Statement on the Second Global COVID-19 Summit

The Second Global COVID-19 Summit showed a renewed commitment to end the COVID-19 crisis and prevent the next pandemic threat. Against complacency and pandemic fatigue, leaders from over 35 countries, the private sector, philanthropy, and civil society brought forward new actions and commitments — both financial and non-financial — to meet urgent needs across the summit’s priorities of vaccinating the world, protecting the most vulnerable, and preventing future pandemics. Financial commitments totaled almost US$3.2 billion, with approximately US$2.5 billion in funding from governments, and approximately US$700 million from the private sector, foundations, and other non-government actors.

Statement from Carolyn Reynolds, Co-Founder, Pandemic Action Network

Today’s Global COVID-19 Summit was a win against complacency and has provided a much-needed shot in the arm for both the global COVID response and to begin to prepare the world for the next pandemic threat. We are pleased that the Summit has yielded important new commitments to vaccinate the world, save lives, and nearly US$1 billion to establish a new Fund for global health security and pandemic preparedness. This is a significant down payment and enables the World Bank to move forward on establishing the Fund this summer. But we must maintain the momentum beyond today and political leaders must stay in the fight. This pandemic is not over, and the world must move faster to deliver lifesaving tools and prepare for whatever variant or pandemic threat is coming next. The U.S. Congress must urgently approve additional funding for the global COVID response, and other governments and private and philanthropic partners must step up support for the response and for the Fund as soon as possible. 

Statement from Eloise Todd, Co-Founder, Pandemic Action Network

World leaders‘ commitments at the Global COVID-19 Summit today have helped give a much-needed reset to the global COVID response. But without sustained and decisive action, the world could slip into permanent inequity between those that are able to be treated and vaccinated for COVID-19 and those that are not. All eyes are on global and regional bodies to see how they can build on today’s starting shot and deliver real progress by the G7 Summit at the end of June. 

As long championed by Pandemic Action Network, equity featured prominently in both reflections on the COVID-19 pandemic and in new commitments. We welcome commitments and new investments to close the funding gap for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), solve for last-mile vaccination delivery challenges, accelerate access to generic therapeutics, and diversify manufacturing and procurement of medical countermeasures to build strong and sustainable systems in every region of the world. 

Pandemic Action Network was also pleased to see political and financial support for a new Fund for Global Health Security and Pandemic Preparedness from across sectors. As we double down to end the COVID-19 pandemic, we also must look ahead and prepare both for future COVID-19 variants and emerging disease threats. Government leaders from around the world stepped up today to support a new pandemic preparedness fund and advocated for the need to include diverse voices in the design and governance of a new fund. Financial commitments from the U.S., European Commission, Germany, and the Wellcome Trust total nearly US$1 billion, and represent a significant down payment toward the US$10 billion needed annually for this Fund.

But while today’s Summit serves as a needed jolt to the global COVID-19 effort, there is still much work to do. Today’s financial commitments for response sum just over US$2 billion, and while this funding is urgently needed, it’s long overdue and far short of the current ACT-A funding gap (nearly $US15 billion). It is critical that all governments and sectors step up and prioritize significant new resources to end the global COVID crisis — including the U.S. Congress and Administration working together to transcend politics and quickly pass at least US$5 billion for the global COVID-19 response. In addition, it is critical to heed the call from many African leaders for Gavi, the Global Fund, and other vaccine purchasers to prioritize purchases from African vaccine manufacturers to ensure new facilities are sustainable. It will also be important for a diversity of donors and stakeholders to commit to the new Fund for Global Health Security and Pandemic Preparedness to ensure it is inclusive, representative, and effective. 

As we look ahead to the World Health Assembly, G7 and G20 Summits, and UN General Assembly, Pandemic Action Network will stay vigilant to make sure Summit commitments are realized and accountable, and that world leaders are collectively challenging themselves to do whatever it takes to end this crisis for everyone, everywhere.

Collective Commitment for the Second Global COVID-19 Summit

The following collective commitment was submitted on behalf of Pandemic Action Network for the Second Global COVID-19 Summit hosted on May 12, 2022.

Pandemic Action Network is a network of 257 organizations around the world driving collective action to bring an end to the COVID-19 crisis and to ensure the world is prepared for the next pandemic.

Pandemic Action Network is staying in this fight until the COVID crisis is ended for everyone, everywhere and sustainable systems are built at the global, regional, and national levels to proactively and equitably prevent, prepare for, and respond to future pandemic threats.

Pandemic Action Network commits to mobilize at least 100 new partners by the end of 2022, with an emphasis on organizations in lower- and middle-income countries, to advance the Summit goals to vaccinate the world, save lives now, and build back better for global health security and pandemic preparedness.

From now through the end of 2022, Pandemic Action Network and its global community of partners commit to: 

Vaccinate the World: Press governments, multilateral agencies, philanthropic and private sector partners to galvanize the necessary investments, coordination, and incentives to deliver vaccines that are still urgently needed in many parts of the world, including but not limited to closing the remaining funding gaps that have been identified for COVAX and the ACT-Accelerator. We will champion and support delivery of an accelerated, robust, and equitable global vaccination plan in support of national, regional, and global vaccination targets to achieve equitable global immunization levels.

Save Lives Now: Support efforts to drive forward a dynamic global test-to-treat strategy that applies lessons learned from the dramatic inequities in access to COVID-19 medical countermeasures and lifesaving tools. We will work to increase transparency on pricing and supply of tools to fight COVID-19, and make sure stakeholders prioritize access to testing, timely reporting, and treatments as the world transitions from crisis response to long-term sustainable preparedness for future surges of COVID-19 and other disease outbreaks.

Build Better Health Security: Mobilize political and financial commitments to stand-up and finance a dedicated new fund for global health security and pandemic preparedness. We will work with governments, the World Bank, WHO, philanthropy, private sector and civil society partners to design, launch, promote, and sustainably finance a fund that marshals significant new and sustainable resources for pandemic preparedness, as an inclusive and additive part of the global health architecture. 

In addition, Pandemic Action Network will promote cross-country and cross-regional cooperation, and sharing of best practices and lessons learned, to inform more effective and equitable pandemic preparedness and response plans and implementation. 

Pandemic Action Network will also maintain a steady drumbeat of advocacy, outreach, and civic engagement to keep all stakeholders — governments, private sector, philanthropy, academic, and civil society — accountable to their commitments and roles in building a healthier, safer future for all.

The Pandemic Action Network global community of partners commits to investing at least US$175 million between May and December 2022 toward these efforts, to help end the COVID-19 crisis and ensure the world is better prepared for the next pandemic.

Watch Pandemic Action Network’s submitted video commitment in advance of the Summit.

 

 

Calling for Urgent U.S. Action to Fund the Global COVID-19 Response

Statement by Pandemic Action Network Co-Founder, Carolyn Reynolds

“Once again, Congress is failing to advance urgently needed funding for the global COVID response, which means the U.S. will renege on its promises to vaccinate the world and save lives now. Refusing to treat COVID-19 as an active, deadly global emergency is a dereliction of U.S. leadership. The war in Ukraine and the global food crisis are clear and urgent needs — but so too is a global pandemic that continues to claim thousands of lives around the world each day. Every day funding for the global COVID response is delayed, more lives hang in the balance — and COVID will continue to pose a threat to Americans and to everyone on the planet. 

“Funding the global COVID response should not be constrained by partisan politics and deal-making. There has been a long-standing bipartisan commitment to U.S. global health and humanitarian response, and this issue should be no different. This should not even be a debate. Domestically and globally, we ignore the continuing COVID-19 crisis at our collective peril. There is no pandemic exit strategy for any country without a global strategy. We must push back against this dangerous inertia. Congress should act with the urgency that this crisis deserves and approve global COVID funding now.”

Amplify this call for action using this social media toolkit.

Seizing the Moment: Global Action to End the COVID-19 Crisis and Prevent the Next Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic is not over. The rapid global spread of the omicron variant has transitioned the pandemic to a new phase that requires updating our strategy and priorities to ensure a more effective — and equitable — response.

We are at a pivotal moment: progress on the global response has slowed, and we risk further setbacks due to the convergence of multiple global security crises with pandemic fatigue and complacency. The post-omicron global strategy must evolve, and requires global solidarity, coordination, and commitment to address short- and long-term imperatives.

These imperatives resounded throughout our jointly convened dialogue, Global Call to Action: End the COVID-19 Crisis and Prevent the Next Pandemic, on March 29, 2022. Diverse speakers joined by over 400 participants from around the world collectively identified four priorities set in a declaration to meet global needs at this stage of the pandemic and build stronger, more resilient, and equitable systems for the future: 

  1. Accelerate equitable access to and acceptance of vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics, building for the future.
  2. Support country-led and community-driven goals and priorities, with global support strengthening national and regional systems and advancing equity.
  3. Build and invest now to pandemic proof the future for everyone, everywhere.
  4. Drive accountability at all levels and commit to global solidarity.

Read the joint declaration by Africa CDC, Amref Health Africa, African Population and Health Research Center, Organismo Andinode Salud, Cayetano Heredia University School of Public Health, Center for Indonesia’s Strategic Development Initiatives, COVID GAP, Pandemic Action Network, ONE Campaign, University of Ibadan College of Medicine, and WACI Health.

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The Network Effect on Pandemic Preparedness & Response

It has been two years of collective action. In April 2020, Pandemic Action Network formed to end the current pandemic as quickly as possible and ensure the world is prepared for the next one. 

Starting with 25 partners, the Network was built on a core operating assumption: Pandemics are too big, too numerous, and too complex for any one single stakeholder or sector to tackle alone. Two years in — and now in year three of the COVID crisis with over 250 partners around the world — that assumption is even more true.

Over the past two years, we have intentionally built Pandemic Action Network to be a diverse and agile group of partners — a global advocacy platform — where we can drive consensus for action without being hampered by the need to be consensus-driven. Today, we’re at an inflection point in the fight to end the COVID crisis and ensure a pandemic-proof future.

Our Year Two Impact Report focuses on the power of the Network Effect — our unique ability to harness the capacity, expertise, and influence of our diverse and growing group of partners across sectors and geographies to accelerate an end to the COVID crisis for everyone and advance meaningful change to pandemic proof our future. 

In practice, the Network Effect is fueled by a platform that is built for sharing timely information and intelligence, active brainstorming and strategizing, convening of experts and key stakeholders, openly connecting across traditional silos and boundaries, i.e., organizations, markets, sectors, and geographies, and targeted communications and policy and advocacy resources. The result is that Network members are better supported, aligned, and (often most importantly) not alone in taking action. Among the most significant roles for the Network is ensuring that pandemic preparedness does not disappear from agendas as policy makers — but also global health advocates and change makers — as many move on to other priorities in the wake of the crisis phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this context, our collective efforts are more important than ever. 

Our Year Two Report details lessons learned, our progress and impact, priorities for action, and how we plan to evolve to tackle the challenges ahead. It is a reminder that the agenda ahead is ambitious to match the complexity of pandemics. Our Network Effect must grow in order to meet the challenges ahead. Together, we must be relentless and stay in the fight until we have translated the promises and commitments of this crisis into a future in which humanity is better prepared to deal with outbreaks and prevent a deadly and costly pandemic from happening again.

Read The Network Effect on Pandemic Preparedness & Response — Our Year Two Impact Report.

To all our partners, thank you for staying in the fight! If you are not a partner of Pandemic Action Network and you are interested in joining our collective effort, please contact us

State of Play Report: Pandemic Preparedness and Response in Africa

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues into its third year, African countries are grappling with the fallout from this multi-year crisis. The pandemic has exacerbated geopolitical, national, and social divides, setting back years of progress on health and gender equity, education, poverty reduction, and social progress. Health and social systems are strained, making us less prepared to respond to pandemics and other health crises.

Even as we look ahead, the COVID-19 crisis still looms. The pandemic underlines the urgent requirement across the continent for a New Public Health Order, championed by Africa CDC, and the need to build on lessons learned from previous epidemics.

The State of Play report from Future Africa Forum, documents lessons learned from recent epidemics, highlights challenges, and provides actionable and practical pandemic preparedness and response policy recommendations in an African context.

Read the full report.

Read the related policy brief.

 

An African Agenda for Pandemic Preparedness and Response — Policy Brief

As the COVID-19 pandemic persists into its third year, African countries are grappling with the fallout from this multi-year crisis. Widespread loss of life, enduring disability, and broader economic and social fallout of the COVID-19 crisis has made pandemic preparedness an urgent imperative. With momentum around the call for a New Public Health Order for Africa, there is a window of opportunity for substantial policy reform at national, regional, and global levels. This is a window that must not be wasted.

Developed by Future Africa ForumAn African Agenda for Pandemic Preparedness and Response — presents practical and actionable recommendations aimed at enhancing pandemic preparedness and response capabilities and capacities for African policymakers at both regional and national levels. The policy brief is anchored by the State of Play report, a systematic review of African regional policy documents and initiatives relating to pandemic preparedness and response and engagement of civil society stakeholders.

Read the full policy brief here

G20’s Time to Act: A Sustained and Accelerated Global Response to COVID-19

In advance of the G7 and G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meetings — taking place on April 20, 2022 in Washington, D.C. — 40 civil society organizations from across the world have called on G20 leaders and finance ministers to urgently ensure the global response to COVID-19 is sustained and accelerated. Meeting this goal remains a critical variable for the world’s recovery, security and stability.

Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors are strategically positioned to make the G7 and G20 political commitments a reality by articulating actions and funding. The decisions they reach in these meetings and those scheduled in the coming weeks — ahead of the 2nd Global COVID-19 Summit — will reflect their true commitment to putting an end to the COVID-19 pandemic and preventing another crisis of such kind and magnitude.

Concretely, this group of organizations has asked all G20 Finance Ministers to consider the following actions:

1. Finance the COVID-19 response and pandemic preparedness and increase transparency to enhance value for money.

  • Swiftly fund the most urgent needs of low- and middle-income countries so they can deliver national, regional, and global targets on vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics, as well as delivery of all COVID-19 tools.

  • Fully fund COVAX’s Pandemic Vaccine Pool and delivery costs for all pandemic countermeasures through the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) and country levels.

  • Fully fund the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) five-year strategy, so we have a head start in beating future pandemic threats through R&D that is designed to put equitable access at the heart of global pandemic responses.

  • Facilitate increased transparency in the production, pricing, supply, financing, and delivery of pandemic countermeasures to track tools from production to patients.

2. Innovate to deliver new sources of financing for the global COVID-19 response and pandemic preparedness.

  • Stand up and sustainably finance a new Global Health Security and Pandemic Preparedness Fund in 2022 to jumpstart financing for country and regional preparedness for pandemic threats toward a target of at least US$10 billion annually. Gaps to focus on can be identified through the Global Health Security Index and country-led processes.

  • High-income countries should urgently deliver the US$100 billion in recycled Special Drawing Rights pledged by the G20 through Multilateral Development Banks and ensure these are leveraged for global health and climate finance without delay.

  • Ministers should also explore other sources of financing beyond Official Development Assistance — including via the Global Public Investment model — prioritizing ending pandemics as vital to the world’s economic and human security and stability. Investment in primary health care systems must be included to prevent and better respond to future pandemic threats.

Amid the pressing issues that the international community faces, we must intensify our work together to accelerate momentum on the global COVID-19 response and ensure comprehensive pandemic preparedness in all countries.

Read the full letter.

Statement — INB Public Hearings for a New International Instrument on Pandemic Preparedness & Response

In December 2021, the World Health Assembly (WHA) established an intergovernmental negotiating body (INB) to draft and negotiate an international instrument — supported by the World Health Organization (WHO) — to “strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.” In the decision establishing the INB, the WHA also requested the WHO to hold public hearings to inform its work and deliberations.

The first round of those public hearings took place April 12-13, 2022. In response to it, the Africa CSOs Working Group on Pandemic Preparedness and Response, convened by Pandemic Action Network and PATH, submitted the following substantive elements for inclusion in the new instrument:

  • Recognize and protect the role of regional institutions and initiatives in responding to pandemics and epidemics as central in coordination, procurement, and distribution of medical products and tools, and technical support to respective member states. Such regional institutions should work in a coherent manner with global institutions.
  • Establish and protect a global pandemic preparedness fund that involves countries across regions in its design, governance, and financing, with all countries contributing to such a fund, based on their ability to contribute. The fund should support health systems strengthening in geographies with weak health systems and should have a strong accountability mechanism.
  • Elevate and prioritize leadership for future pandemics through, for example, a Global Health Threats Council, with meaningful leadership and representation from low- and middle-income countries. This body’s role will be to map out a strategic response that works for both public and private players in the health space.
  • Prioritize and finance a globally networked surveillance and early-warning system with incentives for countries to share data on and sequence new variants and pathogens.
  • Guarantee equity in access to lifesaving tools: declaring such tools as public goods and; instituting a waiver of intellectual property rights along with immediate hands-on technology transfer for all medical products and tools during a pandemic to ensure the maximum number of lives are saved, prioritizing the most vulnerable communities.

Activating Young Leaders to End the COVID Crisis and Pandemic Proof Our Future

COVID-19 has profoundly uprooted global norms. While the pandemic affects people across the globe, the impacts are different based on where you live and who you are. For the under-30s of the world, we will be hit hardest by long-term economic, social, and emotional stressors, and we will bear the brunt of the fallout if leaders fail to act on pandemic preparedness. With crises like global conflict, climate change, and potentially another deadly pandemic on the horizon, youth voices must be prioritized in change-making. 

Global leaders should engage and support youth in response to the current crises while advocating for future pandemic preparedness. Around the globe, 40% of 18 to 29 year-olds feel left out of designing or reforming public benefits and services. It is time to make space for new thought leadership, equip youth with the tools to address and mitigate pandemics, and invite them to the decision making tables. The onus is on youth to rebuild a more resilient global paradigm. Here’s how global leaders can support us:

  1. Tailor youth programming
    Use an intergenerational lens with youth-led and -designed programming to engage younger generations in responding to COVID-19 and working to prevent future pandemics. People under 30 account for half of the world’s population, so it’s important to engage with youth perspectives in pandemic programming. Review your organization’s pandemic preparedness and response initiatives to identify where you can incorporate youth voices and leadership to deliver on your goals more effectively.
  2. Step up and share the decision making power
    Two out of three countries do not consult young people as part of national development plans. This is an appeal to established leaders to give precedent for youth counsel. Advocating for the world to take pandemics seriously means providing youth-centered policy development and decision-making opportunities to support transparency, cooperation, and international disease monitoring and response structures. While established leaders must make space for younger leaders, this is also a call for youth to step up to the plate, advocate for pandemic preparedness across platforms, and hold international leaders accountable to their policy commitments. We need your voices to demand that future generations be spared from the impact of pandemic threats!
  3. Capitalize on youth social media savvy for pandemic response and preparedness
    We know that Gen Z is the first fully-global generation connected by digital devices and engaged in social media. But young people are more than just connected: they are savvy and have the potential to use their platforms to advance social good. Think about the K-POP fans who have organized around political activism. Now is the time to use the power and creativity of youth networks and partnerships to creatively break through, combat misinformation, and engage a broader audience on pandemic preparedness and response.
  4. Take action and amplify these youth engagement tools: 
    • Focus your energy on becoming a mentor with Global Health Me to connect with young global health professionals and students for a five-month mentoring opportunity.  

Every revolution in history has been led by young people. –Aya Chebbi

President von der Leyen’s Opportunity to Change the Course of the Pandemic: Turning Vaccines Doses Into Urgent Funding to Fight COVID-19

This Friday, April 8, we have our eyes set on the 2022 Advanced Market Commitment (AMC) Summit — hosted by Germany and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance — and, in particular, on the role that the European Union (EU) plays in making it a success. The Summit aims to raise at least US$5.2 billion in urgent funds for COVAX — a key component of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) that helps deliver vaccines to low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) around the globe. 

While the EU and other countries have already supported ACT-A’s life-saving work, there is still a substantial funding gap to cross the finishing line. Most of the resources pledged this Friday for COVAX will be used to ramp up vaccination in lower-income countries and cover in-country delivery and ancillary costs — such as storage, syringes, and transportation — that are currently hindering vaccination targets and risking the world’s progress against COVID-19.  

Among the different participants in this Friday’s Summit, the EU has a considerable margin to maneuver to make a significant contribution. In July 2021, the European Commission (EC) announced the EU’s commitment to donate 200 million vaccine doses to LMICs, setting aside €1.3 billion for this purpose. However, despite the welcomed act of solidarity, the EC hasn’t completed the purchase yet, creating a unique opportunity to use this money more wisely. 

Taking into account that the supply of vaccines is no longer the most pressing issue, but rather in-country logistics and distribution bottlenecks, the Commission should redirect those resources to meet COVAX’s target as well as ACT-A’s overall funding gap, currently estimated at €25 billion. The change in priority from vaccines to vaccination has been echoed by health authorities across LMICs. Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. John Nkengasong recently stated that the challenge is on delivery and even warned that “too many doses without the infrastructure or coordination to distribute them could lead to vaccines expiring”. 

The EU’s decision to turn the committed doses into a financial contribution — presently at the desk of the President of the European Commission Ursula Von der Leyen — could become a game-changer in the race to vaccinate the world. It would help drive vaccination rates up and still leave plenty of money to boost the diagnostics and therapeutics pillars of the ACT-A. Or in much simpler terms, such a reallocation of funds would ensure greater impact, while demonstrating that leaders are in tune with the changing realities on the ground.

Build the Health Workforce Back Better to Prevent Future Pandemics

Frontline health workers are crucial for pandemic preparedness and response but for too long health workers have largely been taken for granted. The assumption seems to be that they are already ready and able to jump into action, keep health services going, and scale up one or another specific health intervention.

Yet, of all the factors delaying access to COVID-19 testing, treatment, and care, health workforce challenges are the most cited bottleneck, according to a WHO survey of 129 countries. Vaccine delivery has also been delayed by workforce inadequacies.

WHO states that these challenges arise due to “a combination of pre-existing shortages [of health workers] coupled with unavailability due to COVID-19 infections and deaths, mental health issues and burnout and departures from service due to a lack of decent working conditions.”

The factor of gender cannot be ignored. The health workforce is largely female, and it is not a coincidence that remuneration for their labor is often inadequate or inconsistently provided. Only 14% of community health workers in Africa are salaried, with many considered “volunteers,” part of the broader injustice of women’s care labor not being compensated.

COVID-19 has shown this is not just theoretical. Now, and in future pandemics, we need a motivated and supported health workforce to ensure acceptance and delivery of vaccines, disease surveillance, and risk communication.

Join the Frontline Health Workers Coalition and partners for World Health Worker Week on April 4-8 to push donors and governments to do more to protect and support a resilient health workforce.

Here a few ways you can get involved in World Health Worker Week:

 

Photo courtesy of IntraHealth International.

Call to Action! Accelerating an Effective and Equitable COVID-19 Response and Pandemic-proofing the Future

We are at a pivotal moment in the COVID-19 pandemic. With only 14% of people in low-income countries vaccinated with at least one dose, progress against the disease is at risk. Equitable access to vaccines, tests, and treatments remains elusive, compromising the health of millions of people, increasing the chances of more deadly variants, and endangering recovery. Now Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has brought a new security challenge, further threatening global health and safety. The humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and looming food and energy emergencies will continue to strain economies, people, and systems — not only in Europe, but also in other regions where progress against COVID-19 is still fragile.  

The convergence of different security crises with a still-present COVID-19 emergency will only deepen global suffering unless world leaders act urgently. It is essential that G7, G20, and all leaders not retreat from COVID-19 and acknowledge that ending this pandemic remains critical to the world’s security and stability. It is the time to double down and finish this solvable crisis — before the world is faced with a more transmissible or deadly variant, or even a novel pathogen. 

Together with over 30 partners, Pandemic Action Network calls on leaders to revamp their response to the pandemic in upcoming Summits and global coordination meetings taking place in 2022 and stay the course and secure the future, by prioritizing the following actions:

  1. Accelerate equitable access to and acceptance of vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics
  2. Provide new, diversified funding to fill country-identified gaps in response and preparedness
  3. Build now to pandemic proof the future

Read the full call to action here

This call to action is open for sign-ons. Please email Hanna if you’d like to add your organization.

Steps Taken, a Leap Required — CEPI’s Replenishment Statement

Today, as the world reaches a grim milestone of six million official deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic and as Russia wages war in Ukraine, world leaders gathered at the Global Pandemic Preparedness Summit to address what we must do better to prevent and prepare for pandemic threats. The Summit, organized by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the U.K. Government, represented a critical opportunity for global leaders to prioritize pandemic preparedness and support CEPI’s groundbreaking 5-year plan to develop life-saving vaccines to help prevent a crisis of similar scale to the COVID-19 pandemic, including its 100 Days Mission to develop safe and effective vaccines in 100 days following an outbreak. 

Pledges of financial and political support were made in nearly equal measure with a total of 13 countries and 2 philanthropic donors pledging US$1.54 billion to CEPI’s US$3.5 billion five-year plan. Japan’s announcement of US$300 million made it the largest contributor, followed by the U.K. in addition to commitments from Australia, Austria, Finland, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, and the U.S. 

At least nine other countries (Brazil, Canada, Greece, Kuwait, Lithuania, Nigeria, South Korea, Spain, and Switzerland) and the European Commission expressed their support, though no specific financial contribution was mentioned. 

While this is a welcome and important first step toward a world that is better prepared for pandemic threats, it is disappointing that many governments failed to match political support with bold and meaningful financial commitments. The COVID-19 pandemic showed us that the world is ill-prepared to prevent and respond to a pandemic caused by a novel respiratory pathogen. The pandemic research and development (R&D) system as it exists does not work to address the challenges of emerging infectious diseases. As we look toward year three of COVID, we are already witnessing the familiar and costly cycle of panic and neglect around pandemics spinning into motion. CEPI’s plan to reduce vaccine development time to 100 days is one in a set of critical measures to get ahead of the cycle of panic and neglect and avoid another trillion-dollar pandemic that needlessly costs millions of lives and livelihoods. 

Eloise Todd, Pandemic Action Network’s co-founder, said:

“While today’s commitments of over US$1.5 billion to CEPI are a welcome and strong start, they are not enough. The COVID crisis showed us that the vaccine R&D system as it exists cannot meet the challenges of emerging infectious diseases before they cause severe damage, nor can it ensure all people everywhere have equitable access to the tools and technologies they need to curb a global health emergency. Leaders can avoid repeating past mistakes and build a system that is forward looking and equitable. Fully funding CEPI is an impactful way to do just that. An investment in CEPI is a fraction of the trillions lost to pandemic response and an investment that pays a multitude of dividends. We expect key global leaders to step up in the coming weeks to align their financial commitments with their political commitments, and make a fully-funded CEPI a reality.”

Pandemic Action Network and its network of over 250 partners will follow up closely on the actions of governments, philanthropies, and decision makers who have expressed their commitment to this goal, especially those key global leaders who can convene other governments, rally support, and mobilize resources. Building on the strong momentum from the Global Pandemic Preparedness Summit, concerted action from world leaders in the coming months will be crucial to fully fund CEPI and ensuring the COVID crisis leaves a legacy of pandemic preparedness.

Promising Outcomes and a Test of Commitment: EU-AU Summit Statement

The 6th European Union (EU) – African Union (AU) Summit has come to an end. This was an opportunity for Europe to thaw tensions with Africa in the response to COVID-19 and deepen cooperation amongst the member states “based on shared interests and values.” Coming into the Summit, the hoarding of vaccines by EU countries, the imposition of export restrictions for COVID tools, the discriminatory travel bans against Southern African countries, and the EU’s opposition to a temporary intellectual property (IP) waiver for COVID-19 tools have brought mistrust and a difficult backdrop. The two blocks historically have a difficult past. 

Despite the difficulties, it is a mark of maturity that despite the rough edges in their relationship, the AU and EU member states continue to work toward a better partnership.  

The social, economic, and political impacts of COVID-19 are unprecedented in scale and have exposed the weaknesses in the global health system. Ahead of the EU-AU Summit, Pandemic Action Network, together with nearly 40 African, European, and other civil society organizations, called on EU and AU member states to take six bold actions.  

We welcome the announcement in the summit declaration of the various commitments aimed at supporting AU member states to respond to COVID-19 and build capacity for future health threats. The majority of these initiatives were re-packaged from previous pledges or commitments, most notably:  

  • Team Europe’s affirmation of the commitment to provide at least 450 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Africa in coordination with Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT).
  • The commitment by Team Europe to mobilize EUR 425 million to accelerate vaccination.  
  • Team Europe’s commitment to support the building of manufacturing hubs in Africa with an investment of EUR 1 billion from the EU budget and the European Investment Bank.

The outcome document also flagged the support provided to COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) so far by Team Europe, amounting to over US$3 billion.

 

While we welcome these EU-AU Summit commitments, the scale of what’s required to end the COVID crisis for everyone demands that world leaders do much more and do so urgently. 

 

The ACT-Accelerator — the global platform for collaboration on COVID-19 response — launched its financing framework this month, outlining clear and urgent grant financing asks and expectations of fair share voluntary contributions. While the needs are clear, the EU was not direct on plans to meet its fair share needed for the global COVID-19 response. The EU needs  to act urgently to ensure the speedy delivery of vaccinations to save lives, protect livelihoods, and prevent emergence of new variants.

One of the important lessons of COVID-19 to African countries is that the continent cannot rely on the goodwill and charity of rich countries — including Europe — for its own health security. In the quest to address inequitable access to vaccines, tests, and treatments and to better prepare for future pandemics, AU member states have initiated various efforts including local manufacturing of biomedical products — especially vaccines —  and the establishment of manufacturing and technology transfer partnerships and have called for a temporary waiver of IP rights.

While EU member states and companies have signed agreements and developed partnerships in support of the manufacturing agenda with different African countries — Rwanda, Senegal, and South Africa among others — and have committed to strengthen Africa’s continental health security through Africa CDC and to support Africa’s regulatory framework, the EU has once again, in a cautiously worded statement, hesitated to expressly heed the call by AU member states to support a temporary waiver of IP rights at the World Trade Organization. The financial support for manufacturing of health technologies is laudable, but the failure to support temporary waiver of IP to enable rapid production and distribution of the life-saving tools is inimical to the manufacturing objectives in the midst of this pandemic.

As civil society groups from across Africa, we expected more action to tackle inequitable access to vaccines and other COVID-19 tools. The EU, for example, has chosen to buy 200 million mRNA doses to then donate to Africa instead of directly financing COVAX to buy against its own strategy. There was some good news on research and development investment and manufacturing, but Africa and Europe did not agree on backing a TRIPS waiver though mRNA hubs will be established. The outcomes and partnership provide good potential for health systems strengthening, but the multilateral partnership between the blocs will succeed or fail based on the commitment both sides show to working together and living up to the Summit Joint Vision — and how quickly Europe can put words and pledges into action.

Personal Protective Equipment for Frontline Health Workers: An Essential Component of Pandemic Preparedness & Response

In December 2020, Pandemic Action Network’s Pandemic Action Agenda series urged world leaders to strengthen global health security architecture and governance in key areas, including pandemic supplies, to increase accountability and ensure the world is better prepared for the next pandemic and to respond to COVID-19.

This brief takes stock of progress made since December 2020 to resolve the global personal protective equipment (PPE) access crisis, aims to assess supply and demand challenges specific to community health workers, and informs recommendations for world, regional, and national leaders to build a more reliable and sustainable emergency response supply chain for the future.

Today, we have compelling evidence of the risk of leaving frontline health workers unprotected or partially protected against COVID-19, and we still lack sustainable solutions. As we look toward year three of this pandemic and beyond, world, regional, and national leaders must learn the lessons of this crisis and continue to prioritize sufficient PPE for frontline health workers — especially those who serve the most vulnerable and hardest-to-reach populations.

Read the full brief here.

Pandemic R&D Agenda for Action: Fostering Innovation to End This Pandemic and Prepare for the Next One

As the world commences the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the case for investment in research and development (R&D) for medical countermeasures to prevent and combat emerging global health threats is stronger than ever. Despite tremendous scientific accomplishments in 2020-21, systemic gaps in pandemic-related R&D systems, supply chains, manufacturing, and delivery continue to stymie the roll-out of urgently needed technologies to all people who need them, everywhere, and are prolonging the pandemic.

COVID-19 and its variants have exposed longstanding market and systems failures and fragilities that pose barriers to timely and effective pandemic R&D. Not only do these persistent gaps threaten to undo progress achieved through the scientific breakthroughs, but they also exacerbate entrenched inequalities that leave the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people around the globe without access to lifesaving medical countermeasures and essential health services, and perpetuate gross power imbalances between high- and low-income nations. COVID-19 has also unleashed a multitude of actors in pandemic-related R&D across the innovation spectrum and across the globe, underscoring the growing need for more purposeful alignment, coordination, information-sharing, and transparency.

The world urgently needs a fit-for-purpose, proactive, and resilient pandemic R&D ecosystem. There is broad consensus that R&D is a vital component of building a world better equipped to prevent, prepare for, and respond to pandemic threats. Yet new investments in innovation will fail to meet their promise to save lives, prevent future global health emergencies, and build a healthier, safer world for all unless governments, international institutions, and industry are willing to heed the hard lessons of this pandemic and work together to fix these systemic failures and challenges.

Produced by Global Health Technologies Coalition and Pandemic Action Network with contributions by members of the Pandemic Action Network’s Pandemic Preparedness Working Group, this policy brief calls on world leaders to prioritize action in four key areas to close the critical R&D, manufacturing, and delivery gaps necessary to end the acute COVID-19 crisis and build a more resilient, equitable pandemic R&D ecosystem for the future.

Read the full brief here.

The New Year’s Resolution That Matters Most: End the COVID Crisis

As we enter year three of this pandemic, COVID-19 is having a global field day. The virus is taking advantage of our failure as an international community to end this crisis. Cases are once again rising exponentially and hospitals are overflowing. Let us be clear: this is not a health crisis. This is a crisis of leadership and political will.

Yes, world leaders have a lot of competing and compounding crises on their policy plates. Climate change. Addressing inflation, economic instability, and broken supply chains. Cybersecurity. Political instability and conflict. Escalating economic inequality. Raging misinformation and disinformation. The list goes on and on. But as world leaders begin to tackle their own new year’s resolutions, there is one that must rise to the top of their list: End the COVID-19 crisis for everyone, everywhere, once and for all.

It’s tempting given the magnitude of all of these challenges — paired with pandemic fatigue — for political leaders to focus on other issues. That is foolish. There is no pandemic exit strategy for any country without a global strategy. There is no sustained economic recovery without ending this pandemic. There is no prospect of bridging social divides when the pandemic continues to prey on the most vulnerable and marginalized populations. There is no hope of strengthening health systems when we are burning out a generation of health workers. There is no winning when people are dying needlessly every single day.

Every day we let this pandemic continue is a day where we lose the opportunity for meaningful progress on other challenges to humanity.

Here are five things world leaders must-do in 2022 to end the COVID crisis.

1. Make a plan to end this crisis for everyone. It is unfathomable that we still don’t have a global plan of action for this pandemic. We have been calling for this since mid-2020. We call on world leaders to pull together to create a war room, modeled on a Global Health Threats Council suggested by The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response and backed by the G20 which needs to be truly global. Leaders should craft a plan, define leadership, and execute the plan.

2. Vaccinate the world. High-income countries are attempting to boost their way out of danger while still hoarding vaccine doses. Meanwhile, only 9.5% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose. And, only one in four healthcare workers in Africa have been fully vaccinated. World leaders: Do whatever it takes to vaccinate the world to 70% by the middle of 2022. Invest in vaccine delivery and education, accelerate promised vaccine dose donations, and swap slots to put low- and middle-income countries at the front of the queue. Publish vaccine contracts, production schedules and pricing to give the public total transparency. “This is within reach, but only if a life in Mumbai matters as much as a life in Brussels, if a life in Sao Paulo matters as much as a life in Geneva, and if a life in Harare matters as much as a life in Washington DC,” said Dr. Ayoade Alakija, WHO Special Envoy for the ACT-Accelerator.

3. Pandemic-proof the planet. Leaders must end this crisis and prevent the next outbreak from turning into a pandemic on a parallel path. We call on world leaders to seize this opportunity to leave a legacy of a healthier and safer world — starting with the establishment and funding of a new global financing mechanism that provides robust and sustained investments in pandemic prevention and preparedness. History has shown that if action is not taken during a crisis, then political will dissipates once the crisis fades from view.

4. Get ahead of the next variant and next disease. What happens when new variants don’t hold up to vaccines or a new disease emerges and we don’t have the research and technology at the ready as we did relative to SARS-CoV-2? We are already experiencing some of this with Omicron — but the next disease could be more deadly. We call on world leaders to make pandemic-related investments a priority now and for the long-term so that every country has a plan, and we can get in front of new variants, diseases, and potential outbreaks. Now is the time to invest in moonshot approaches such as CEPI’s mission to develop pandemic-beating vaccines in 100 days.

5. Elevate pandemic preparedness and response as a leadership priority always. The persistent COVID-19 crisis along with resulting and compounding crises demonstrate that pandemics cut across global economics, personal livelihoods, global security, national security, and individual security. This is a crisis of leadership which demands better and more accountable systems for governing pandemics. It’s time to codify pandemic preparedness and response on leadership agendas at the highest levels. Heed the recommendations of The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response and establish a high-level Global Health Threats Council.

The year ahead is a tipping point in this crisis. In the cycle of “panic and neglect,” unbelievably we are teetering on neglect. World leaders have done a lot of things to respond to this crisis — denying it, wishing it away, looking around it, pretending it is over or can be managed within their own borders. Why are leaders unable, or unwilling to make the obvious connections?

World leaders: own this resolution. This year, do whatever it takes to end this crisis — and prevent another deadly and costly pandemic from happening again.

How to Help People Mask Better

Chances are you’ve seen the media headlines blaring recommendations to upgrade your masks:

Demand for N95 and KN95 masks is rising as experts say it’s time to ‘up your mask game’
-Fortune

How to find the best KN95 masks for kids because the cloth face mask isn’t cutting it
-USA Today

Why experts recommend a N95 mask to stop Covid spread
-CNN

So why am I seeing so many super COVID-cautious people clinging to their cloth masks? Research on behavior change and insights from the field of social marketing holds some of the answers to that question…plus tips for how to help people make the change.

Change is hard. When the Pandemic Action Network launched the #MaskingForAFriend campaign in April 2020, we knew this new masking behavior would be particularly difficult, especially in countries that had no experience with it. Given the desire to first secure personal protective equipment for frontline workers at the outset of the pandemic, we agreed with the WHO and CDC: any mask (including cloth masks) was better than no mask. All things considered, global mask adoption exceeded our expectations.

But over the last year, as the data mounts and the virus mutates, we’ve asked people to change again. For those who’ve settled into a behavior (wearing a cloth mask), upgrading to a surgical mask or respirator (N95, KN95, KF94) feels like one ask too many.

Adding to the behavioral inertia are legitimate barriers.

Environmental concerns. Many of the people who willingly adopted the cloth mask habit made a similar change a few years ago when they switched to reusable grocery bags. Asking them to ditch their curated set of cloth masks in favor of disposable paper masks may not sit well with people who are concerned about the litter and waste. They likely wouldn’t go back to use one-time grocery bags, so why would they do that for masks?

Access and availability. For the last two years, cloth masks have proliferated. People made their own, companies gave branded versions to employees, and fashionistas used masks to show off their individuality. I imagine if I asked you to count up the number of cloth masks you have, it would be a pretty high number. But who’s passing out N95s right now? Access to free or low-cost higher-quality masks continues to be a major barrier.

So what can public health and behavior change communicators do now to encourage people to upgrade their masks and help slow the spread of omicron? Nancy Lee’s Show Me, Help Me, Make Me model holds the key.

Show Me. For a subset of the population, getting the information and education will be enough to help them make the switch. Therefore, influential people should continue to share the research and information through media, social media, and talking with their networks.

Help Me. This is the biggest subset of the population — those who would make the change if they are given the help. Companies who are requiring in-person work should provide N95, KN95, or KF94 masks to their employees; you can even get your logo printed on them now! If you are the “mask ambassador” in your family or friend group, you can gift your loved ones items from groups like Project N95 in the U.S. or at least direct them to the resource.

Make Me. Sometimes education and support need to be paired with requirements to move the final subset of the population to act. Some countries, municipalities, hospitals, and schools are now requiring higher-quality masks, at least until the omicron surge recedes. This is definitely a tool in the behavior change toolbox, and if the right supports are provided (i.e., access to affordable or even free masks) to make compliance possible, now is a good time to use it.

If you are interested in contributing to this thinking, please reach out. Pandemic Action Network hosts a monthly Behavior Change Communications Working Group where we explore questions like these and other strategies to shift behavior and help end the crisis phase of this pandemic. #ThanksForMasking

No Time to Relax! Key Questions on the EU’s Plans to Speed Up Global COVID-19 Vaccination

The European Union (EU) confirmed today that they have signed an agreement with drugmakers that includes an option for the companies to deliver vaccines modified for variants within 100 days. Alongside this were the remarks made by President Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday at the closing of the European Council, where she made reference to the production of 300 million doses of vaccines per month in the EU.

All this signals a strong rollout of vaccines, support from governments, and commitments by all to get on top of this crisis. Yet, let’s not sit back and relax too soon.

Based on current reporting, the figures do not look the same when it comes to EU support to low- and lower middle-income countries (LLMICs). The data shows that the EU’s target of 250 million COVID-19 vaccine doses donations by the end of the year appears to be slipping.

And a new roadblock could be developing.

The EU recently reached an agreement to reallocate some of its 2021 budget (EUR1.3 billion to be precise) to secure another 200 million COVID-19 vaccine doses for COVAX. The European Commission has published an Action Document, laying out how it will implement this commitment. The plan would be to procure mRNA vaccines and then give them to COVAX.

We were surprised to see that the Action Document states some quite big risks to this plan — “there is a very high risk of not meeting the envisaged delivery by mid-2022, as the required duration of the procedure is 9-12 months” and “the manufacturers may not respond to an unattractive call for tender for mRNA vaccines… this will cause delays to procurement.

So we posed some questions to the European Commission to try to work out why, when we know that COVAX has options available on 200 million doses that would allow for delivery by mid-2022, they choose to purchase doses themselves — a move that could delay rollout and potentially set a dangerous precedent by hindering COVAX from playing its role as a global risk mitigation instrument to continue accelerating global access to COVID-19 vaccines.

We asked President von der Leyen the following clarification questions:

  •  What evidence does the European Commission (EC) have that the EC directly purchasing vaccines would be the speedier option in terms of delivery on the ground?
  •  What rationale is there for favouring mRNA vaccines, and even using the Omicron variant’s spread as a justification, when the science on the relative effectiveness of vaccines to fight Omicron is still being determined and given that LLMICs need a range of vaccines suitable for a range of settings?
  •  What discussions have taken place with Member States on the merits of the EC’s approach and the risks outlined in the Action Document, and do Member States agree with this decision?

We have sent these questions to President von der Leyen and are waiting for her response.

Civil Society Support Calls for Increased Quality in Dose Donations to Africa

The Africa Working Group on Pandemic Preparedness and Response supports the Joint Statement on Dose Donations of COVID-19 Vaccines to African Countries by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT), and COVAX published on November 29, 2021.

The statement draws the attention of the international community to the quality of donations of COVID-19 vaccines to Africa, and other COVAX participating economies, particularly those supported by the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC).

Read the full letter here.

Omicron is a Wake-Up Call. It is Time to Act.

The Omicron variant is not a surprise, but it should be a wake-up call. It is time to act.

In an open letter, Pandemic Action Network and more than 30 leading organizations call on world leaders to do whatever it takes to get the world vaccinated as quickly as possible and ensure every country is equipped to spot newly emerging variants, fast.

Read the full letter here.

New Study and Documentary Reveal Grim Pandemic Realities for America’s Doctors and Nurses

Frontline workers say they need more preparation, staff, and PPE and better information and diagnostics

November 18, 2021, Seattle, WA—Today, the Pandemic Action Network released new research findings revealing challenges that continue to burden doctors and nurses in the U.S. well over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic and pointing to what is required to be better prepared for this crisis and future pandemic threats. Notably, access to personal protective equipment (PPE) continues to be a problem — with nearly a third of doctors and nurses saying they did not have sufficient access to PPE, even as recently as summer 2021. Sixty-one percent felt that they did not have sufficient early warning to prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic, and despite best efforts, a third felt it was challenging to follow changing workflows and protocols.

The study, funded by Flu Lab, included a survey conducted by Klick Consulting of 532 doctors and nurses from across the U.S. The survey focused on addressing perceptions of pandemic readiness, knowledge, containment, treatment, and vaccination. Additional qualitative interviews with nearly four dozen health officials, public health workers, doctors, and nurses, revealed a stark reality: while healthcare workers are committed to caring for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, they have faced increased personal risks and an exceptionally high work volume. And they need more support.

Dr. Carrie Tibbles, an ER physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, participated in this research. “Healthcare systems are really stressed right now, and the workforce is tired. Hospitals need support to build back up — and build our workforce back up — so we can take care of our communities,” said Dr. Tibbles. “The pandemic hit us so hard and in Boston, we felt the first wave shortly after New York. We were able to learn in real time from our friends and colleagues in New York and I’m confident we saved many lives as a result. But if we were armed with the tools to be better prepared for pandemics, I know we could do more.”

These stories further come to life in the new documentary, The First Wave, premiering today in New York at the DOC NYC festival and showing in select theaters tomorrow. The film focuses on the doctors, nurses, and patients from one of New York’s hardest-hit hospital systems during the “first wave” from March to June 2020. By laying bare what healthcare workers braved in hospitals flooded with COVID patients, The First Wave honors both their ongoing commitment to their patients, as well as their own personal sacrifice.

“The study results and the harrowing realities presented in The First Wave make one thing clear: we need to listen to doctors and nurses,” said Gabrielle Fitzgerald, co-founder of Pandemic Action Network. “Hailing health workers as heroes is insufficient — we must ensure they have the information and equipment to do their jobs effectively — before, during, and after a crisis.”

Survey participants expressed gratitude for the opportunity to share their perspectives. “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my pandemic experience and opinions… It is a rarity that we are asked about our experience,” said one participant. Another shared, “Thanks for working to improve our processes and systems for the next time this happens (hopefully never).”

“Healthcare workers around the country have been stretched to their breaking points countless times over the course of the pandemic. As a group, we have been labeled heroes, but healthcare workers are only human, and resilience is waning in the face of exhaustion and burnout,” said Dr. Kelly C. Sanders, a pediatrician and Pandemic Action Network member. Dr. Sanders also serves as the technical lead for the Pandemic Response Initiative at UCSF and co-authored a case study on the first year of the pandemic in the U.S. “As a country, if we don’t continue to improve frontline conditions, we risk losing desperately needed healthcare workers. We need to improve local vaccination rates, develop new diagnostic and treatment options, and provide more resources for our stressed public health and hospital systems. This is how the American public and decision-makers can show up for the frontline now.”

To respond to the findings of this study, Pandemic Action Network is calling on U.S. policymakers to:

  • Fully resource and accelerate the global COVID-19 response by allocating at least US$17 billion of new funding to assist the world in reaching 70 percent vaccine coverage in every country by the middle of 2022; save lives now through increased access to other lifesaving tools; and prevent future pandemics from occurring. Learn more.
  • Provide ongoing funding for surge capacity and measures that prioritize the safety and security of healthcare workers.
  • Approve the International Pandemic Preparedness and COVID-19 Response Act, in tandem with the Global Health Security Act to strengthen America’s cross-government coordination on pandemic preparedness and response and bolster our support for global preparedness.
  • Approve legislation to strengthen America’s Strategic National Stockpile to ensure adequate PPE and medical supplies for healthcare workers.
  • Approve the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act to reduce and prevent suicide, burnout, and mental and behavioral health conditions among healthcare professionals.
  • Approve a resolution that would designate the first Monday in March as “COVID-19 Victims and Survivors Memorial Day” to memorialize those lost to the COVID-19 virus and recognize the suffering of COVID-19 survivors.

More details of the research and survey results can be found here.

About Pandemic Action Network

Pandemic Action Network drives collective action to end the COVID-19 crisis and to ensure the world is prepared for the next pandemic. The Network is a robust partnership of over 140 global multi-sector organizations aligned in a belief that every effort made in the fight against COVID-19 should leave a long-term legacy. One where humanity is better prepared to deal with outbreaks and prevent a deadly and costly pandemic from happening again.

About Klick Consulting
Klick Consulting solves the problems others can’t by leveraging applied sciences and novel thinking to decode healthcare’s gnarliest challenges. The consultancy embraces science at the speed of business with a specific focus on commercial solutions with real-world applications. With its diverse team of medical, behavioral science, data science, engineering, business model, machine learning, and strategic design experts, the multidisciplinary, collaborative group resolves business problems through a scientific lens. Klick Consulting works with companies across the healthcare spectrum, including consumer wellness, pharmaceutical, device manufacturers, insurers, health systems, and providers.

CONTACT:
Courtney Morris (U.S. west coast)
[email protected]

Jaryd Leady (U.S. east coast)
[email protected]

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Calling on U.S. Secretary of State Blinken and Foreign Ministers to take Concrete Action on COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness

In an open letter, Pandemic Action Network and nearly 40 international partners call on U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and fellow Foreign Ministers participating in the Nov. 10 Ministerial Meeting to make specific, time-bound commitments and take concrete steps to end the COVID-19 crisis and build back better from this pandemic.

With a focus on the need for a clear roadmap of concrete actions, timelines, and accountability to accelerate progress toward the global targets of vaccinating 70% of the population in every country by mid-2022, expanded delivery of other lifesaving response needs, and strengthened pandemic finance and governance, the letter specifically calls for ministers to:

  1. Divert COVID-19 vaccine production and delivery at scale with full transparency in 2021
  2. Commit to fully finance the global COVID-19 response and to prepare for future pandemic threats
  3. Ramp up and increase transparency of global supply and delivery of vaccines, tests, treatments, oxygen, PPE, and other COVID-19 tools, and strengthen supply chains and pharmacovigilance
  4. Prioritize strengthening country-level distribution and delivery capabilities in a manner that addresses current needs and future health system resilience
  5. Unlock special drawing rights (SDRs) for the global response & recovery
  6. Increase transparency and tracking from inputs to outcomes

The world cannot wait any longer for action to end this pandemic and help prevent the next one. Read the full letter.

Exclusion of Pandemic Financing in the Build Back Better Act Statement from the Global Health Council’s Global Health Security Roundtable Co-Chairs

“We are disheartened that, in the middle of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, one of the compromises made in the agreement on the Build Back Better Act was to cut out financing for future pandemic preparedness. While we welcome the needed US$1.3 billion to support expanded global vaccine production capacity and research on infectious diseases, the bill leaves out critical elements of President Biden’s American Pandemic Preparedness Plan, including the US$600 million requested to stand up a new multilateral fund to bolster global preparedness for future pandemics.

We represent dozens of organizations who have been calling for U.S. global leadership to establish such a fund to address pandemic threats. Establishing this fund is a long overdue step  toward addressing the years of chronic underinvestment that left America and the world vulnerable to COVID-19. There is strong bipartisan support for the fund from both the House and the Senate and from leading global finance and health experts, who have urged that the fund be set up swiftly and capitalized at US$10 billion per year over the next five years. While the US$600 million U.S. contribution to the fund that was included in the Biden Administration’s Pandemic Preparedness Plan represents only a fraction of the global need, it is an urgent first step toward helping prevent another devastating pandemic from happening again.

Omitting this critical funding from the bill will signal a return to complacency in the face of one of the most looming threats to our national and global security. And it will signal to other countries that President Biden’s signature initiative to establish a new fund to fight pandemics  — which he touted to world leaders at the Global COVID-19 Summit just one month ago as a key piece of his plan to Build Back Better — is not backed by any serious financial commitment or urgency from the United States. The White House and Congress should urgently agree to ensure the US$600 million for the multilateral fund is included in the Act before final passage and then urge other countries to join the U.S. and contribute their fair share.”

Civil Society Organizations Call on G20 Leaders and Ministers to Deliver Concrete Action on Global COVID-19 Targets

Ahead of the G20 Finance and Health Ministers Meeting on Oct. 29 and the G20 Leaders’ Summit on Oct. 30-31, Pandemic Action Network and more than 20 civil society partners call upon the G20 countries to deliver specific, concrete action on key targets set out at the Global COVID-19 Summit on Sept. 22. The Global COVID-19 Summit rallied world leaders and secured commitments to ensure at least 70% of the population in all income categories in all countries are fully vaccinated by mid 2022 — and at least 40% by the end of this year.

But meeting this target will require specific, concrete action. Civil society organizations urge the G20 leaders and Ministers to agree on a plan of action in the forthcoming meetings to deliver on these targets, including commitments to:

  1. Ensure at least 70% of people in every income category in every country are fully vaccinated by sharing doses at scale, releasing production slots, and supporting non-exclusive knowledge and technology sharing measures;
  2. Increase multi-year financing for the pandemic response and preparedness in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to match the scale of need;
  3. Reallocate Special Drawing Rights to support the fight against the pandemic in LMICs;
  4. Strengthen global leadership and accountability.

Humanity deserves a world where every country is equipped to end the COVID-19 crisis and every country is prepared to stop infectious disease outbreaks from becoming deadly and costly pandemics. Read the full letter.

If your organization would like to endorse the letter, please contact Aminata Wurie by Tuesday, Oct. 26. 

Civil Society Recommendations for the Final Stage of the 2022 European Union Budget Negotiations

COVID-19 is one of the worst global health emergencies this world has ever seen, and new variants continue to increase the urgency of quickly minimizing the virus’ spread. Significantly more funding is needed for the global fight against COVID-19. The Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) is still facing a US$16.4 billion funding gap for 2021, and the latest estimates anticipate that it will cost at least US$50-66 billion to fully vaccinate the world — likely much more when end-to-end delivery costs are factored in. The European Union (EU) has shown global leadership and solidarity committing €500 million in grants to support global access to vaccines. However, not all of these commitments have been turned into actual payments yet.

Time is of the essence: the EU must mobilize those resources without delay.

The fight against COVID-19 must not be funded to the detriment of other global health and human development priorities or we will be trading off one crisis for another. More than 2 billion people remain affected by diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and neglected tropical diseases. COVID-19 has also posed an unprecedented shock to human development, which is on course to decline for the first time in three decades.

This is why civil society organizations (CSOs) have identified four priority budget lines that play a vital role in mitigating the effects of the pandemic and are urging the EU to protect them in the conciliation period. Ahead of the vote in the European Parliament Plenary, the CSOs support the amendments laid out in a set of recommendations to restore the Draft Budget for 2022, reverting the cuts made by the Council. Read the recommendations here.

Statement from the Pandemic Action Network on the Global COVID-19 Summit: Ending the Pandemic and Building Back Better to Prepare for the Next

Pandemic Action Network welcomes the leadership of President Biden and the United States Government in hosting today’s Global COVID-19 Summit. The purpose of today’s event was to secure commitments to take action on the Summit goals and targets. The Network thanks all of the leaders who joined and made commitments to achieve the Summit’s goals to get 70% of the population in every country vaccinated within 12 months, to step up efforts to deliver lifesaving oxygen, therapeutics, tests, and personal protective equipment to patients and health workers on the frontlines of the pandemic, and to scale up investments and strengthen the international system to ensure the world is better prepared to prevent, detect, and respond to future pandemic threats.

Among the new announcements today — that will serve as critical first steps toward the bolder, coordinated global action needed — include: The U.S. pledge to purchase and donate an additional 500 million Pfizer vaccine doses for low- and middle-income countries, bringing the total number of vaccines to be donated globally by the U.S. to 1.1 billion; the establishment of an EU-US task force to work together toward the 70% target, and EU commitment to ensure 1 in 2 doses produced in Europe will be exported to the rest of the world; U.S. commitment of  US$345 million for the global COVID-19 response; U.S. plans to provide US$1 billion to establish a new fund for global health security; and new commitments by philanthropies Skoll Foundation (US$100 million) and Pax Sapiens (US$200 million) to bolster pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response.

Pandemic Action Network co-founder Eloise Todd said:

“The success of this Summit will be judged by what happens next. We urge leaders to use every tool at their disposal to map out where every country is right now, and what finances and logistics are needed to deliver jabs in arms faster, getting us over the line to 70% vaccination coverage in each country, while ensuring access for all for lifesaving tests, treatments, oxygen and PPE along the way. Piecemeal actions are no longer enough. This crisis demands not only commitment, but a coordinated global plan and leadership. To end the COVID-19 crisis in 2022, we need to do whatever it takes — and we will hold leaders to account to make it happen.”

Pandemic Action co-founder Carolyn Reynolds said:

“Today’s Summit was a critical reset of the world’s ambition to end this pandemic for all as quickly as possible, and to start making the necessary investments now to bolster our collective defenses to prevent the next deadly and costly pandemic from happening. But we are in a race against time. There has been a collective failure to date to solve this crisis and treat pandemics as the grave threat they are to global security. We need urgent, bold, and concrete action, and we need it now. We welcome President Biden’s plan to host another summit early next year to make sure the world is on track to achieve the Summit goals and targets. We stand ready to work with all leaders to ensure that this Summit leaves a legacy to pandemic proof the world once and for all.”

In advance of today’s Summit, Pandemic Action Network brought more than 60 groups together around a common position on what’s needed to end this crisis. At today’s Summit, on behalf of our Network, we committed to two things:

1. On the COVID-19 response, we will work with our partners and with leaders to ensure the commitments made today are delivered through a global action plan to do whatever it takes to fully vaccinate 70% of the population in every country in less than 12 months — and at least 40% by the end of this year.

To get there, we must dramatically ramp up support now for vaccine donations, manufacturing, and delivery; development and deployment of testing and treatments, oxygen and PPE; and a strong frontline health workforce to reach the most vulnerable communities.

2. To build back better, we commit to help mobilize the political support and resources necessary to establish a new fund for global health security and a new Global Health Threats Council. We will convene and tap the deep expertise and capabilities in our Network across sectors to inform their design and ensure they are inclusive, accountable, and sustainably funded, commensurate with the threat.

Experts Call on World Leaders to Commit to a Global Plan of Attack on COVID at Summit

More than 60 Leading Organizations across Civil Society, Academia, Philanthropy, Health, and Social Enterprise Define a 6-Point Plan to End the Global COVID-19 Crisis

September 20, 2021, Seattle, WA – This week, hosted by the United States, world leaders will gather virtually for the Global COVID-19 Summit: Ending The Pandemic And Building Back Better. According to a group of experts convened by the Pandemic Action Network, the summit is an opportunity to kickstart a global coordinated response plan. As the pandemic persists and the gap between the vaccine haves and have nots grows larger, the Network and partners from around the world welcomes the summit and the targets defined by the Biden Administration, but warns that without specific, concrete action driven by transparent leadership and accountability, we will see millions more COVID-19 infections, deaths, and chances for virus mutations. The Framework for a Global Action Plan for COVID-19 Response, backed by 61 organizations, outlines a 6-point global plan of attack to deliver on the summit targets.

“We are 18 months into this crisis, and we still don’t have a global plan to address this global pandemic,” said Eloise Todd, co-founder of Pandemic Action Network. “This year’s UN General Assembly and the Biden Administration’s summit must be a step change to how we are tackling this crisis. We need leaders to attend this summit, commit to ensuring that 40% of the world’s population gets vaccinated by the end of the year and 70% by mid-2022. Leaders must roll up their sleeves to take the action needed, delivering all the tests, treatments, PPE, and of course vaccines to achieve this ambition. This pandemic is incubating the next one — it’s time to do whatever it takes to end the COVID crisis for everyone in 2022.”

“The staggering global inequality in vaccine access is costing lives, fracturing the world even more, and compromising global cooperation in all other critical areas such as climate change,” said Pascal Lamy. “Vaccinating the world is a solvable problem. But it will require much stronger coordinated action to correct the course and put us firmly on track to end the devastating effects of the pandemic. We’ve defined what must be done, and we now need leadership and accountability.”

Pascal Lamy is President of the Paris Peace Forum and former director-general of the WTO, and one of the 20 individuals and more than 60 organizations that have signed on to the framework, including Care, the CDC Foundation, the Future Africa Forum, Global Citizen, the International Rescue Committee, ONE, PATH, Sabin Vaccine Institute, Save the Children, the United Nations Foundation, VillageReach, and Women in Global Health as well as the Paris Peace Forum.

In order to end the COVID-19 crisis and prepare for the next, Pandemic Action Network, COVID Collaborative, multiple centers at Duke University, and more than 60 global partners are calling on world leaders to:

  1. Strengthen global leadership and accountability. Strong, sustained political leadership and accountability is needed to coordinate and galvanize the many existing multilateral and bilateral responses.
  2. Develop and implement a Global COVID-19 Response Roadmap. Leaders should develop and agree to an end-to-end, fully costed roadmap to end the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, which should include specific, timebound commitments and steps.
  3. Empower a Global Task Force for Supply Chain and Manufacturing. This Task Force should be part of the global leadership framework and should expand production of vaccine inputs, vaccines, diagnostics, therapeutics, and other life-saving interventions.
  4. Accelerate sharing of vaccines and other life-saving interventions.
  5. Prioritize strengthening country-level distribution and delivery capabilities. Recognizing that country-level distribution, delivery, and demand-generation are quickly becoming the key constraints in the race between vaccines and variants.
  6. Increase multi-year financing for the pandemic response and preparedness in low- and middle-income countries. Funding must be additional and must match the scope and urgency of the COVID-19 response and close critical global gaps in pandemic preparedness.

 

“We are in a race against time. The world has the resources and the ingenuity to end the COVID-19 crisis, but we need leaders to step up to meet the moment with the urgency that it deserves,” said Gary Edson, president of the COVID Collaborative.

“This is about leadership and accountability. If the global COVID-19 response remains rudderless and fragmented, without real levers for accountability, all well-meaning commitments will have little impact,” added Krishna Udayakumar, founding director of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center.

The full framework with a 6-point action plan is available here.

About Pandemic Action Network

Pandemic Action Network drives collective action to end the COVID-19 crisis and to ensure the world is prepared for the next pandemic. The Network is a robust partnership of over 140 global multi-sector organizations aligned in a belief that every effort made in the fight against COVID-19 should leave a long-term legacy. One where humanity is better prepared to deal with outbreaks and prevent a deadly and costly pandemic from happening again. Learn more at: pandemicactionnetwork.org.

About Paris Peace Forum

For the fourth consecutive year, the Paris Peace Forum brings together the most important players in collective intelligence. Heads of state and government and CEOs of major multinationals, as well as several civil society actors, will gather for a unique hybrid edition from November 11 to 13 to advance concrete solutions to the enormous challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to improve global governance post COVID.

About COVID Collaborative

The COVID Collaborative is a national assembly of experts, leaders and institutions in health, education, and the economy and associations representing the diversity of the country to turn the tide on the pandemic by supporting global, federal, state, and local COVID-19 response efforts. COVID Collaborative includes expertise from across Republican and Democratic administrations at the federal, state and local levels, including former FDA commissioners, CDC directors, and U.S. surgeon generals; former U.S. secretaries of Education, Homeland Security, Defense and Health and Human Services; leading public health experts and institutions that span the country; leading business groups and CEOs; groups representing historically excluded populations; major global philanthropies; and associations representing those on the frontlines of public health and education.

About Duke Global Health Innovation Center, Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy, Duke Global Health Institute

The Duke Global Health Innovation Center, Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy, and Duke Global Health Institute work cooperatively to synthesize research on global and public health and advance evidence-based policies that support strong public health systems at all levels of government. Work on this initiative represents the individual expertise of the researchers involved and not necessarily the views of the administration of Duke University.

Do Whatever It Takes! Making the COVID-19 Summit a Step Change in Global Response

Pandemic Action Network is relentlessly focused on ending the COVID-19 crisis everywhere and preventing the next pandemic. We work with our global network of more than 140 partners to push governments to bridge the divide between rhetoric or piecemeal efforts and meaningful actions. When we first learned about the prospect of a global COVID-19 Response Summit — something we have been calling for over the past 18 months — we set out to define the step change in ambition that leaders would need to take after the devastatingly inadequate action taken to tackle this pandemic crisis to date.

That’s why in advance of this Summit, we worked with our partners at the COVID Collaborative and across multiple centers at Duke University to bring more than 60 organizations together around a common position on what’s needed to end this crisis. We’re pleased to see much of what we have been calling for reflected in the Summit targets, which we support. But this Summit has to set itself apart by being the starting point in a much longer journey.

It’s beyond time for an action plan, leadership, and accountability. The world is divided between the haves and the have nots like never before. Those with access to COVID-19 vaccines, and those with no access in sight. We have to change this, and at the 22 September COVID-19 Summit, leaders must pledge to do whatever it takes to fully vaccinate 70% of the population in every country in less than 12 months. We will be tracking their progress towards that commitment and the interim target of at least 40% by the end of 2021.

To get there, we must dramatically ramp up support NOW for:

  • Vaccine donations, queue swaps, manufacturing, and delivery
  • Development and deployment of testing and treatments — including oxygen — and PPE
  • A strong frontline health workforce to reach the most vulnerable communities

We make our own commitment to deliver. We will continue to help mobilize the political support and resources necessary to deliver the targets, and track progress of countries towards their goals. We will also push the private sector and philanthropic donors to play their part in delivering the funding — and the policies — to achieve global vaccination and delivery of COVID-19 tools. We will convene and tap the deep expertise and capabilities in our Network across sectors to inform their design and ensure they are inclusive, accountable, sustainably funded, and commensurate with the threat.

It’s time to shine a light on the problems in the system, and fix them, before they take more lives. We are in a race against time. The world has the resources and the ingenuity to solve these challenges.

It’s a matter of leadership and political will. We will be working to ensure that this Summit leaves a legacy to end this crisis and pandemic-proof the world once and for all.

Read and share the full Framework for a Global Action Plan for COVID-19 Response endorsed by more than 60 partners here.

Call for the EU to Immediately Use the Flexibility Instruments for the Global COVID-19 Response

COVID-19 recovery is at the top of every political agenda, with many donors — including the European Union (EU) — supporting the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), a global collaboration mechanism aiming to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tools. But significantly more funding is needed for ACT-A to complete its work.

The latest estimates anticipate that it may cost between $50-66 billion to fully vaccinate the world, plus additional investments needed to cover the cost of delivery in low- and middle-income countries. Meanwhile, ACT-A is still facing a $16.8 billion funding gap for 2021. Along with partners at Aidsfonds, CARE, DSW, Global Citizen, Global Health Advocates, and ONE, we call on the EU to contribute €1.3 billion more to meet their “fair share”.

To do this, the EU should turn to the budget lines designed for crises exactly like this:

  • The Emerging Challenges and Priorities Cushion (the cushion)
  • The rapid response pillar within the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) / Global Europe instrument.

Read more here.

G20 health Ministers’ Meeting — What Happened? What’s Next?

DESPITE PROMISING STATEMENTS OF COOPERATION, VERY LITTLE WAS AGREED UPON DURING THE G20 HEALTH MINISTERS’ MEETING AND WHAT COMES NEXT TO TURN COMMITMENTS INTO ACTION REMAINS UNCLEAR. 

In advance of the two-day gathering of Health Ministers from the Group of Twenty (G20) in Rome, Italy’s health minister Roberto Speranza, holding the G20 presidency this year, said the event was an occasion to strengthen international relations and work for fairer COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

While the G20 Health Ministers’ declaration contains encouraging messages of strong multilateral cooperation to end the pandemic and enhance timely, equitable, and global access to safe, affordable, and effective COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics, very little was agreed in terms of concrete steps needed to turn these promises into a reality.

Here are some of our main take-aways:

“Pact” on achieving vaccine equity

Countries committed themselves in the so-called “Rome Pact” to providing the entire world population with access to COVID-19 vaccines. Speaking after the meeting, Italian Health Minister Speranza told journalists, “if we leave part of the world without vaccines, we risk new variants which will hurt all of us.” He promised that efforts would be strengthened bilaterally and through international platforms starting from COVAX.

We welcome the Ministers’ commitment to continue their efforts to meet the World Health Organization’s (WHO) goal to vaccinate at least 40% of the world’s population by the end of 2021 and continue to support collaborative initiatives, such as the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) and COVAX as well as important global research and innovation initiatives as the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). We still have a long way to go — the WHO Director-General has said that while 5 billion vaccines have been administered worldwide, almost 75 percent of these doses have been administered in just 10 countries.

Most high-income countries have bought significantly more doses than needed to cover domestic vaccination needs. We need these countries to donate at least 1 billion vaccine doses as soon as possible, and 2 billion doses by the end of 2021, if this goal is to be achieved. We welcome Germany’s announcement on the sidelines of the meeting to make 100 million vaccine doses available for the international inoculation campaign before the end of the year, and call on others to swiftly follow suit.

Financing for pandemic preparedness and response

According to the Health Ministers’ declaration, proposals on sustainable financing to strengthen future pandemic preparedness and response are being drafted to be presented at the G20 Joint Finance and Health Ministers’ meeting in October. Immediate and multi-year funding commitments for the pandemic response in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) must match the scope and urgency of the need. We must urgently establish a financing mechanism to channel and direct the additional funding required for the current pandemic response to where it is most needed, and to jumpstart funding for preparedness for emerging pandemic threats. Read more on the call for a new global financing mechanism that provides robust and sustained investments in pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response in this policy brief.

One Health approach

On a positive note, there was agreement on adopting a ‘One Health’ approach in responding to future health emergencies, i.e., recognizing that human, animal, and environmental health are interlinked and determinant of our wellbeing. According to the Ministers’ declaration, the WHO, World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and UN Environment Programme (UNEP) are to work on a joint work plan on ‘One Health’ to improve prevention, monitoring, detection, control, and containment of zoonotic disease outbreaks.

Vaccine education

There is an abundance of great research, information, and approaches to vaccine education, yet efforts to address vaccine hesitancy and build vaccine confidence can be fragmented and siloed. Catalyzing vaccine confidence requires action across the world by diverse stakeholders, active inclusion, and feedback loops with local implementers. Therefore we welcome the ministerial declaration’s emphasis on the need to promote vaccine confidence “by implementing the most effective, culturally appropriate, and science-based public communication and listening strategies tailored to the context of communities at the local level, to combating misinformation and disinformation, and instilling trust in public institutions and experts.”

Implications for the G20 Leaders’ Summit

The G20 Health Ministers’ meeting was one of the last G20 ministerial gatherings before the Leaders’ Summit in Rome on 30 and 31 October. We urgently need strengthened global leadership and accountability; and expect the next joint Health and Finance ministerial and the G20 Leaders’ Summit at the end of October to produce solid commitments on the following issues:

  1. Building strong political leadership for the global COVID-19 response by setting out a fully-costed Global COVID-19 Response Roadmap with specific time-bound commitments to help drive us to the end of the pandemic — full details are defined in our Framework for a Global Action Plan for COVID-19 Response;
  2. Sharing doses at scale and donating entire production slots where feasible, to accelerate global immunity, starting with the donation of excess doses as soon as possible;
  3. Delivering meaningful finance at scale to tackle the global pandemic, including looking to free up as much as possible of the IMF’s US$650B in Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) to low-income countries and to contribute to funding the global COVID-19 response.

We wholeheartedly agree with Minister Speranza when he calls the vaccine a ‘key to freedom’. But we urgently need leaders to focus on ensuring that this ‘key’ is accessible to everyone, not only those in G20 countries.

Calling on World Leaders for A Global Summit to End the COVID-19 Pandemic

A global pandemic needs a global plan of attack.

A coalition of 80 global leaders and over 25 organizations across corporate, philanthropic, civil society, advocacy, academic, and health sectors is calling on world leaders attending the United Nations General Assembly to convene a global summit to ignite an urgent global action plan to end the pandemic.

This call-to-action was coordinated by the COVID Collaborative, Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy, Duke Global Health Innovation Center, Duke Global Health Institute, and the Pandemic Action Network.

Read the full letter to world leaders here.

African Health Ministers’ Path Ahead — A Slow but Steady Fight Against COVID-19

By Nahashon Aluoka, Regional Advisor, East & Southern Africa, Pandemic Action 

Amidst Africa’s persistent third wave of COVID-19, the 71st session of the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Committee for Africa gathered Ministers of Health and leaders from across the continent. The message coming from WHO’s decision-making body was clear: solidarity is required to address COVID-19 in a region that has also been under the stranglehold of more than 50 different public health emergencies in the WHO reporting period.   

In a special session on COVID-19 response, a status report on vaccine rollout and uptake was presented, and Ministers exchanged ideas on approaches to tackle the pandemic and the post-COVID-19 recovery. Vaccines and rollout were top-of-mind. There is slow but steady progress in acquisition and deployment of vaccines. So far, more than 129 million doses have been received in the continent through multiple platforms and more than 93 million doses have been administered. 

However, the response to this crisis is beleaguered with various challenges and leaders clearly laid them on the table. These include: 

  • The magnitude of the crisis requires multi-sectoral coordination at the country level. Ministers noted that the involvement of the private sector, civil society and communities could be improved. 
  • Fragile health systems are stretched and lack adequate funding to properly respond to COVID-19 let alone other health challenges.
  • In many countries, there are also challenges of non-compliance to public health measures, i.e., mask-wearing, physical distancing, and handwashing, and low levels of vaccine confidence continues to be fueled by virulent misinformation. 
  • Weak planning and inadequate resourcing for vaccine deployment. Two countries have yet to begin vaccine rollout and inconsistent supply has resulted in uneven rollouts across the continent.


Priorities Ahead
Calls for a comprehensive and costed global action plan to vaccinate the world continue, but they have yet to be heeded. 

African leaders must continue to work in solidarity starting with a focus on planning for and effectively managing vaccine delivery. So much attention is paid to vaccine procurement but similar attention must be put on ensuring that countries and communities are ready for vaccine delivery.  

Now that the vaccine pipeline from multiple sources — including COVAX and the path-breaking efforts of the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) has increased vaccine volumes into the continent, all efforts should be made to ensure vaccines are equitably deployed and that there is zero wastage. 

With the limited availability of vaccines and the fact that vaccines don’t work alone in containing the pandemic, member states need to increase investment in creating awareness and promoting compliance to public health measures that stop the spread of COVID-19. Such campaigns must address the contextual aspects of their populations and be voiced by trusted sources on trusted channels.

Importantly, African member states must work together through the African Union to transform the current political will to develop local manufacturing capacities for vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics on the continent into a solid action plan. This pandemic has made it clear that the continent’s health security cannot, and should never, be anchored on global solidarity and goodwill and that Africa must define a new public health order driven by its regional and national institutions

 

Framework for a Global Action Plan for COVID-19 Response

We are at an exceedingly perilous and urgent moment in the COVID-19 pandemic. As the Delta variant has demonstrated, we are fighting a virus that doesn’t respect borders and rapidly advances across continents. If the virus continues to circulate unchecked in large parts of the world, we will see not only many more millions of infections and deaths, but also new variants that could totally pierce vaccine immunity, returning the world to square one. The global COVID-19 crisis demands leadership and a global plan of attack. A coordinated, global response, the only possible successful response to the pandemic, must be grounded in equity at all levels – global, regional, national, subnational and community. An “all hands on deck” crisis response must deploy all available resources and capabilities – multilateral and bilateral, public and private sector. A robust and effective response to the current crisis is also the best foundation for health systems strengthening and future pandemic preparedness. World leaders should therefore urgently convene a “Global Pandemic Response and Vaccination Summit” and commit to urgent actions detailed in our Framework For a Global Action Plan for COVID-19 Response. Read more here.

An “all hands on deck” crisis response must deploy all available resources and capabilities – multilateral and bilateral, public and private sector. A robust and effective response to the current crisis is also the best foundation for health systems.

The COVID-19 Action Fund for Africa Was Supposed to Be a Short-Term Solution: A Year Later, the Need is Still There

BY GABRIELLE FITZGERALD, CEO AND FOUNDER OF PANORAMA & CO-FOUNDER OF PANDEMIC ACTION NETWORK

Over the past year, the COVID-19 Action Fund for Africa distributed 81.6 million units of personal protective equipment (PPE) to almost 500,000 community health workers in 18 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

The COVID-19 Action Fund for Africa is a radically collaborative initiative that was co-founded by Pandemic Action NetworkCommunity Health Impact CoalitionDirect ReliefCommunity Health Acceleration Partnership, and VillageReach.

“All regions are at risk, but none more so than Africa.” — WHO Director General Tedros

I previously wrote about some of the strategies­­ that have been vital to the success of this initiative: we formed a loose partnership, we moved fast and there were no organizational or individual egos. As a result, between August and December 2020, CAF-Africa was the fifth largest procurement mechanism of PPE in the world.

Where are we today?

Today, we are eighteen months into the global pandemic. Last week, the World Health Organization’s Director General Tedros said, “All regions are at risk, but none more so than Africa.” And Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the organization’s lead for Africa warned: “Be under no illusions, Africa’s third wave is absolutely not over . . . Many countries are still at peak risk and Africa’s third wave surged up faster and higher than ever before.”

Sadly, the stop-gap measure we put into place a year ago is still needed, and major systemic challenges remain:

  • There is still limited visibility into PPE needs at the country and global levels.
  • There is no single regional body that quantifies cross-country PPE needs, tracks pipeline, and aggregates needs and gaps.
  •  The PPE market remains fragmented.

In order to create sustainable solutions, we believe it’s critical to:

  • Invest in strengthening the procurement options available to support countries to meet their PPE and other supply needs, during the pandemic and beyond; and
  • Continue to explore models to pool the philanthropic dollars going to medicines and supplies for health workers.

This post originally appeared on Medium

Why Masking Up Matters More Than Ever

By Gabrielle Fitzgerald, CEO and Founder of Panorama & Co-Founder of Pandemic Action Network

In May, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) told vaccinated Americans they could take off their masks. Many public health officials and advocates, including the Pandemic Action Network, questioned this shift, especially as so many Americans remained unvaccinated. In response, Anne Hoen, an epidemiologist at Dartmouth College, said, “Wearing masks should probably be one of the last things we stop doing.” This statement has stuck with me. To protect the most vulnerable, the unvaccinated and actually stop the spread of COVID-19, we need to deploy all our tools until the end.

And when it comes to wearing a mask, the science is clear: masking in public can provide another layer of protection and help prevent the virus from spreading to others who aren’t protected, regardless of vaccination status.

Now two months after the CDC guidance shift, we are seeing accelerated spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant. In the U.S., every state is reporting increasing COVID-19 cases, thus demonstrating that relying on the honor system and local guidance alone is insufficient.

“Vaccines do not equal the end of the pandemic,” my Pandemic Action Network co-founder Eloise Todd shared with Forbes. “With vaccines and other precautions like face masks, we moved so close to normal. Why would we now move away from these measures?”

I agree. More than ever, it’s important that we stay focused on what can keep us all safe.

This month the Pandemic Action Network once again catalyzed our network of 130+ partners to ignite a global movement around the importance of continued masking.

With #ThanksForMasking selfies from leaders from Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, to Smita Sabharwal, WHO Director General Dr. Tedros, and Dr. Tom Frieden and key messages shared by organizations like UNICEF, Africa CDC, and 3M, this year’s World Mask Week campaign reached 250M+ people and was shared in 171 countries, or nearly 90% of countries around the world.

(Side note, if you’re interested in partnering with us to reach communities in the other 25 countries we didn’t reach, like Burkina Faso, Cyprus, and Chad, we’d love to talk!)

World Mask Week 2021 came at an absolutely critical time in the COVID-19 pandemic. Many countries, like the U.S., with access to vaccines were in the process of opening up, dropping mask-wearing guidance, and ignoring the fact that the pandemic is very much not over for the majority of people around the world. In fact, countries like Bangladesh, Indonesia, India, and many others in Africa and Latin America, are suffering some of their worst peaks of this pandemic yet. And, they are not alone, the more contagious Delta variant is sparking COVID-19 spikes around the globe, including countries with relatively high vaccination rates, such as the U.S. and the United Kingdom.

But sadly, we have moved away from consistent mask-wearing and World Mask Week was a reminder that not only should we continue to mask up, but we need clear and consistent masking guidance at the national level in order to stop the spread of COVID-19.

While World Mask Week turned up the volume of this key call-to-action, there is urgent work to be done to ensure masking up is fundamental to our collective COVID-19 response. The fact is not lost on us that World Mask Week concluded the day before the U.K. celebrated “freedom day.” And, here in the U.S., Los Angeles Country reinstated an indoor masking order amidst an alarming rise in coronavirus cases.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House chief medical adviser, recently disclosed that U.S. health officials are actively considering a revision to the mask guidance. However, as of this article’s publish date, the Center for Disease Control has not updated their guidance for full vaccinated individuals. As we shared in a policy brief this month, masking still matters, and governments, businesses, and individuals all have a role to play in normalizing mask-wearing to protect those who are most vulnerable and to end this pandemic for everyone.

That’s why we’re so thankful for all of our partners who participated in World Mask Week this year and helped amplify our collective #ThanksForMasking call-to-action. And, we will continue to rally around this issue and not mask the truth when it comes to the importance of the simple and effective act of mask-wearing.

#ThanksForMasking and continue to mask up until we end this pandemic for everyone.

World Mask Week 2021 Catalyzes a Global Movement to Continue Masking Up

People, leaders, and organizations around the world rallied behind the ongoing importance of wearing a mask to stop the spread of COVID-19 and end the pandemic for all!

Pandemic Action Network, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), the African Union, 3M, and more than 70 partner organizations launched World Mask Week 2021 with two goals in mind. First to unite the globe around a simple message: masking in public is still one of the best ways we can protect ourselves and others against COVID-19. The second, to show gratitude for those who have masked throughout this pandemic and continue to do so via the message #ThanksForMasking.

World Mask Week came at a pivotal time in the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Delta variant fueling Africa’s third wave, record numbers of cases in countries around the world, and increased spread from Indonesia and Bangladesh to Colombia and South Africa. The campaign was made even more relevant as the U.K. and U.S., countries with relatively high vaccination rates, debated masking guidance and reopening despite a marked increase in cases.

Over the course of one week — July 12-18 — World Mask Week met the moment.:

 

Beyond the conversation taking place on social media, Forbes published a strong piece about the importance of continued masking and featured quotes from Pandemic Action Network co-founder Eloise Todd alongside partner content. In addition, Triple Pundit made the business case for ongoing masking noting that “World Mask Week shouldn’t just be a 2020 or 2021 thing. Wearing masks has become one of the most effective ways to stall the spread of diseases, and companies seeking to check some ESG boxes would be wise to support such a global effort.”

What now?
While World Mask Week turned up the volume of this urgent issue, we still need clear and consistent masking guidance at the national level in order to stop the spread of COVID-19. The Pandemic Action team published a policy briefing called “Why Masking Still Matters” that includes key messaging regarding the importance of continued masking and recommendations for governments, businesses, and individuals. This document will drive Network-wide ongoing advocacy efforts to accelerate clear and consistent masking guidance.

Overall, we learned that responding with urgency is worth it. People around the world — especially those who are bearing the brunt of this raging pandemic — are eager to engage and be a voice for the importance of masking up alongside other interventions such as handwashing, physical distancing, and getting vaccinated when vaccines are available.

Thank you to all of our partners for their dedication to doing whatever it takes to keep the world safe from COVID-19. #ThanksForMasking.

For more information, visit worldmaskweek.com.

Calling on the European Union to Fund the Global Fight Against COVID-19

Significantly more funding is needed to accelerate the end of the COVID-19 pandemic for everyone. The Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) is facing a US$16.9B funding gap in 2021 as of late June 2021, and latest estimates anticipate at least US$50B-55B to fully vaccinate the world.

With the European Union (EU) currenting negotiating its budget for 2022, Pandemic Action Network is joining other civil society organizations (CSOs) to call on the EC to contribute its fair share of another €1.2B for ACT-A in 2021 and more in 2022 to fully fund any future roadmaps to vaccinate the world. This funding should not be at the detriment of other global health and human development priorities but should come from other recommended budget lines.

Read the letter here. If your organization wishes to join the letter, please email Isabelle De Lichtervelde.

Take Action for World Mask Week 2021!

A global movement to encourage continued masking to reach the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pandemic Action Network is partnering up with the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), the African Union, the World Health Organization, 3M, 50+ other organizations, and countless community leaders around the world to launch World Mask Week 2021 (July 12-18). In case you missed it, #WorldMaskWeek is a movement to encourage sustained mask-wearing to help bring us closer to ending the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for our most vulnerable community members as countries race to vaccinate their populations.

This year, World Mask Week comes as 2021’s pandemic-related deaths surpass those in 2020, variants spread and mutate daily, and a two-track pandemic has emerged — where some regions are up against the spread of variants and rising case numbers, while others with access to vaccines are lifting masking and other public health restrictions (albeit prematurely). On top of these barriers, we are also fighting against pandemic fatigue. We get it. People are tired and the COVID-19 pandemic represents compounding crises and hardship at every level. However, the simple act of covering your face through proper masking could mean protecting your loved ones and yourself as the pandemic persists. 

We know that mask-wearing can reduce the spread of COVID-19. While COVID-19 vaccines help prevent serious illness and death, the extent to which vaccines keep us safe from being infected and passing the virus to others is still emerging. We need to take care of each other and stay focused on what keeps us safe. Masking in public, in combination with handwashing and physical distancing, is still one of the best ways we can protect ourselves and others against COVID-19.

World Mask Week is a time for individuals and organizations alike to rally behind the continued importance of wearing a mask. An act as simple as posting a statement, a photo, or a video with your favorite mask and tagging #ThanksforMasking can show support, reinforce the importance of continued masking, and help propel the movement forward. Through the power of connectivity and social media, we can thank one another and do our part by masking for ourselves, our friends, and our families to protect each other and end the COVID-19 pandemic.

Take action for World Mask Week! The World Mask Week campaign social media toolkit is publicly-available and contains creative assets to help you join the movement and stop the spread of COVID-19.

Join us today by sharing a photo of yourself in your favorite mask and tagging someone to say #ThanksforMasking for #WorldMaskWeek!

Civil Society Leaders Urge Kristalina Georgieva to Do ‘Whatever It Takes’ to Vaccinate the World

Dear Kristalina Georgieva,

We are writing from a wide range of organizations to thank you for the leadership you have shown in convening a task force to implement a roadmap to vaccinate the world. We would like to call on you to bear the following principles in mind as you take that work forward:

Draw up the plan, commit to doing whatever it takes to vaccinate at least 70% of people in all countries, and get them the tests, treatments, and PPE they need alongside vaccines. A comprehensive, coordinated strategy to get to global herd immunity as soon as possible is urgently needed. Many organizations are drawing up such plans, but you are in a position to draw all of these strands together and make sure there is a one-stop-shop costing that is not limited by numbers, mandates, or politics, but focuses on setting out what it will take to end this pandemic.

Make US$50B the floor; the ceiling will be much higher: Most existing calls for funding are focused on procurement.  Yet multiple studies show that it will take billions more on to fully deliver a global response that enables countries to deliver a COVID-19 response and mitigates the impacts of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable. Your plan needs to include a comprehensive costing and analysis covering all elements of the global response. This should identify gaps in supply, procurement, as well as resources needed in-country for the delivery of vaccines, tests, and treatments – ACT-A finance, for example, does not cover rollout costs from “tarmac to arm” of its own vaccines. Ensuring the costs needed to administer vaccines and other COVID-19 tools — including to health systems and health workers, including frontline and community health workers — are also met, so that vaccines and other tools are not just available but also delivered and administered, as part of a fully-costed global plan to reach global herd immunity.

Maximize grant funding for the global response: As you have said ‘vaccine policy is economic policy’, and until countries are vaccinated to at least 70%, all other COVID-19 tools — tests, treatments, PPE, and the ability to deliver all tools — are an integral part of the strategy. We are looking at a situation in which the best investment high-income countries (HICs) could make is investing in the global response, and they should do this from their own reserves, outside of ODA budgets. We ask that you maximize grant funding for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) within this plan and get HICs to agree to a burden-sharing model to set out fair share contributions leveraging funding streams outside of ODA budgets.

Maximize the 650B in SDRs, frontloading whatever is possible: Your team is looking at recycling options for the 650B in SDRs. Announcements so far suggest that 100B of this might be available for LMICs. We should make as much of the 650B as possible available for LMICs to both help their domestic budget situations and fund the global deployment of COVID-19 tools as well as potentially freeing up funding for climate needs as set out in the G7 communiqué. We urge you to look at ways to free up as much of the 650B for LMICs, and to maximize the amount that can be freed up in the short term to contribute to funding the global COVID-19 response. 

Bring stakeholders into the War Room: Representatives from LMICs, health ministries, health agencies, and civil society can all help advise on your work. Bring us in, we are ready to contribute. 

We would welcome the opportunity to discuss these urgent matters with you in the coming days, at your convenience — we have no time to waste. Many thanks for your attention to these issues, and we look forward to hearing from you. 

Your sincerely,

Eloise Todd
Co-founder
Pandemic Action Network

On behalf of:


PATH

 

If your organization would like to sign on, please email Hanna Hwang

Why Masking Still Matters

Eighteen months into the COVID-19 pandemic, as COVID-19 variants spread and the pandemic persists around the world, there are a lot of questions about masking. When do I need to wear a mask? Where do I need to wear a mask? Is masking still needed if I’m vaccinated? In short, to protect those who are most vulnerable and to end this pandemic for everyone, masking still matters — now more than ever. Together immunization, ventilation, hand hygiene, social distancing, and mask-wearing are the best tools we have against COVID-19. No single intervention alone is sufficient to end the pandemic, but face-covering has become increasingly important as lockdowns are eased and people seek a full return to public life. By wearing a mask in public indoor and crowded places, everyone can help slow the spread of COVID-19 and save lives. Ending mask requirements too soon will unnecessarily cost many lives. Read our latest policy brief including key messaging and recommendations for governments, businesses, and individuals.

Why Smooth Vaccine Rollout And Social Proof are Key to COVID-19 Acceptance and Trust

Note: Policy recommendations to decision makers available here

Since the world began to entertain viable vaccines as a real prospect in the fight against COVID-19, we have been confronting the challenge of vaccine hesitancy and navigating what is required to address this challenge. While recent surveys show that vaccination intent has been on the rise globally, increasing hopes that the world will be able to turn the tide on the pandemic relatively soon, the dynamic nature of this pandemic shows that vaccination intent and trust correlates to vaccine access, management of vaccine rollout, and social proof.

The challenge of vaccine hesitancy to end the pandemic
Vaccine hesitancy remains a looming threat to the successful rollout of vaccines and the prospect of ending the COVID-19 pandemic globally. The “anti-vax industry” is well-financed and organized, and determined to spread doubt as to the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines. A study by Imperial College found that hesitancy around COVID-19 vaccines could lead to thousands of extra deaths. The study, from March 2021, compares current levels of hesitancy compared to the ideal level of uptake. The potential risk is particularly acute in countries like France, where vaccination intent is among the lowest. France could see 8.7 times more deaths in 2021/22 than it would under the ideal level of uptake. This compares to just 1.3 times more in the U.K., which has among the highest vaccination intent.

In many countries, one of the main reasons for vaccine hesitancy is that corners have been cut due to the speed of the clinical trials, and that unknowable long-term side effects potentially exist.

In addition, conflicting public health messages have led to increased mistrust from the public. For example, inconsistent guidance on face-coverings earlier in the pandemic has primed people to distrust proclamations about vaccine safety and efficacy. This has led to many people wanting to “wait and see” real-world proof of safety and efficacy before getting a shot. As a result, a critical element of increasing COVID-19 vaccine uptake is building vaccine confidence among this “wait and see” group, the moveable middle.

“Wait and see” approach to COVID-19 vaccines

Because of concerns on the speed of development and potential unknown side effects, a share of the population wants to “wait and see” how the COVID-19 vaccines work for other people before they get vaccinated themselves.

The share of people in this “wait and see” category has declined since vaccines have started rolling out globally.

Smooth rollout and social proof as tools to increase vaccine trust among the “wait and see”
The emerging evidence, including from the U.K. vaccine rollout, shows that social proofing through communication about widespread acceptance and a fast and uninterrupted vaccine rollout seems to increase trust in COVID-19 vaccines. The more people get vaccinated and the more people hear about others getting vaccinated, the more normal it becomes. A study by Rockefeller Foundation from March 2021 found that social proof of others getting immunized and seeing the tangible benefits that come with it might be the most determining factor in motivating people to get vaccinated.1 In their study they found that among U.S. adults who weren’t sure they’ll get the vaccine, 43% said they were waiting for more people to get vaccinated before they do so themselves. Other research found that people are more willing to get the COVID-19 vaccine when hearing about its popularity, suggesting that public health officials should communicate about the growing and widespread intention to get vaccinated among the population rather than overstating vaccine hesitancy. Finally, in a study conducted amongst 18-30 year olds in the U.K., study participants reported slightly stronger intentions to take the vaccine when they learn that 85% of others plan to take the vaccine, versus 45% of others.

The U.K. is a good example of how social proofing and a smooth rollout may help address vaccine hesitancy, particularly among the “wait and see” group. The U.K.’s rollout strategy has been to vaccinate as many people as possible from the start. Within the U.K., the Welsh rollout program has been the speediest in the world, faster than Israel. A key element of that was the decision to delay the administration of second doses in order to get a first dose in as many arms as possible, as quickly as possible. Experts believe that the speed of the U.K. rollout and the decision to delay second doses had an important impact on attitudes towards COVID-19 vaccines. Another important component of the U.K. strategy has been to proactively emphasize the widespread uptake of COVID-19 vaccines, for example social media posts such as “Join the millions already vaccinated.” With more and more people knowing or hearing about someone who had had their first vaccination, it helped build momentum as well as create social proof to build trust and convince those in the “wait and see” category to eventually get vaccinated.  

In January, 90% of people in the U.K. said that they would either probably or definitely take a COVID-19 vaccine, up 7% since December, when the rollout started. Just two months later (March 2021), the proportion of adults who said they would not be likely to get vaccinated had more than halved since December — from 14% to just 6%. Between January and March, 53% of adults shifted to a more positive attitude — either already receiving a jab or reporting that they are now more likely to do so. According to Imperial College’s Year Review of ‘COVID-19 Global Behaviours and Attitudes’, of the 29 countries surveyed for study,  the U.K. had the highest intention of vaccination among those not yet vaccinated in April 2021 (67% of those not yet vaccinated), and had the lowest share of respondents who stated they were worried about side-effects (27%).

The U.K. also had a different response to the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson (J&J) blood clotting issues compared to the U.S. and many European countries.  The U.K. did not pause the use of the AstraZeneca shot, instead it simply updated its guidelines advising people with a predisposition to blood clots and those under 30 (in April) and subsequently under 40 (in May), to get an alternative shot. Research and pollings indicate that the U.K.’s ‘restrained reaction’ helped keep hesitancy low. A study found there was no change in the intentions and attitudes of the U.K. public in the aftermath of the blood clot story. A YouGov poll in April suggested this led to only a minor decrease in trust. The number who considered the drug to be unsafe ticked up only slightly, from 9% in March to 13% in April, with still 75% of Britons considering the vaccine to be very or somewhat safe. 

The impact of pauses on vaccine trust globally
After extremely rare cases of blood clots, unlike the U.K., a number of governments in the U.S. and Europe temporarily paused the roll-out of the AstraZeneca or J&J vaccines. These pauses have had a significant impact on public trust, not only in the countries where the rollout was paused, but globally. 

Despite the European Medicines Agency (EMA) safety committee’s recommendation from 11 March “that the vaccine’s benefits continue to outweigh its risks and the vaccine can continue to be administered while investigation of cases of thromboembolic events is ongoing”, at least 13 European countries paused the use of the AstraZeneca shot. Skepticism in France and Germany increased rapidly after the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine was paused over blood clot concerns in March. In a YouGov poll conducted in March, 32% of Germans said the AstraZeneca vaccine was safe, down from 42% a month before. Confusion also plagued the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine in European countries, further tarnishing the shot’s reputation. For example, in February when it finally started using the AstraZeneca vaccine, German health officials decided to restrict its use to people under 65. It took until March 4 for Germany to update its guidelines and recommend AstraZeneca’s use for people over 65. Just 11 days later, on March 15, Germany paused its use entirely for several days over blood clot concerns. Finally, on March 30, Germany officials tweaked their recommendations yet again, limiting its use to people over 60. In the case of France, it all started with a comment by French President Emmanuel Macron in January incorrectly describing the shot as “quasi-ineffective” for people over the age of 65. Like Germany, French officials then also did a U-turn on their age restriction guidelines in addition to pausing the vaccine use for a few days in mid-March.   

In the US, public trust in the safety of the J&J shot was down to 37% after the government paused the rollout in April, compared to 52% before the announcement. A Washington Post-ABC News poll from mid-April found significant mistrust in the J&J vaccine after health officials paused its use with fewer than 1 in 4 Americans not yet immunized willing to get the shot. The Kaiser Family Foundation COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor found that in early May less than half of Americans believed the J&J vaccine was safe, and concerns about potential side effects had increased among those not yet vaccinated, especially women. About one in five unvaccinated adults say the news caused them to change their mind about getting a COVID-19 vaccine. The Monitor also found indications that concerns about side effects from the vaccines in general had increased following the pause, particularly among women. The reputation of the AstraZeneca vaccine that has not been approved for use in the U.S. yet has also been damaged by blood clotting concerns and temporary suspension in Europe. Only 38% of Americans surveyed in April 2021 considered the AstraZeneca vaccine safe.  In contrast, trust in the Pfizer-BioNTech (Pfizer) and Moderna vaccines appeared unaffected. The Ad Council found that conservatives, in particular, increased in skepticism after the J&J pause.2

Even beyond Europe and the U.S., these short pauses and confusion around age restrictions have damaged the reputation of the AstraZeneca and J&J shots around the world, including in low-income settings where they are particularly crucial. Both the J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines that use adenovirus-vector technology have raised hopes of better global access and, in the case of the J&J shot, faster rollout. These vaccines are less expensive, more stable, and easier to distribute than their mRNA-based counterparts from Moderna and Pfizer. Because they are less expensive and easier to store than Moderna’s or Pfizer’s, and the J&J vaccine requires only one dose, these shots have been considered particularly crucial for less developed and hard-to-reach parts of the world. Yet, experts raised concerns that short suspensions in Europe and the U.S. may further hit an already fragile vaccine confidence in low-income countries and threaten to undermine vaccination campaigns in these settings. Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, and Thailand all suspended the AstraZeneca vaccine rollout following pauses in European countries. Concerns about rare blood clots on top of the rubbishing of COVID-19 vaccines by some African leaders and confusion over expiry dates have slowed vaccine uptake across the African continent. Health workers in countries such as Nigeria, Ivory Coast, and Malawi noticed growing fears and conspiracy theories, as well as slower demand for vaccines. Africans have expressed their reluctance to use the AstraZeneca shot when Europeans have stopped using it.  At the G7 Vaccine Confidence Summit hosted by the U.K. in June 2021, Dr John Nkengasong, Director of Africa CDC, highlighted that confidence in Africa was significantly hit by the suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine in a number of European countries with some African ministries being reluctant to continue the rollout of the vaccine. 

Lessons learned and recommendations
The world has only started its vaccination effort against COVID-19 with millions of people around the globe, particularly in developing countries, still needing to get inoculated against the disease. Yet, lessons can start to be drawn from vaccination programs that started in early 2021.

  • All indications point to the fact that consistent messaging about the safety and efficacy of vaccines and about widespread acceptance, as well as smooth and effective rollouts that build social proof of the safety, efficacy, and benefits of COVID-19 vaccines have been key ingredients to build trust and increase vaccination intent and intake.
  • On the contrary, conflicting public messages and guidance as well as temporary suspensions of the use of certain jabs have created a breeding ground for doubt, fears, and conspiracy theories, not only in the country where they occurred but globally. As Heidi Larson, the founding director of the Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “Don’t let the ambiguity drag on. Because every day just opens the space for misinformation, disinformation, anxiety, and confusion.”

As they progress in their vaccination campaign and in advance of vaccination delivery, decision-makers should take stock of these lessons learned and quickly adjust their strategy accordingly.

Decision-makers should:

  • Increase vaccine trust through a social proofing strategy. Decision-makers should put social proofing at the heart of their vaccination rollout strategy, learning from best practices in countries that have successfully deployed this approach. Such best practices may include proactively emphasizing the growing and widespread intention/acceptance to get vaccinated of others rather than overemphasizing hesitancy levels. Another way may be, where the supply and timing of the second second for two-dose vaccines is guaranteed, delaying the administration of second doses in order to get a first dose in as many arms as possible, as quickly as possible. Experts believe this can have an important impact on attitudes towards COVID-19 vaccines as more people know someone who has been vaccinated.
  • Refrain from temporarily suspending the use of shots over unconfirmed safety concerns (unless recommended by the regulator), and instead take swift decisions to prioritize certain demographics while concerns are being investigated. Total suspension, even when temporary, increases mistrust not only in the countries where the rollout was paused, but globally. For example, the temporary suspension of the use of the AstraZeneca vaccines in a number of European countries despite the EMA’s recommendation to continue to administer the vaccine led to many African countries suspending the use of the shot and increased hesitancy globally, including on the African continent where the AstraZeneca jab is particularly crucial because it is less expensive, more stable, and easier to distribute than the mRNA-based counterparts from Moderna and Pfizer.
  • Always act on scientific advice and follow the regulator recommendation before making any statement on the safety or efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines as well as before introducing any demographic restrictions. Unfounded statements and age restrictions in some European countries early in their roll-out, i.e., limiting the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine only to young people, created confusion and a fertile ground for fear and conspiracy theories. Scientific evidence should be very carefully and regularly assessed by decision-makers and their teams before making any decision or statement on the use of COVID-19 vaccines.

_____

1 The research included focus groups among people expressing concerns about getting the vaccine in March 2021 and a message testing study in February 2021
Source: Ad Council | IPSOS National survey conducted April 12-19, 2021

G20 Finance Ministers Urged to Fill the Huge Gaps Left by the G7 on Finance and Vaccines

Dear G20 Finance Ministers,

The G7 collectively, and most countries individually, have so far failed to absorb the necessity of collective global action and investment. We cannot afford to continue with the piecemeal approach that has characterized the global response until now. We are therefore writing to you in advance of your G20 Finance Ministerial meeting so that by 9-10 July you can take actions that will: fill the gaps left by the G7 on urgent dose-sharing, increase transparency to facilitate efficient tracking and accountability in this crisis, and come up with credible financing to back the emerging plan from Kristalina Georgieva to vaccinate the world.

Firstly, on dose sharing, the G7 pledge to share 870 million doses over the next year is far from the quantity requested by the WHO and lacks solidarity given the third wave that is building momentum in many under-vaccinated regions. Dose-sharing is urgently needed, not as a long-term solution, but to plug the immediate vaccine supply gap in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). We need G20 countries to fill COVAX’s gap for this summer. The majority of the dose-sharing announced at the G7 Summit will not be delivered till well into 2022. Therefore, we call on you not to let the meeting finish before the G20 have collectively found the doses needed to fill COVAX’s supply shortage — 275 million doses for June alone — and we are reiterating the call for 1 billion doses to be shared by the end of August 2021.

Secondly, we need bolder agreements for the medium term and absolute transparency on vaccine supply. In order to shine a light on what is going wrong in vaccine supply and create better understanding of the system, as well as sharing doses now to fill the COVAX supply gap, we also ask that you:

– plan to share at least 1 billion doses by the end of August and at least 2 billion doses by the end of the year, which must be counted as an addition to current ODA levels and global development priorities;

– clearly commit to share all of your excess doses by Q1 2022; and,

– publish a detailed month-by-month timeline to the end of 2022 of doses promised and doses actually delivered and publish the prices the G20 and COVAX have paid for doses.

We know that G7 countries alone have bought three billion more doses than they need to fully vaccinate their entire population to 70%, but the G7 pledge provided only enough doses to vaccinate 10.3% of the population in LMICs. Since we sent these letters to each of you individually, head of the WTO Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala called for the G20 to give 3bn doses when they meet – this is exactly the kind of ambition and action we need right now to get this response on track.

Thirdly, it is vital that Finance Ministers commit to backing a fully-costed, coordinated, and comprehensive Global Roadmap to Vaccinate the World covering end-to-end finance for vaccines, tests, treatments and PPE, dose donations, and tech and patent policies. Kristalina Georgieva has committed to developing a roadmap — we want to see the G20 Finance Ministers commit to financing such a roadmap. Latest estimates anticipate that it will cost at least US$50-66B simply to provide doses to vaccinate the world. We want a comprehensive plan that covers tests, treatments, PPE, and vaccines — as well as covering end-to-end delivery costs so that vaccines and other COVID-19 tools are not left on the tarmac and can be delivered. This will require innovative solutions using Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) in the medium term but also scaling grant funding now. We welcome the G7’s recent commitment to reallocate their new SDRs to the poorest and most vulnerable countries struggling to tackle COVID-19, health systems, hunger, education, and economic fallout of the pandemic. We now urge the G20 to reallocate most, if not all, of their new SDRs to vulnerable countries by the end of the year, to support health and climate in particular, and an equitable and green recovery, and ask that countries publicly share how much they will contribute to this goal.

We can no longer afford to wait to take concrete action to end COVID-19, and we hope the G20 can deliver the leadership the world needs. We are counting on you to take immediate action to fill the vaccine gap now and to fund the plan to vaccinate the world.

Vaccine policy is economic policy, and until countries are vaccinated to at least 70%, all other COVID-19 tools — tests, treatments, PPE, and the ability to deliver all tools — are an integral part of the vaccination strategy. We are counting on you to fill the dose gap, deliver the COVID-19 tools we need, and find the funding so we can stop the spread and save lives. We are counting on you and your fellow Ministers to take the urgent steps needed now to help protect us all. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues with you in the coming days, at your convenience.

Many thanks for your urgent attention to these matters, and we look forward to hearing from you.

Your sincerely,


PATH
 
 

Lots of Warm Words, Barely No Action — Is the G7 Still Relevant?

By Isabelle De Lichtervelde, Senior Program Officer, Policy & Advocacy

Last week, I wrote about our hopes and asks for the G7 Leaders’ Summit. At their annual gathering, G7 leaders faced two choices: they could either decide to take the fight against COVID-19 to another level and agree on a comprehensive global plan to end the pandemic everywhere for everyone or choose to continue with the piecemeal approach that has characterized the global response until now. Distracted by domestic issues, such as Brexit, they sadly went for the latter. The G7 communiqué contains a lot of warm words such as “a collective goal of ending the pandemic in 2022” and a commitment to both “strengthen global action now to fight COVID-19, and to take further tangible steps to improve our collective defenses against future threats and to bolster global health and health security”, but very little action to turn these statements into reality.

Here are some of our main take-aways (for a line-by-line emoji-based assessment of the health and development portions of the communiqué, click here):

  • On dose sharing, with the exception of the U.S. pledge to purchase 500 million Pfizer doses, the collective level of ambition failed to meet the urgency of the moment. G7 leaders committed “to share at least 870 million doses directly over the next year” and to “make these doses available as soon as possible and aim to deliver at least half by the end of 2021 primarily channelled through COVAX towards those in greatest need”. This is far from enough. Dose-sharing is urgently needed NOW, not as a long-term solution, but to plug the significant vaccine supply gap in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) caused by rich countries massively overbuying doses. Our ask is one billion doses by the end of August and at least two billion doses by the end of 2021. According to publicly-available data, G7 countries have bought three billion more doses than they need to fully vaccinate their entire population to 70%. On top of that, the pharma company’s own data shows that there will be 5 billion doses in circulation by the end of August and a staggering 11 billion doses by the end of the year. Yet, G7 leaders have only agreed to share 870 million doses over the next 12 months. According to a new analysis, this will provide only enough doses to vaccinate 10.3% of the population in LMICs.
  • While COVID is still raging, particularly in countries in need, the G7 didn’t make any new financial commitments to end COVID globally. ACT-A is still facing a US$18.1Bn funding gap and the latest estimates anticipate that it will cost at least US$50-66B to fully vaccinate the world — and likely much more when end-to-end delivery costs are factored in. Yet G7 leaders simply claimed pledges made in the past, without any concrete action to finance a global roadmap to end the pandemic in the coming months.
  • On a slightly more positive note, the G7 supported the extension of ACT-A and increased transparency on procurement and delivery data for both donor and recipient countries. The communiqué reads “efforts on this scale require close monitoring of progress made by ACT-A with reliable, transparent, up-to-date and clear information on procurement and delivery to both donor and recipient countries in close partnership with regional organizations. Progress should be reported to the G20 in Rome.” We need total transparency around vaccine production in order for the world to be able to get COVID-19 under control — see our transparency guidelines here. The Network will follow this important issue and continue to push for progress at the G20 meeting later this year.
  • On pandemic preparedness, the G7 outcome document is full of positive language but very little action, including around financing mechanisms for pandemic preparedness. The G7 committed to “explore options for building consensus this year, around sustainable global health and health security financing, supported by robust financial reporting, increased and defined accountability, and oversight”, — a potentially positive baby step toward having a catalytic, sustainable, and multilateral financing mechanism that is dedicated to promoting pandemic preparedness and prevention.


To quote the Network’s co-founder, Eloise Todd, “in footballing terms, the G7 had the ball in front of the net, open goal, and they skied it.” The consequence of this disappointing G7 Summit will be a prolonged pandemic, with more lives lost around the globe.

When will someone finally demonstrate the political leadership needed to end this pandemic?

Transparency Guidelines for the Global Roadmap to Vaccinate the World

As the G7 leaders gather this weekend, civil society organizations have been fighting hard for a Global Roadmap to Vaccinate the World, which calls for an end-to-end plan to vaccinate the world to at least 70%. One of the most urgent issues will be to plug the vaccine gap in the coming months – through sharing doses, providing ambitious finance, and supporting governments to make sure the plan to get to herd immunity delivers tests and treatments to citizens and jabs in arms.

On vaccines themselves, part of the gap will be filled by dose-sharing, and part by ensuring COVAX has the means to purchase enough vaccines. As the G7 rallies around Prime Minister Johnson’s ambition to raise 1bn doses, it is vital we understand the data around what has happened so far:

1. How many doses are being produced in 2021 and who owns them?
2. How much did they cost?
3. When will they come off the production line?

G7 governments are stating that the demand to share 2bn doses in 2021 will not be possible – but the data from different sources tells a different story. For example, GAVI data shows that even accounting for universal booster shots, countries with excess supply will likely have between 1.2 billion and 4 billion doses to redistribute, especially the US & EU. The Duke university project shows that the G7 will likely have in excess of 3bn spare doses in 2021 – with 1bn definitely being a minimum in reach even when making cautious estimates. On top of that the pharma company’s own data shows that there will be 5bn doses in circulation by the end of August and suggests a staggering 11bn doses by the end of the year. There are also publicly available resources on dose deliveries such as this UNICEF dashboard which provide other figures. That’s why we need the G7 leaders to adhere to the following transparency principles as an integral part of the global vaccine roadmap:

Ensure the pharmaceutical industry publishes detailed production schedules setting out the queuing system of which vaccines will be ready for which country, by when, according to realistic production schedules

Publish a detailed month-to-month timeline to the end of 2022 of expected doses that will be produced for the G7, COVAX and other countries and institutions, showing how the G7 can collectively share doses; commit to timeframes for the delivery to fill the urgent vaccine supply gap building towards providing 2bn doses by the end of 2021

Publish a tracker of doses promised and doses actually delivered (when, where, via which sharing mechanism)setting out clearly confirmed contracts vs. options

Publish the prices that doses have been bought at for COVAX, the AU and other LMICs, and set out what ‘not-for-profit’ pricing must be for future purchases for those in LMICs

In light of production data, keep the door open to sharing more doses later in the year

U.S. Global Health Experts Urge G7 Action to Vaccinate the World Quickly and Equitably

Open Letter to G7 leaders proposes five-point action plan – including sharing of at least one billion doses worldwide this year and striving to vaccinate at least 60% of every country’s population in 2022

WASHINGTON – A coalition of global health experts today called on the Group of Seven (G7) leaders to share at least 1 billion, and aim for 2 billion, vaccine doses to low- and middle-income countries by the end of this year, and more urgently help countries distribute and deliver vaccines quickly and equitably across their populations, striving to achieve at least 60%, and ideally 70%, vaccination coverage in every country in 2022.

President Biden and his G7 counterparts will meet at their annual summit on June 11-13 in the United Kingdom, and global vaccination efforts will be on their agenda.

In an Open Letter, representatives of four U.S.-based organizations – Center for Global Development, Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), COVID Collaborative, and three units of Duke University – together with the endorsement of renowned global health experts – urged the G7 leaders and member states to use their vaccine expertise and manufacturing capacity to accelerate global access to vaccines while meeting domestic health needs.

The experts said that today’s global vaccine gap is a supply problem and also a massive distribution and delivery challenge. There are alarming gaps in vaccine distribution and delivery capacity across much of the world that require urgent attention and more resources. “Delivery capabilities and vaccine hesitancy, not supply, are likely to be the critical bottleneck to vaccinations in most low- and middle-income countries within the next 6 months,” the letter said.

The letter highlighted that G7 members have unique resources and capabilities, as well as a legacy of high-impact, collaborative leadership during past crises, and that the coming months are a critical period for leaders to address catastrophic outbreaks in many countries, preempt further growth of the virus elsewhere, and prevent the unchecked spread of the virus from spawning new variants that threaten everyone.

The coalition is asking the G7 leaders to adopt an action plan that includes the following initiatives:

  • Establish a G7 Vaccine Emergency Task Force, open to additional nations and organizations, to provide transparency, predictability, and accountability to the global sharing of vaccines and the vaccine marketplace. As G7 members develop excess vaccine supplies beyond what is needed for domestic use, accurate projections based on real-time country data will facilitate more effective and coordinated global vaccination distribution and prioritize countries with the most urgent need.
  • Develop and commit to a path to share at a minimum 1 billion doses, with the aim of 2 billion doses, of G7-authorized vaccines before the end of 2021, and ensure the availability of enough doses to enable broad vaccination in every country as soon as possible in 2022. As supply continues to increase quickly, the G7 and EU should approach dose-sharing with far greater urgency and intensified systematic planning to meet global needs.
  • Implement a coordinated G7 strategy to immediately increase production of high-quality, well-regulated vaccines, with the goal of further increasing access to these vaccines across the rest of the world. This includes addressing distribution bottlenecks, removing export restrictions and other barriers, and cooperating to provide essential raw materials, equipment and supplies over the next several months.
  • Accelerate development of high-quality globally distributed manufacturing capacity by bringing together public and private sector stakeholders and using voluntary licensing agreements, with a focus on Africa, Asia outside of India, and Latin America. This effort will require establishing cooperative agreements that provide access to financing through both public and private sources, including USDFC, IFC/World Bank and local private funding. The G7 should set a target to finalize at least five such public-private agreements by the end of 2021, each leading to the establishment of vaccine manufacturing capacity before the end of 2022.
  • Increase bilateral and multilateral technical and financial support to low- and middle-income countries to enhance their vaccine distribution and delivery capabilities, and address vaccine hesitancy, with three specific goals: achieve demonstrated national vaccination preparedness in each country by the end of 2021; strive for at least 60%, and ideally 70%, vaccination in every country in 2022; and avoid significant excess vaccine stockpiles ahead of pandemic control in all nations.

The health experts said the G7 members are on a path to contain the pandemic in their respective countries, and to meet the moment, must work to assure the fastest possible path to access to billions of doses of high-quality vaccines – and ensure local capacity to deliver them – complementing ongoing multinational efforts.

The signatories to the open letter include the following:

Amanda Glassman
Executive Vice President, Center for Global Development; CEO of CGD Europe; and Senior Fellow
J. Stephen Morrison
Senior Vice President and Director, Global Health Policy Center, Center for Strategic and International Studies
Gary Edson
President, COVID Collaborative
Mark McClellan
Director, Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy, Duke University
Rachel Silverman
Policy Fellow, Center for Global Development
Katherine Bliss
Senior Fellow, Global Health Policy Center, Center for Strategic and International Studies
John Bridgeland
CEO, COVID Collaborative
Krishna Udayakumar
Director, Duke Global Health Innovation Center, Duke University
Prashant Yadav
Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development
Anna McCaffrey
Fellow, Global Health Policy Center, Center for Strategic and International Studies
Anjali Balakrishna
Program Director, COVID Collaborative
Michael Merson
Wolfgang Joklik Professor of Global Health, Duke Global Health Institute, Duke University

 

The following individuals have formally endorsed the letter:

Thomas J Bollyky, Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
William H. Frist, former US Senate Majority Leader
Helene Gayle, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Chicago Community Trust
Scott Gottlieb, Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute, and former Commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration
Margaret (Peggy) Hamburg, former Commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, and former Foreign Secretary of the National Academy of Medicine
Amb [ret] Jimmy Kolker, former Assistant Secretary, Global Affairs, Department of Health and Human Services
Jack Leslie, Chairman, Weber Shandwick
Jennifer Nuzzo, Associate Professor, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Carolyn Reynolds, Co-Founder, Pandemic Action Network, and Senior Associate, Global Health Policy Center, CSIS

The full text of the Open Letter can be viewed here.

It’s G7 Week — Will It Deliver the Global COVID-19 Plan We Desperately Need?

By Isabelle De Lichtervelde, Senior Program Officer, Policy & Advocacy

This week, all eyes will be on the G7 leaders as they meet in Cornwall for their annual Leaders’ Summit. At the gathering, leaders of the world’s seven largest advanced economies face two choices: they can either decide to take the fight against COVID-19 to another level and agree on a comprehensive global plan to end the pandemic everywhere for everyone or choose to continue with the piecemeal approach that has characterized the global response until now, thus prolonging this crisis for those who are most vulnerable. 

G7 Health Ministers and Finance Ministers met ahead of the Summit.

  • Health and Finance Ministers expressed their commitment to fully fund the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), which still has a US$18.1 billion funding gap in 2021. Health Ministers are open to considering the extension of ACT-A into 2022 alongside efforts to strengthen supply chains and boost global vaccine manufacturing capacity. 
  • Finance Ministers also expressed strong support for the new Special Drawing Rights (SDR) allocation, including a reallocation to countries in need. 
  • On pandemic preparedness, while Health Ministers welcomed the upcoming special session of the World Health Assembly to consider the benefits of a pandemic treaty, Finance Ministers are looking forward to the Pandemic Preparedness Partnership’s Report to G7 Leaders and the G20 High-Level Independent Panel’s findings, and will consider their recommendations, particularly on financing mechanisms.


In parallel, progress was made regarding intellectual property rights and the impact it has on manufacturing and global supply of COVID-19 tools. The Biden Administration recently expressed its (partial) support for the World Trade Organization (WTO) COVID-19 TRIPS Waiver proposal, and the
EU presented its own proposal on patents which it is introducing to the WTO.

Ultimately, both meetings’ communiqués included positive language on the global response.  While these are all steps in the right direction, eighteen months into the pandemic, we need G7 leaders to move beyond their “think big, act small” strategy. They need to think big and act fast. As they gather for the annual G7 Leadership Summit, leaders have one job: to deliver a comprehensive, coordinated roadmap that accelerates global vaccine access and delivery of vaccinations and other COVID-19 tools for everyone. This strategy should include:

  • A comprehensive costing to show what it would take to achieve at least 70% vaccination coverage in all countries, including analysis to identify gaps in supply, procurement, and resources needed in-country for the delivery for vaccines, treatments, and tests. 
  • A burden-sharing model to set out fair share contributions and fully fund global vaccination to reach 70% coverage as soon as possible (including fully funding ACT-A.)
  • A plan to urgently address the huge vaccine supply gap in low- and middle-income countries by sharing two billion doses at the Leaders’ Summit, delivering one billion by the end of August and the second billion by the end of 2021 in coordination with COVAX.

 

As part of this global plan, G7 countries must urgently share vaccine doses with countries in need. G7 countries have bought three billion more doses than they need to fully vaccinate their entire population to 70%. The G7 U.K. Presidency should lead by example by committing to share 100 million doses as soon as possible before the Leaders’ Summit, and others should follow suit, in particular Team Europe and the United States.

G7 leaders can make a difference for the world this week and finally deliver the desperately needed plan to end this deadly pandemic. Let’s hope they deliver.

Call-to-Action: Global Roadmap To Vaccinate The World

There is currently no plan to get to global herd immunity, needlessly leaving the world vulnerable to case resurgence and the proliferation of variants. We are calling on leaders to agree to a Global Vaccine Roadmap to achieve global herd immunity as soon as possible (at least 70%, more if the evolving science points to the need for further coverage). This Roadmap should:

  1. Set out a comprehensive, coordinated strategy to get to global herd immunity as soon as possible.
  2. Increase and improve the global supply of all COVID tools through investment, policies, and the redistribution of excess doses.
  3. Fully cost the response, agree to a burden-sharing model, and begin to plug the gap by fully funding the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A).

Most existing funds are mainly focused on procurement, yet multiple analyses show that it will take hundreds of billions of dollars on top of procurement financing to fully deliver a global response. If successful, ACT-A, for example, will provide vaccines for 27% of low- and middle-income (LMIC) populations in 2021 on current financing levels — but ACT-A finance does not cover rollout costs from “tarmac to arm” of its own vaccines. The situation in India also underscores the importance of oxygen and other tools that are needed before herd immunity is reached. We need a fully-funded, holistic response. We are therefore calling on leaders to:

Set out a comprehensive, coordinated strategy, as has been called for by the IMF, World Bank, WHO, and WTO, to get to global herd immunity as soon as possible, which:

  • Gives countries the support they need so that all efforts to deliver the global response are mapped, efforts are mutually-reinforced, duplication can be avoided and critical gaps can be identified and filled.
  • Delivers a comprehensive costing and analysis covering all elements of a global response to establish what is already covered and identify gaps in supply, procurement, and resources needed in-country for the delivery of vaccines, tests, and treatments.

Increase and improve the global supply of all COVID-19 tools through investment, policies and the redistribution of excess doses.

  • Scale up the production of tests, treatments, and health commodities, including oxygen, and accelerate LMIC-led research and development (R&D) through fully-funded diagnostics and therapeutics pillars.
  • Increase vaccine manufacturing through investments in regional capacity and back policies to increase knowledge sharing, remove trade-related barriers, and create tech transfer hubs.
  • Ensure vaccines are offered at an affordable price and on a not-for-profit basis.
  • Prioritize dose-sharing. G7 leaders should pledge 2 billion doses at the Leaders’ Summit, delivering 1 billion by the end of August and the second billion by the end of 2021 and as part of this delivery, ensure that 250 million additional people in low-income countries (LICs) and LMICs have actually received their doses by the end of August in parallel with national vaccine rollout plans.

Fully cost the response, agree to a burden sharing model, and begin to plug the gap by fully funding the ACT-A.

  • Agree to a burden-sharing model to set out fair share contributions and fully funding ACT-A.
  • Leverage funding opportunities by identifying new funding streams to protect official development assistance (ODA).
  • Fully fund global vaccination to reach 70% coverage, requiring at least US$50B according to IMF estimates, with more in grants needed to enable LMICs to cover the full costs of delivery.
  • Work with countries to urgently cost all delivery needs outside of ACT-A’s mandate so vaccines and other tools can be distributed and administered, including the costs of frontline and community health workers.

Three key deliverables for the G7: leadership, supply, and finance 

G7 leaders must:

1. Develop a Global Roadmap to Vaccinate the World: 

  • Develop a comprehensive, coordinated strategy that plugs gaps and shines a light on the blind spots of current efforts, including delivery of tools to low-resource settings.
  • This Global Roadmap should be kicked off at the G7 Summit and delivered with full costings and logistical, human, and financial resource needs by the end of June at the latest, when other costings will also be available to inform the roadmap.
  • There are growing calls for leaders to step up and set out the plan that is designed to bring the acute phase of the pandemic to an end and vaccinate the world. As well as the proposal from the IMF, World Bank, WHO, and WTO, the Spanish Government has set out a ‘Vaccines for All’ plan, more voices in the U.S. are calling on the Biden Administration to show leadership, and in the vacuum left by the lack of a truly global response, other organizations are stepping up to offer policy prescriptions for a global plan. The report of the Independent Panel on Pandemic Preparedness and Response also recognized the lack of global coordination and political leadership during this pandemic and called for a Global Health Threats Council to be formed.
  • The G7 must not delay in corralling leaders to deliver a Global Roadmap. The UK Presidency is well placed to work hand in glove with the G20 to deliver a comprehensive roadmap that plans to vaccinate at least 70% of people in the world and provides the support needed for every country to get the vaccine delivered and administered safely to 70% of each country’s population.


2. Increase the supply of vaccines available globally by: 

  • Prioritizing dose-sharing. The G7 should pledge 2 billion doses at the Leaders’ Summit, delivering 1 billion by the end of August and the second billion by the end of 2021 and as part of this delivery, ensure at least 250 million additional people in LICs and LMICs have actually received their doses by the end of August. Without dose-sharing, G7 countries would have enough supply to vaccinate to share over 3 billion excess doses even after vaccinating 70% of their own populations.
  • Scaling global capacity to produce COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2021 through investments in regional capacity, backing policies to increase knowledge sharing, removing trade-related barriers, and creating tech transfer hubs.
  • Buying vaccine supply for COVAX and other mechanisms to help reach 70% coverage.


3. Fully finance the global response to COVID-19 by: 

  • Fully funding global vaccination to reach 70% coverage, requiring at least US$50B according to IMF estimates, with more in grants needed to enable LMICs to cover the full costs of delivery, on the basis of a clear burden-sharing agreement, which will:
    1. Fill the immediate ACT-A funding gap of US$19B.
    2. Commit in principle to fund the global roadmap to get to 70% global coverage on the basis of a clear burden-sharing agreement, finding new resources and protecting existing ODA.
    3. Leverage multilateral development banks (MDBs) to help finance the global roadmap.
  • Ensuring the costs needed to administer vaccines — including to health systems and health workers, including frontline and community health workers — are also met, so that vaccines are not just available but also administered, as part of a fully-costed global plan to reach global herd immunity.
  • Costing and then mobilizing the additional finance needed to deliver this plan to vaccinate the world, using all possible finance tools to raise the amounts necessary, including, but not limited to, SDRs, funds from MDBs, and new sources of funding, including innovative mechanisms and providing finance beyond government funding.

 

                           PATH                 

 

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Why We Need a ‘Rome Roadmap’ to Vaccinate the World

By Friederike Röder, Global Citizen; Eloise Todd, Pandemic Action Network; and Emily Wigens, The ONE Campaign

We need a global roadmap to vaccinate the world — and we need it now. The scenes emerging from India are a harrowing reminder that unequal distribution of vaccines puts everyone at risk. More contagious forms of the virus are already evolving, increasing the risk of a new mutation that resists current vaccines.

Global access to vaccines is the fastest way to end the pandemic, but if rich countries monopolise supply and only vaccinate themselves, twice as many people could die — and the costs could stack up to an additional US$9 trillion. As of May 2021, just 0.3% of COVID-19 vaccines had been administered in low-income countries and COVID-19 deaths in low- and lower-middle-income countries now account for 30.7% of global deaths, compared to 9.3% a month ago.

That’s why the EU and its Member States must seize the opportunity of the Global Health Summit on 21 May and the 24-25 May European Council meeting by taking the following actions: 

  • Develop a global roadmap to vaccinate the world to reach global immunity as soon as possible, raising the level of ambition and offering the political leadership needed to deliver vaccines across the world. The EU and Member States should coordinate globally so that all efforts to deliver COVID-19 vaccines are mapped, mutually reinforcing, and avoid duplication. This strategy should include a comprehensive costing to show what it would take to vaccinate 70% of the world, and should also include analysis to identify gaps in supply, procurement, and resources needed in-country for the delivery for vaccines, treatments, and tests.
  • Immediately contribute to the call for high-income countries to share 1 billion doses by September, and 2 billion by the end of the year, sharing surplus doses via, or in coordination with, COVAX. This year, EU Member States will have at least 690 million doses more than they need to vaccinate 100% of their populations, and in many EU Member States the supply of COVID-19 vaccines will soon outstrip demand. Several Member States have stepped up with commitments to share doses, other leaders should urgently follow in their footsteps. Unearmarked doses should be donated immediately, in parallel with national vaccination rollouts, or when countries have vaccinated 20% of their populations at the latest. Moving forward, the EU should avoid purchasing more doses than necessary to fully cover its own population and should make its own contracts conditional upon pharmaceuticals making deals with COVAX at not-for-profit pricing.
  • Contribute their fair share towards fully funding the current and future ACT-Accelerator funding gaps, estimated to be at least $66 billion, in 2021 and ensuring a fair distribution between the Therapeutics, Diagnostics and Vaccines Pillars, as well as the Health System Connector. The European Commission should contribute at least an additional €1.2 billion and all EU Member States should meet their fair share in financing for ACT-A. This is the best investment they can currently make. This should pave the way for the whole of the G7 to close the current funding gap of $18.5 billion by at least 60% as soon as possible.
  • Support all means necessary to increase global supply of COVID-19 tools. It is imperative that governments and industry use every tool in their toolbox to dismantle the barriers that delay truly global access to COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and medicine. The world needs a total of 11 billion vaccine doses to achieve herd immunity, but according to estimates, we’re at best at a capacity level of 8.5 billion. The EU should lead the way on building a roadmap on producing those additional vaccine doses and future boosters, using all means necessary, both in lifting IP barriers and in ensuring sufficient manufacturing capacity. This could range from the temporary waiver of COVID-19 intellectual property rights, alongside additional licensing, technology transfers, and the elimination of trade-related barriers such as export bans. In parallel, the EU should launch an initiative to increase manufacturing capacity in LICs and LMICs, helping to bring private investors on board, and support the WHO’s mRNA Tech-Transfer Hub.

European leadership should take the fight against COVID-19 to the next level by taking urgent action now, with the aim to protect every person in the world, save the maximum amount of lives, and stop the spread of dangerous variants that will harm all of us. The world is playing catch-up on an equitable response. Now is the time for a reset with a strategic plan to reach 70% globally, dose sharing immediately, and investment in purchasing vaccines and other life saving tools — as well as action to kickstart medium-term supplies through licensing, tech transfer, and investment in production capacity. All these elements are needed.

It’s time for the EU’s leaders to deliver, at the Global Health Summit and at their Summit next week.

Friederike Roder is the vice president for global advocacy at Global Citizen, Eloise Todd is the co-founder of Pandemic Action Network, and Emily Wigens is the EU director at The ONE Campaign.

Now is the Time: EU Must Demonstrate the Political Leadership Needed to End the Pandemic

The COVID-19 crisis has deeply affected the world, and the effects will be felt for years to come. While scientific progress to fight the virus has been astonishing, the current level of ambition for both the COVID-19 response and what is needed to pandemic-proof the planet does not go far enough. We urge world leaders to apply the same ingenuity, political will, and public-private partnerships that brought us these novel vaccines in record time to speed up efforts to end this pandemic and act on lessons learned.

The scenes emerging from India are a painful reminder that global access to COVID-19 tools is the only way to end this pandemic quickly, and avoid countless deaths and the trillions of euros lost. The longer the virus is able to travel the world, the greater the risk of mutations and the greater the risk that the vaccines we do have will become ineffective. Yet, as of May 2021, just 0.3% of COVID-19 vaccines had been administered in low-income countries and COVID-19 deaths in low and lower-middle income countries (LMICs) now account for 30.7% of global deaths, compared to 9.3% a month ago.

At the Global Health Summit this week and the EU leaders summit next week, the EU and its Member States must urgently offer the political leadership needed to deliver vaccines across the world and develop a global roadmap to vaccinate the world. They must coordinate globally so that all efforts to deliver COVID-19 vaccines are costed and mapped, mutually reinforced, and avoid duplication.

As part of this global plan, the EU and its Member States must contribute to fully funding the $18.5 billion gap of the ACT-Accelerator in 2021 and ensuring a fair distribution between the Therapeutics, Diagnostics and Vaccines Pillars, as well as the Health System Connector. Every Member State should contribute its fair share, and the European Commission should contribute at least an additional €1.2 billion. In addition, EU Member States must immediately contribute to the call for high-income countries to share 1 billion vaccine doses by September and 2 billion by the end of the year. EU Member States will have at least 690 million doses more than they need to vaccinate 100% of their populations, and in many  Member States, the supply of COVID-19 vaccines will soon outstrip demand. Several Member States have stepped up with commitments to share doses, and other leaders should urgently follow in their footsteps.

Fully funding ACT-A and sharing vaccine doses are only two, yet essential, elements of the global roadmap to vaccinate the world. The EU must also support all means necessary to increase global supply of COVID-19 tools, including through increasing vaccine manufacturing capacity as soon as possible.

Advocates will be watching whether the EU seizes the opportunity of the Global Health Summit and upcoming European Council to offer the political leadership that has been so desperately needed since the beginning of the pandemic.

Seizing the “Chernobyl Moment”: Actioning the Independent Panel’s Report Over the Next 100 Days to Make This the Last Pandemic

Last week’s release of the report by the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response’s (Independent Panel): COVID-19: Make it the Last Pandemic comes at arguably one of the most complex and challenging times in the global COVID-19 crisis.

Just as many states and businesses across the U.S. quickly lifted mask-wearing restrictions in response to new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and countries across the world lifted restrictions, the world continues to see record numbers of new COVID-19 cases. World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr. Tedros warned of the grave emergency in India and the worsening situation in countries such as Nepal, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Egypt that are dealing with spikes in cases and hospitalizations. Nearly 18 months since the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus was first reported, the global inequities in the response are sharper than ever. Only 0.3% of COVID-19 vaccine supply is going to low-income countries, and the world still lacks the necessary life-saving supplies and systems necessary to contain, let alone end, this pandemic.

It is amidst this backdrop that the Independent Panel is sounding the alarm for world leaders to take urgent action, both to ratchet up the global COVID-19 response as well as to make the significant changes to the international system necessary to bolster global preparedness for future pandemic threats. While we think the Independent’s Panel’s recommendations could have been much more ambitious in certain areas, if enacted they would constitute a major step change in how pandemics are treated by governments as an existential global security threat.  The Independent Panel calls COVID-19 a “Chernobyl moment” for pandemic preparedness: the catastrophe that should trigger the kinds of international policies, systemic reforms, safeguards, and accountability for addressing pandemics that Chernobyl triggered for nuclear threats.

IF ENACTED. This is the key point. We have seen this story play out before — the cycle of panic and neglect characterized by a deadly disease outbreak, followed by urgent crisis response, systemic review, reports, and recommendations that leaders fail to implement. Over the next 100 days, in advance of the next UN General Assembly, we must begin to break this deadly cycle once and for all.       

________________________

“Everything that has been accomplished by this commission is really a prelude. It’s the overture to the opera that we have not yet heard. We don’t really know yet how well these tasks will be taken up and these recommendations acted upon … It’s been shown over time that it’s not enough to lay out what the world should do. It’s going to require continued promotion, advocacy, and monitoring.”
Harvey Fineberg, President, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
________________________

In April, Pandemic Action Network’s 100+ partners developed our 2021 Action Agenda to urge world leaders to take action to bolster the global COVID-19 response, hasten an end to this global crisis, and lay the groundwork for a more pandemic-proof world. Last week, we gathered global experts for an examination of the Independent Panel’s findings (view here, passcode: &DuB+G9^) and the verdict was clear: We must lay out the path and the timeline and take immediate action to carry these recommendations forward. Now, on the heels of the Independent Panel’s Report, we call on world leaders to take the following actions within the next 100 days to help end this pandemic and prevent the next.

1. Agree on the plan and secure the resources necessary for the global COVID-19 response and reach at least 70 percent vaccine coverage as quickly as possible.

While global action lags and virus variants continue to spread, the devastating human, social, and economic consequences of the pandemic will only continue to worsen and prolong our ability to reach global herd immunity and bring an end to the acute crisis.

The Independent Panel report urges countries that have bought more vaccines than they need to begin sharing doses immediately through the COVAX facility — with the goal of 1 billion doses by September and 2 billion by mid-2022. We believe we must go further and faster. We urge world leaders to apply the same ingenuity, political will, and public-private partnerships that brought us these novel vaccines in record time to speed up both the global production and the delivery of vaccines — and reach the goal of 2 billion vaccines shared through COVAX to people in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) before the end of this calendar year.

World leaders also should adopt, rigorously cost, and fund a global vaccine roadmap to reach at least 70% vaccine coverage around the world as soon as possible. Recent cost estimates vary widely, from at least $60 billion to an estimate of $190 billion for the costs of delivery to the last mile — and the real costs are likely to be much higher. Given the lack of previous investments in preparedness, the havoc the pandemic has wreaked on already under-resourced health systems, and the continuing global shortages of oxygen, personal protective equipment, diagnostics, therapeutics and other life-saving supplies, a full costing of the global COVID-19 response is likely to be much higher. But even a doubling the higher-end estimates would still be a fraction of what governments have spent so far on response and stimulus measures or the projected $22 trillion in losses to the global economy from the pandemic over the next five years.

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“The world must step up in its ambition and its collective efforts to solve the crisis as soon as possible. It’s unfortunate that 18 months after the start of this pandemic the Panel still felt the need to call for the global roadmap to end this pandemic.”
Muhammad Pate, Global Director, Health, Nutrition, and Population, World Bank,
and Director, Global Financing Facility
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2. Build and commit the resources to launch a new and enduring multilateral financing mechanism for pandemic preparedness.  

The Independent Panel’s recommendation to create an International Pandemic Financing Facility embraces earlier calls by the Pandemic Action Network and others for a new multilateral funding mechanism to bolster pandemic preparedness. The Panel’s proposed facility would mobilize an additional US$5-10 billion annually over the next 10-15 years for pandemic preparedness and be able to disburse rapid-surge financing for response of $50-100 billion at short notice to help stop an emerging pandemic threat. Based on the experience of this pandemic, these funding targets, especially for preparedness, will likely need to increase.

World leaders should commit to launch and fund a new financing mechanism that is fit-for-purpose, based on more rigorous cost estimates of what is required to get the world better prepared, and ensure that its resources are not only additional to current global health spending but also that the preparedness funds are protected in the event of a crisis. This should not just be about business as usual or mobilizing more money for all things health: A new facility should be catalytic; incentivize countries to prioritize development, budgeting, and implementation of their national health security action plans; and hold them to account. Launching this mechanism should not wait until this pandemic is over.

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We must, we absolutely must use this window to focus on tangible actions this year. To build the tools for the future we need, for financing, surge capacity, manufacturing triggers, for oversight. We don’t want to miss this opportunity.”
Beth Cameron, Senior Director for Global Health Security and Biodefense, National Security Council, White House
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3. Elevate pandemic preparedness and response to the highest levels of political leadership, including adopting a global implementation plan and establishing a high-level oversight body with the mandate to prepare for and respond to pandemic threats.

To solve for the egregious lack of decisive leadership and clear accountability for the global COVID-19 response and for pandemic preparedness, the Independent Panel calls for world leaders to take several actions this year: establish a Global Health Threats Council made up of heads of state and government, adopt a political declaration at a Special Session of the United National General Assembly, and adopt a Pandemic Framework Convention. Taken together, these steps would ensure this agenda gets the high-level and sustained political attention and support it demands, and which has been lacking for far too long. A Global Threats Council model is not only something the world needs to prevent and prepare for future pandemics, but a model that we need now to coordinate and action key priorities to end this pandemic. World leaders should embark on those negotiations now and a high-level oversight body should be set up to steer these efforts forward. Simultaneously, world leaders should forge a robust political declaration for adoption at UNGA that will be more than words and not just a one-off event. The Special Session should set in motion a global plan to implement the full range of the Panel’s recommendations to get the world better prepared before the next pandemic strikes, and every head of state or government should lay out what they will do in support.

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“One way to get countries to do more is to have them held accountable by their citizens … Civil society needs to be brought into the decision making processes [for pandemic preparedness], to hold governments accountable for action.”
— Rosemarie Muganda, Regional Advocacy Director for Africa, PATH
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4. Create meaningful and sustained mechanisms to engage civil society as critical partners for driving system change and accountability.

The Independent Panel report underscores that COVID-19 is so much more than a public health crisis; it’s a profound socio-economic crisis, whose impacts will be felt by the poorest and most vulnerable for years, perhaps decades, to come. The longer the pandemic persists, the more the inequities in our systems are amplified and deepened.

As countries, companies, and communities emerge from the acute crisis of the pandemic, they have a responsibility to step up and help close these global gaps, and ensure that this does not happen again. Leaders, at every level — national, regional, global — should take steps to ensure that civil society organizations have a seat at the table as they build and adapt their response and preparedness plans, to ensure those plans reflect the needs of their communities, and to empower citizens to hold their political leaders to account for enacting the fundamental changes needed for a more resilient world.

Pandemic Action Network is laser-focused to seize this window to take action and we are relentless in our advocacy because we believe that we can and must pandemic-proof our present and our future. Together, our 100+ partners urge world leaders — at the G7, G20 and other global summits — to recognize that right now, they have one job: end this pandemic and ensure we are prepared for the next.

 

Two Ways to Take Action for India Now

Gabrielle Fitzgerald, Co-founder, Pandemic Action Network

This weekend’s sunshine and blue skies had what seemed like the entire population of Seattle outside enjoying the early summer weather.  Everywhere you went, people were enjoying the sunshine—it almost felt like COVID-19 was a bad dream that we’d finally woken up from.

But, we know that isn’t true… The past weeks have marked the highest number of COVID-19 cases the world has recorded to date. Since the beginning of this pandemic, COVID-19 has exposed and amplified our inequities. Now, as the U.S. has accelerated vaccination (even for youth) and has preemptively given Americans the chance to take off their masks and enjoy summer, the pandemic rages around the world.

Most notably, India is in the grips of a terrible and all-too-real nightmare. India currently has the highest daily number of COVID-19 cases and deaths of any country in the world. Official totals from India’s health ministry report 24.6 million total COVID-19 cases and 274,000 deaths. Daily case counts range between 350,000 to 400,000, with most experts believing these numbers are significantly underplaying the extent of the disease.

Dr. Ashish Jha of Brown University, believes deaths caused by COVID-19 in India could be closer to 25,000 to 50,000 per day, and new infections happening each day in India could be between two million and five million.

So, while we should celebrate our progress here in the U.S. and hug our loved ones, we must understand that we are not out of the woods. With variants and the nature of COVID-19 waves, we must understand that only together can we truly end this pandemic for everyone. Now is the time to support the needs of India and other countries who are facing dire consequences from the disease, while also advocating for equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and access to life-saving supplies.

On Friday, WHO Director General Tedros spoke of his bittersweet feeling as he received his COVID-19 vaccine.  While he celebrated the “triumph of science,” he lamented the fact that only 0.03% of the vaccine supply is going to low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). A New York Times vaccine tracker shows that many countries are yet to administer a single dose of the vaccine.

Meanwhile, access to basic medical supplies like oxygen remains challenging in many countries, as documented by the COVID Oxygen Needs Tracker. According to Dr. Marc Biot, MSF Director of Operations, “Oxygen is the single most important medicine for severe and critical COVID-19 patients. Yet oxygen supply is often insufficient because infrastructure has been neglected in lower- and middle-income countries for decades.” The crisis in India, now spreading to Nepal and other nearby countries, highlights that oxygen is the most critical medicine for people with severe COVID-19 and 18 months into the pandemic, oxygen supply is under-resourced and LMICs are often the last in line.

Stories in the media and from colleagues in India provide devastating details on the crushing burden faced by hospitals and health care providers, as well as stories of entire families being lost to COVID-19 in a matter of days.

While we have seen donations from governments, businesses, and philanthropies to respond to the humanitarian crises in India, they don’t seem to meet the scale of the problem.  And the breadth of these challenges can make it seem as if there is little an individual can do to help, but individuals and organizations can make a difference in this unprecedented situation.

Here are two ways to take action for India now:

Dasra was established more than 20 years ago to channel funds from philanthropists to small non-governmental organizations across the country. Over this time, they have built the capacity of more than 1,000 organizations to provide services to their communities. With the COVID-19 crisis, they set up the #BacktheFrontLine COVID Emergency Fund to provide immediate resources to 50 of their trusted, high-impact partners who work in local communities providing a range of services to respond to the emergency.

Oxygen for India is a new initiative created by Dr. Ramanan Laxminarayan of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy. A long-time health researcher currently based in Delhi, Ramanan quickly mobilized a large network of partners to provide reusable oxygen cylinders and 3,000 oxygen concentrators for hospitals in Delhi and Kolkata. This volunteer-led program has utilized local knowledge and relationships with global connections to procure 40,000 oxygen cylinders.  When an emergency hits, a catalytic coalition made up of individuals and organizations who jump in to help can sometimes move quicker than large, established organizations with complex procurement processes and bureaucracies.

These are two of the many organizations who desperately need funding, and both organizations can receive tax deductible donations from U.S. citizens.

While we in the U.S. are reconnecting with family and friends we haven’t seen in a year, please take a moment to think of the desperate need of so many families in India and other countries around the world.

And for those who are celebrating the end of COVID-19 in the U.S., India should be a cautionary tale.  Less than six weeks before the surge of new coronavirus infections, government officials said India was at “the endgame” of the pandemic.  At that time, India had 11,000 cases per day, and an average of about 100 deaths.  Here in the U.S., we still have almost 800 deaths per day.

We are still fighting this pandemic. In today’s interconnected world, COVID-19 anywhere is COVID-19 everywhere.

 

Pandemic Action Network Statement on the Report of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response: Make It the Last Pandemic

Pandemic Action Network welcomes the long-awaited report from the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (The Independent Panel): COVID-19: Make it the Last Pandemic, which assesses the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic and recommends steps world leaders should take to end this pandemic and prevent another deadly and costly pandemic from ever happening again. 

Pandemic Action Network co-founder Carolyn Reynolds said, “The Independent Panel’s report affirms what Pandemic Action Network has long stressed: That despite repeated warnings over many years, the world was woefully unprepared to mobilize with the urgency, speed, and scale required to prevent an emerging infectious disease outbreak from escalating into a devastating and costly pandemic, whose health and socio-economic impacts will be felt for years, if not decades. As the Independent Panel rightly notes, COVID-19 was a preventable disaster — one that continues to prey on the most vulnerable and marginalized populations in countries at all levels of income.  

“The Independent Panel’s urgent calls on wealthy nations to supply at least 1 billion vaccines to low- and middle-income countries by September, fund the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), accelerate technology transfer and remove trade-related barriers are imperative, together with the call for the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop a roadmap with clear goals, targets, and milestones for ending the pandemic. Sadly, the fact that these recommendations are needed nearly 18 months into the crisis — and when the last week marked the highest number of COVID-19 cases the world has recorded to date — speaks volumes about the failures of the global response.  

“Yet as we continue to battle this pandemic, we cannot afford to ignore the next one. We commend the Independent Panel for keeping a clear eye on the future. Many of the Panel’s recommendations reflect the priorities we have set out in our 2021 Agenda for Action, including to: elevate global and national leadership on pandemic preparedness and response; increase investments in preparedness and surge capacity through a new international financing facility;  strengthen the WHO; create a rapid global surveillance and alert system; and ensure a pre-negotiated global mechanism for rapid development and equitable supply of lifesaving tools and technologies. We also support the Panel’s call for a UN Special Summit this fall at which heads of state will commit to action. 

“Most of the Independent Panel’s recommendations are not novel, and they will not solve all the weaknesses exposed by this pandemic. But they provide a starting point both to accelerate the end of this crisis and build a better prepared world. At upcoming global summits, world leaders must take steps to address pandemics as the grave and existential threat to humanity that they are. Too many times in the past, recommendations on pandemic preparedness have faded once the immediate crisis has waned. We owe it to the 3.3 million people who have lost their lives and the brave heroes of this pandemic — the frontline health and essential workers, the epidemiologists, the researchers, the educators, the community activists — not to let that happen again. We want to see a step change in the ambition of world leaders to end this pandemic and pandemic-proof our future and we hope the Independent Panel’s report will be the catalyst for that change.”

Call-to-Action to African Leaders: Scale Up COVID-19 Testing Now

As the world looks back on one full year of living in the COVID-19 pandemic, the response is still far from over. With only 41 million tests conducted in Africa since the start of the pandemic, and 28,030 tests conducted per million people (well below the Africa CDC-recommended optimal testing level of 75,000 tests per million people), there is an urgent need for African Union (AU) member states to scale-up testing. In spite of disruptions in the global supply chain for COVID-19 tools, including diagnostics, there has been a slow but steady increase in testing. However, the continent needs a rapid scale up of testing for better epidemiological management of the pandemic in order to keep economies open and save lives. Without sufficient testing, we are fighting the pandemic blindly.

Africa CDC and Partners Working Group on Testing, of which Pandemic Action Network is a member, has developed a letter signed by Center for Global Health Security and Diplomacy, FIND Diagnostics, PSI, Right to Health Action, and WACI Health, and three advocacy networks each composed of 100+ members (Pandemic Action Network, Global Fund Advocacy Network, and Treatment Action Group).

The call-to-action is directed to African Ministers of Health urging them to:

  • Order quality-assured antigen tests  
  • Ensure sufficient budget for procurement of antigen tests and testing this fiscal year
  • Ensure sufficient budget for procurement of lower-priced PCR tests for COVID-19 and other diseases including TB, HIV, and Hepatitis C

Read the call-to-action letter here and contact [email protected]k.org to take part in the advocacy efforts with AU leaders.

The First 100 Days of the Biden Presidency: A Pandemic Progress Report

Carolyn Reynolds, Co-founder & Courtney Carson, Senior Program Officer, Pandemic Action Network

The COVID-19 pandemic has overshadowed almost every aspect of President Biden’s first 100 days in office. During the transition, the Pandemic Action Network and leading global health experts called on then-President-elect Biden to take bold steps and work with Congress and with world leaders to end the pandemic as soon as possible and ensure we are better prepared for the next one.

So how has the Biden-Harris Administration done so far, and what remains to be done?

Prioritizing the threat: Right out of the gate, President Biden made a series of welcome announcements to prioritize pandemic response both at home and abroad.  

 

These early announcements included reversing the politically-motivated decision last year to initiate U.S. withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WHO). Instead the Biden-Harris Administration has leaned in to bolster the WHO and the international response to this crisis. Notably, Vice President Kamala Harris’s first conversation as VP with a global leader was with WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros.

COVID-19 response: President Biden has shown leadership by wearing a mask consistently in public, and by issuing a universal mask mandate for all federal buildings, public transportation, and transportation hubs. This cemented the science-backed recommendation that wearing a mask is a key preventative measure. In addition, his first major legislative package, the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), provided urgently needed relief to families, states, and communities grappling with the economic, social, and health impacts of COVID-19, and  accelerated the frontline pandemic response both at home and abroad. Despite some early challenges, the domestic vaccine rollout has accelerated in Biden’s first 100 days, with 235 million vaccines administered and 98 million people fully vaccinated as of today, according to the CDC. Despite these efforts, vaccination rates are now slowing — a worrying trend as vaccines skepticism grows across the U.S.

On the global response front, the Biden Administration has also taken some important steps, namely to commit a total of $7.5 billion to date to the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) partnership and its COVAX financing facility to ramp up access to vaccines and other lifesaving tools around the world. As a result, the U.S. is now the leading donor to this global solidarity effort. Highlighting its commitment to the global response, the U.S. hosted international leaders to kick off a virtual resource mobilization campaign for COVAX, urging other wealthy nations to contribute. It also announced agreements to loan vaccine doses to Canada and Mexico, and to provide relief and vaccine donations to India, including mobilizing the U.S. military to provide emergency aid in the face of the country’s growing COVID-19 crisis.  

Pandemic preparedness: U.S. leadership is also needed to strengthen systems for pandemic preparedness, at home and abroad. Pandemic Action Network continues to urge President Biden and other world leaders to lay the groundwork for a pandemic-proof America and world now — before the pandemic fades from view and political and public attention shifts to other priorities, as it has too many times before.  

Here again, the Biden-Harris Administration has laid down some important early markers. First at home: The American Jobs Plan includes a serious commitment of $30 billion to bolster prevent future pandemics and protect against a range of biological threats. This represents renewed and increased commitment to bolstering research and development, surveillance, and strategic stockpiles to ensure America is ready to respond to future disease threats. 

On the global front, President Biden is leading a push for new sustainable financing to help all countries be prepared to counter pandemic threats. Pandemic Action Network is pleased that in NSM1 and several follow-on announcements, the Biden-Harris Administration has expressed its intent to heed our call to establish an enduring international catalytic financing mechanism for preparedness, with the aim to ensure that every country has the core capacity it needs to detect, prevent, and respond to outbreaks at their source before they become deadly and costly pandemics like COVID-19. Earlier this week, Vice President Harris urged representatives at the United Nations to work together now to prepare for the next pandemic. The Administration’s initial budget proposal for FY22 released April 9 backs up these pledges with a $1 billion increase in funding for global health security. 

Looking Ahead: This progress in President Biden’s first 100 days is a welcome start. But much more must be done, and urgently — as the pandemic continues to rage around the world and as the next pandemic threat is looming. Pandemic Action Network has issued an Agenda for Action for world leaders. U.S. support will be critical to drive progress in all of these areas, but here are three where the Biden-Harris Administration can and should lead the way now:

  • Expanded global vaccine access is vital to ending this pandemic. According to the Launch and Scale Faster initiative at Duke University, the U.S. has secured at least 500 million more doses than it needs to vaccinate every American, while some of the poorest nations have yet to receive a single dose. Given U.S. success in vaccination — and the threat to the U.S. of the continued spread of COVID-19 and its variants in other parts of the globe — the Biden-Harris Administration should lead the way to immediately share more excess doses with the world through COVAX. In his first address to Congress, President Biden committed to sharing vaccines with the world once the U.S. has amassed additional supply and when all Americans have access to COVID-19 vaccine. We are there, and we will not end this pandemic if we continue to allow other countries to go unserved. And President Biden should also work with world leaders to agree on a Global COVID-19 Vaccine Roadmap to reach at least 70% global vaccine coverage as soon as possible. 
  • Mobilize additional domestic and international funding for preparedness on par with the threat. To this end, we urge the U.S. to build on its commitment to establish a global financing mechanism for pandemic preparedness with a pledge of at least $2 billion to start, and call on other G7 and G20 member countries to join the U.S. and invest in this effort toward an initial capitalization of $20 billion this year. Separately, the U.S. should also commit a multi-year pledge toward fully funding the five-year plan of action for the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). CEPI is playing a critical role in accelerating global access to vaccines in this crisis, and has set a bold goal to compress the future timeline to develop new vaccines for emerging pandemic threats so that they can be quickly developed, tested, and rolled out in an emergency. This is the kind of ambition the world needs, and the U.S. must do its fair share to advance this global public good.  
  • Fix the global pandemic defense system. While new and dedicated funding for preparedness is absolutely critical, it’s not the only piece of the puzzle. The COVID-19 crisis has shown that we must strengthen our international instruments of leadership and accountability to ensure both better preparedness and more rapid response to potential pandemics. This includes strengthening our existing global mechanisms such as the WHO and International Health Regulations, but also seriously entertaining bold and new modalities and frameworks for pandemic governance, such as the proposal for a new pandemic treaty, which now has the backing of dozens of other world leaders. President Biden convened world leaders last week on climate change to push for bold solutions; pandemic threats deserve the same level of political priority.

 

The next few months will see a series of global summits and convenings, offering world leaders multiple opportunities to seize the moment and take action. Pandemic Action Network urges President Biden and his Administration to seize these opportunities, doubling down on the progress of the first 100 days and going bigger and bolder on ending this pandemic and preventing the next. While progress since January 20 has been meaningful, the costs of the U.S. and the world failing to act sooner continue to mount — and the pandemic is far from over. Now is the time for a step change in the ambition of the U.S. and global leaders to do what it will take to end this pandemic for everyone, and ensure that COVID-19 leaves a long-term legacy of a pandemic-proof world. 

Lessons Learned — One Year of Collective Action 

One year ago, we launched Pandemic Action Network knowing that no single stakeholder or sector can tackle pandemic preparedness or response alone. Together, over the past year, our innovative Network has learned lessons and achieved progress while remaining agile to act amidst an ever-changing political landscape and compounding social crises. 

To mark our one-year anniversary, we are reflecting on the lessons learned during our first year of collective action. Our work has only begun, but together we are making progress and seizing every opportunity to put pandemic prevention and preparedness on the agenda.

Fill the policy & advocacy action gap.
Our co-founders and partners understood at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic that the global response to COVID-19 would be full of gaps, and someone needed to leap into action to fill them. By building relationships across sectors and translating data into clear messaging and policy recommendations, we enable decision-makers to take actions that will drive more effective pandemic preparedness and response. 

Unlock the Network to maximize impact. 
We knew that the challenges were too big and too many for any one single stakeholder or sector, but our experience during the first year of collective action has proven the power of our network model time and again. Whether amplifying the call for vaccine equity through ONE’s Pandemica campaign, informing the work of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, catalyzing a movement to reach 3.5 billion+ people during World Mask Week, supporting Global Citizen and the European Commission’s fundraising effort for the ACT Accelerator, joining forces with partners to form the COVID-19 Action Fund for Africa to fill the PPE gap for community health workers, or influencing the Biden-Harris administration’s agenda on pandemic preparedness, we are demonstrating what is possible when you unlock the power of our global network. Together, we do achieve more.

Amplify, don’t compete. 
In one year, we have built a robust and growing global multi-sector network of more than 100 partners to be the agile platform required to address a crisis of this magnitude. While individual members may not be able to take certain stands or advance certain actions, together we have witnessed the Network’s ability to hold global leadership accountable and drive change, as we have done with our collaborative call to COVAX to ensure the equitable distribution of vaccines to low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and to world leaders to share excess doses. At the end of the day, we are able to mobilize action by ensuring that we are delivering the right message via the most strategic set of messengers at the right time. 

Messaging matters. 
Storytelling moves people to action. The pandemic has shown the power of consistent and clear communication and the influence of misinformation. It’s no surprise that the WHO declared an infodemic before declaring a pandemic. While focusing on policies that would accelerate an end to the pandemic, the Network has also prioritized the role that communication plays in shaping individual choices and collective policies. Whether creating #AfricaMaskWeek to rally the continent — and particularly youth — around the importance of ongoing masking, or educating influencers in the U.S. with the facts on COVID-19 vaccines with #ItsOurShot, we know that messaging continues to be critical to both navigating the vaccine era of this pandemic and ultimately stopping the spread of COVID-19.

Learn and adapt in real time. 
Just as epidemiologists must learn quickly and integrate new data into their strategies, our Network has learned to be nimble and adapt our strategies based on new information and developments in real time. We have swiftly managed our advocacy strategy around U.S. House and Senate bills and EU opportunities, and pivoted our masking communications strategy taking into account shifting public behaviors and public health guidance. The rapidity with which we have scaled and advanced our work hinges on the Network’s ability to be agile based on the direction of political winds and data-driven learnings.  

Seize every opportunity to put pandemic prevention and preparedness on the agenda.
As we continue to operate in the midst of a pandemic and observe fatigue on a personal and political level, our work is even more urgent. We are collectively driven by the need to stop the cycle of panic and neglect once and for all. We have the opportunity to codify lessons and stop recreating the pandemic response playbook every time there is an outbreak, and we know that we have the best possibility of achieving these objectives when there is strong and sustained political will to do so. Therefore, we have been leveraging the attention devoted to the COVID-19 response to simultaneously advance our longer-term agenda calling on world leaders to take action now to effectively pandemic-proof the planet for the long-term

Long-term commitment is essential. 
As we navigate the second year of this pandemic, it is clear that our work is far from done. We are making collective progress, but we know that this is just the beginning of a long-term effort to ensure a global and equitable response to this pandemic while ensuring that preparedness is always a priority, not only a priority when we are in crisis. 

India Post-COVID-19: An Opportunity to Strengthen Health Security Through Cross-Sector Collaboration

Patrik Silborn, Pandemic Action Network Regional Advisor, Asia-Pacific and Madhav Joshi, CEO, India Health Fund and Pandemic Action Network Advisory Committee Member

Around the world, COVID-19 has laid bare critical gaps in the world’s health infrastructure, and India is no different. In the past two decades the country has significantly improved health outcomes with sharp reductions in child and maternal mortality and the successful elimination of several infectious diseases. Yet, the pandemic threatens to reverse this progress.

Since the start of the COVID-19, over 13 million cases have been registered, resulting in 171 thousand deaths. However, it is believed that these numbers severely underestimate the true spread of the disease. Estimates vary, but some researchers believe that as many as 90 cases are missed for every confirmed infection. The economic impact has been significant, with GDP expected to contract by 8% in 2020 and the hardest effects felt by the most vulnerable. India also has the highest rate of tuberculosis (TB) in the world, claiming around 436 thousand lives every year. In the first half of 2020, TB case notifications dropped by 25 percent compared to the year prior, which is expected to increase mortality rates further. Adding to the challenge, people with TB are at greater risk of COVID-19, and the potential for co-morbidities points to the need for integrated multi-disease approaches instead of the diagnosis and control of one disease at a time.

COVID-19 has been an extraordinary challenge, but the crisis is also an opportunity for India to rebuild better. The pandemic has created new opportunities for improving collaboration across sectors in India. To do this effectively, however, public and private stakeholders must come together to establish joint priorities, improve the pooling of resources, and leverage the unique capabilities of every actor. 

In short, India needs a new compact between the public and private sectors. A number of factors make this both a relevant and opportune time to seize this opportunity.

First, India has a thriving private healthcare sector. The country is home to some of the largest pharmaceutical and vaccines producers in the world, and it has become the largest supplier of generic drugs and vaccines globally. India’s private hospitals attract patients from around the world for specialised treatment. And in India, over 70 percent of people — including low-income earners — seek healthcare services from private providers. 

Second, the government is demonstrating a commitment to improve healthcare outcomes.  In 2017, the Government of India embarked on its most ambitious health program ever.  Ayushman Bharat is a social health insurance scheme that will cover healthcare costs of over 500 million people when fully deployed. Further, the Government of India increased the health budget by over 100 percent this year with ambitious plans to upgrade health infrastructure at all levels.

Third, there is a growing philanthropy movement that brings both ambition and capital to address challenges at scale. India is home to some of the largest and most innovative companies in the world, and private wealth has exploded in recent years. Spurred on by a desire to give back to communities, and the 2 percent CSR tax, new philanthropic initiatives have sprung up in recent years. This is a trend that has been accelerated by the recent pandemic. The multiple interlinked COVID-19 induced crises — from migrant workers and vulnerable populations losing their livelihoods and homes, children missing education opportunities, to overburdened health workers — has spurred unprecedented individual and corporate philanthropy in India.

Finally, there is recognition by all stakeholders for the need to reimagine primary healthcare delivery in the country. With a population of 1.3 billion people, providing access to care for everyone and putting in place effective pandemic preparedness and response systems will require a reimagination of the entire healthcare system. To detect and respond to existing diseases or new pathogens, India must strengthen both public and private service delivery. This requires innovation — not only of tools and systems — but also in how services are being delivered through primary health care systems. 

There are several stakeholders across the public and private sectors that must come together to make this happen. 

  • Universities and research institutions in India have the knowledge and basic research needed to develop innovative solutions that can meet the unique needs of a large and underserved population, especially in screening, diagnostics and technology-enabled solutions. 
  • Indian companies and start-ups have the ability to apply these technologies to develop solutions designed for low-resource settings in India and other parts of the world. 
  • The Government can create a favourable policy environment for innovations as well as avenues for introducing new solutions in the public health system.

COVID-19 has highlighted the need for pandemic-proofing the world. Leaders have an historic opportunity to take actions now that will not only hasten the end of this pandemic, but will also begin to pandemic-proof the planet so that future generations never again experience the health, economic, and social devastation wrought by COVID-19. To do so, all countries must invest more money in health security, in the capacity to develop and produce vaccines, in the detection and response to new pathogens, and in reinforcing collaboration across borders. 

But India can engage globally while taking action at home. Now is the time to develop the partnerships that can drive innovation, the surveillance systems needed to quickly detect and respond to new pathogens, and the approaches that put the needs of patients at the centre. This will make India better equipped to respond to COVID-19 and make India healthier in the future. The fight against this pandemic is still not over. But this is a unique moment to build a bridge to a better future.

It’s Time to Pandemic-Proof the World: A 2021 Agenda for Action

The devastating health, economic, and social impacts of the COVID-19 global health crisis show that it is well past time for world leaders to prepare for pandemics as the existential, catastrophic, and growing global security threat they are. In 2010, well before COVID-19, there were six times more zoonotic spillover events than in 1980, and the number of new outbreaks continues to grow. Persistent gaps in international pandemic preparedness and response capacities have been flagged by various expert panels in the wake of previous health emergencies, but time and again, once the crisis disappears, political attention and funding shifts to other priorities. This dereliction of duty must stop once and for all.

Despite impacting people around the globe, COVID-19 has not affected everyone equally. The pandemic has exposed and exacerbated long-standing health and socio-economic inequalities within and across countries and in marginalized and vulnerable populations, including inequalities due to gender, race, ethnicity, class, and disability. The glaring disparities in global access to lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, and vital tools such as oxygen and personal protective equipment (PPE) underscore the inequitable global health and preparedness system. And the lack of proactive attention by leaders to address and account for these inequities has significantly undermined the global COVID-19 response.

As the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB) made clear in its September 2020 report A World in Disorder, the world cannot afford to continue to ignore or delay preparations to bolster our collective defenses against emerging pandemic threats. As they battle the current crisis, countries and international institutions must act now to ensure the world is better prepared for the next pandemic threat, which may be lurking just around the corner. These commitments should include building and reliably funding a well-trained and well-equipped health and research workforce, more resilient frontline health systems, timely and transparent disease surveillance, and effective supply chains for vaccines, diagnostics, PPE, and other tools to enable every country to detect, prevent, and rapidly respond to outbreaks before they become deadly and costly pandemics. It is time to invest in a smarter, more responsive, and more resilient global health security architecture.

Pandemic Action Network’s 100+ partners urge world leaders to take urgent action in the following areas to bolster the global COVID-19 response, hasten an end to this global crisis, and lay the groundwork for a more pandemic-proof world.

Support an equitable global response to COVID-19

The only way to end this pandemic is to end it for everyone through a coordinated global response. Yet as world leaders navigate the second year of responding to COVID-19 and securing vaccine doses for their constituents, nationalist inequitable approaches are still pervasive. Recent data shows that the world has now procured enough COVID-19 vaccine doses to reach herd immunity globally, but while some high-income countries have secured multiple times the number of doses as there are eligible adults in their countries, only 0.2% of doses administered have been in low- and middle-incomes countries (LMICs). Although it may seem intuitive for governments to first take action at home, this approach belies the fact that the virus — and its swiftly spreading variants — do not respect borders. Many countries that managed to control or even stop the spread of the virus earlier in the pandemic are once again seeing a surge in cases. There simply is no effective domestic response without also embracing a global approach. Everyone deserves to hope for a swift end to the pandemic, regardless of where they live. But it will only be possible if political leaders act globally as well as locally, knowing no country will be safe until every country is safe.

1. Accelerate global access and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines needed to achieve at least 70% coverage in all countries and enable an equitable global response and recovery.

World leaders should:

  • Fully fund the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) in 2021, filling the $22.1 billion funding gap as soon as possible with countries paying their fair share for this global public good. Countries should also commit to continue to invest in research and development (R&D) as well as scale-up of proven tools to prevent, test, and treat COVID-19 and ensure that medical countermeasures are effective against all strain mutations and all variants of concern. Given the scale of resources required, countries will need to tap into fiscal stimulus funding and other financial sources beyond official development assistance (ODA).
  • Agree to a roadmap to achieve at least 70% coverage of vaccines for LMICs, with at least 30% being secured, delivered, and administered in 2021. Leaders need to agree to a fully costed plan to achieve equitable global coverage as soon as possible. The full costs of delivering and administering doses in-country should be included in this roadmap, as well as the investments in vaccine education required to increase vaccine confidence.
  • Commit to donate, free of charge, all excess COVID-19 vaccine doses to the COVAX facility in parallel to their domestic vaccination efforts and start those donations as soon as possible. Countries should immediately announce commitments to share their full surplus supply on the most ambitious timeline possible, putting plans in place to deliver on this commitment as soon as is feasible in 2021 in line with COVAX’s dose sharing principles. These donations should not count as ODA, and should be in addition to funding the ACT-A.
  • Commit to “slot swaps” as another way to give COVAX additional supply. “Slot swaps” should be undertaken whereby high-income countries reallocate some of their existing orders immediately, potentially ordering replacement vaccines to arrive farther in the future, effectively giving their earlier “slots” to COVAX to help provide vaccines for LMICs to close the current acute gap in supply.
  • Ramp up global access and delivery of rapid testing, medical oxygen, and personal protective equipment to the frontlines. Continuing shortages of PPE and medical oxygen for frontline health workers and extremely limited deployment of testing — including genetic sequencing capacity to detect variants of interest — especially in LMICs, is hampering the global COVID-19 response and is a rate limiting factor for global rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and restoration of essential health services.

Prioritize and invest in pandemic preparedness and prevention

According to the IMF, the pandemic will cost the global economy and the World Bank projects that more than 160 million people will fall into poverty by the end of 2021. Conversely, recent estimates are that as little as $10-20 billion annually can ensure the world is much better prepared to detect, prevent, and respond to the next infectious disease outbreak before it becomes another deadly and costly pandemic. To minimize human lives lost from infectious diseases and lessen the impact on countries due to economic fallout, leaders should take the actions below to be prepared for the next pandemic.

2. Establish a catalytic, sustainable multilateral financing mechanism that is dedicated to promoting pandemic preparedness and prevention.

World leaders should:

  • Pledge new investments toward a target $20 billion initial capitalization co-funded from public, private, and philanthropic sources. Priorities for this new multilateral financing mechanism — which will fill a strategic gap in the existing global health architecture — should be on supporting LMICs to develop and implement national action plans for health security and pandemic preparedness, to close their urgent health security gaps, and foster a global “race to the top” among all nations for preparedness. The catalytic nature of this mechanism will help ensure both countries and other global health initiatives prioritize coordinated, multisectoral, prevention and preparedness funding in their domestic budgets, including support for country-level programmatic and managerial capacity in health systems strengthening.
  • Align funding with target country priorities to strengthen pandemic preparedness and containment as well as promote efforts toward pandemic prevention. Programs that should be financed at scale include detecting and stopping the spread of outbreaks and ensuring compliance with the International Health Regulations (IHRs), strengthening laboratory and manufacturing capacity, bolstering and protecting a trained, compensated health workforce, building and strengthening health information systems, ensuring resilient national and regional supply chains, One Health initiatives, and stopping zoonotic spillover from causing new outbreaks through measures such as reductions in deforestation and wildlife trade.

3. Bolster financing and at-the-ready global R&D capacity and coordination to combat emerging infectious diseases and pandemic threats without undermining important funding for existing epidemics research and innovation, including poverty-related and neglected diseases.

Applying the lessons learned from COVID-19, leaders should support the development and financing of mechanisms and initiatives that coordinate and catalyze research and development for new tools, including the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership, and other not-for-profit product development partnerships (PDPs) addressing the broad range of health threats.

World leaders should:

  • Fully fund CEPI’s $3.5 billion replenishment. This funding would support the organization’s moonshot initiative of compressing vaccine development for new pandemics to 100 days, and continuing efforts to develop vaccines for known threats. It would also support CEPI’s other objectives, including preparing clinical trial networks to quickly respond to new threats, coordinating with global regulators to streamline vaccine oversight, and linking manufacturing facilities to speed up global production.
  • Support integration of R&D into the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) framework to include R&D capacity-building for medical countermeasures. Inclusion of metrics through a GHSA R&D taskforce will help countries assess, prioritize, and better plan for strengthening their R&D capabilities.
  • Build on the ACT-A’s response to COVID-19 to ensure a robust, end-to-end, and sustainable investment in global health R&D for pandemic preparedness, including long-term investments to strengthen global research, laboratory, and manufacturing capacities. This future readiness state should also foster more investments and partnerships with diverse research and academic institutions to both build regional R&D prior to crises and scale up support during emergencies. Investments should be made with policies that promote equitable global access to and affordability of tools like vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics.

4. Strengthen global and national surveillance capacities & outbreak analytics.

COVID-19 has demonstrated global gaps in early detection and data sharing around emerging threats, as well as gaps in ongoing surveillance capacities of countries, especially low-resource countries. Current emerging infectious disease surveillance and investigation is poorly allocated, with the majority of the globe’s resources not focused on areas with the most zoonotic hotspots where the next emerging deadly pathogen is likely to originate.

World leaders should:

  • Strengthen integrated national disease surveillance capacities in LMICs. Such surveillance capacities should take a One Health approach and be responsive to local needs (i.e., give results in real-time for use by clinicians and public health officials). Such capacities should not be developed in a silo for pandemic risk monitoring; rather they should provide utility for day-to-day public health programs, leverage the latest developments in digital tools to streamline operations for health workers, and accelerate data flow and analysis.
  • Strengthen mechanisms and platforms that allow for independent sharing and verification of data related to emerging health threats, complementary to and in partnership with the WHO’s role in collecting data from official sources under the IHRs. Such capacities should enable and promote more transparency and accountability in data access for all relevant stakeholders.
  • Commit to the rapid publishing and sharing of line list and pathogen genome data into shared repositories (e.g., the Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System and the International Nucleotide Sequence Database Collaboration) to ensure that data necessary to monitor variants of concern can be acted upon before they become dominant.
  • Support innovations in outbreak detection and analytics capacity nationally through emergency operations centers, regionally through academic centers of excellence, and globally through laboratory and disease surveillance networks. The ACT-A has taught the community about the importance of collaboration and rapid response, and these lessons should be applied to future tools.

5. Bolster global capacities, institutions, and systems for pandemics, health security and resilient health systems, including through reforming WHO and strengthening international frameworks for pandemic preparedness and response.

World leaders should:

  • Build consensus for, and rapidly move to implement, proposals that will strengthen the WHO as the global coordinating authority on health. Leaders should support proposals for sustainable financing of the WHO, including incremental increases in assessed contributions and more (and more flexible) voluntary financing. Such resourcing should go hand-in-hand with strengthening the WHO’s normative and technical capacities, including the Chief Scientist’s Office, the Health Emergencies Programme, and the WHO Academy, and with encouraging greater staff mobility and budget flexibility to bolster the WHO’s capacities at the country-level. In line with the Framework for Engagement with Non-State Actors (FENSA), leaders must enable more robust and transparent engagement with key stakeholders such as civil society and the private sector.
  • Strengthen the IHRs to foster more timely and accountable response to pandemic threats, including to authorize international investigations. Leaders should afford the WHO the ability to independently investigate potential and emerging threats, specify better information sharing, and better calibrate the definitions of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). Metrics on equity, R&D, infection prevention control, capacity strengthening, and water, sanitation and hygiene should also be included in the IHR Monitoring and Evaluation Framework, to incentivize countries to assess, plan, prioritize, and better support sustainable and resilient health systems, and promote healthcare worker safety.
  • Support other voluntary and compulsory instruments to strengthen accountability of nation states and foster multilateral cooperation for pandemic preparedness and response. Many gains can be made by strengthening existing mechanisms and instruments, which should be prioritized alongside the proposal for a new pandemic treaty. Such instruments should promote accountability in functions including ensuring novel countermeasures are treated as global public goods; motivating faster flow of financing to address direct and collateral impacts of pandemics, including protecting frontline health workers and social protection for vulnerable populations such as refugees and those living in conflict-affected areas; reaffirming the centrality of human rights considerations in the context of a pandemic; boosting domestic R&D and manufacturing capacity; and establishing up data surveillance systems, and norms and standards around data sharing and data privacy.
  • Scale up national and global vaccine education efforts to increase vaccine confidence, distribution, and uptake. Countries should have budgets dedicated for vaccine education within health ministries, initiate public education campaigns to manage the spread of misinformation online, and build capacity for vaccine hesitancy research. Training should be prioritized for frontline healthcare workers, community leaders, and others in how to engage in difficult conversations on vaccine hesitancy.

6. Promote equity-focused initiatives and human rights protections in all aspects of pandemic preparedness, response, and recovery, including specific attention to address the intersectional and gendered effects of outbreaks.

World leaders should:

  • Commit to equitable financing to support populations most at risk for morbidity and mortality, including addressing inequities due to disparities in gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and disability.
  • Ensure commitments to human rights and equity are met, in alignment with IHR Article 3 on human rights, the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 for Women, Peace and Security, the UN Political Declaration for Universal Health Coverage, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Commit to equal and diverse representation on emergency committees, including the IHR Emergency Committee and UN technical working groups, with active and meaningful participation of gender advisors and civil society groups as non-participant observers of EC meetings.
  • Ensure that all data pertinent to pandemic preparedness and response collected by the WHO and other health-focused UN bodies (as well as national governments) is published and disaggregated by sex and key socioeconomic groups.

 


 

An array of upcoming international summits — including the G20, G7, World Health Assembly, World Bank/IMF Meetings, and UN General Assembly — offer opportunities for leaders to act on this agenda. Critically, while health ministers have a key role to play, a concerted effort to end pandemics is a whole of government effort — and must be addressed at the level of heads of state. That is why the Pandemic Action Network supports the GPMB’s call for the UN Secretary-General to convene a focused UN High-Level Summit on Pandemic Preparedness and Response to mobilize increased domestic and international financing and advance efforts toward a new international framework for pandemic preparedness. Such a summit at head of state level should take up the forthcoming findings of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (the Independent Panel), the G20 High-Level Independent Panel for Financing the Global Commons (HLIP), the International Health Regulations (IHR) Review Committee, and the proposal for a new international treaty on pandemic preparedness and response.

World leaders must seize this opportunity to commit to action and leave a legacy of a healthier and safer world. We can pandemic-proof the future if world leaders act now. The world can’t afford to wait.

Call to Action! Dose Sharing for Global Vaccine Access

This week, advocates that included partners of the Pandemic Action Network sent two separate letters to U.S. President Joe Biden and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson — leaders of two countries with some of the highest potential vaccination coverage in the world — urging them to share their countries’ excess doses with the rest of the globe. Donating surplus doses of COVID-19 vaccine through COVAX is the fastest way to give low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) access to sufficient amounts of COVID-19 vaccines for their populations to reach herd immunity.

Read the letter to President Biden here, and the letter to Prime Minister Johnson here.

Read Pandemic Action Network’s briefing calling on wealthy countries to share excess doses here.

A Year Into COVID-19 – The Costs of Being Unprepared

Gabrielle Fitzgerald, Co-founder

 

The day life changed

The day everything changed for me was February 29, 2020. It was a Saturday. I’d spent the morning having coffee with an old friend, buying Girl Scout cookies from the daughter of another.

I’d just flown back to Seattle after two weeks of personal and business travel had brought me through five airports on three continents. During the trip, I tracked the wildly different ways countries were monitoring travelers for what was then known as novel coronavirus. While I was thinking a lot about this new outbreak from a work perspective — having advocated for the past few years on outbreak preparedness, and also having Panorama team members deployed to Geneva to support the World Health Organization (WHO) surge their communications response — coronavirus still felt like a far-off threat.

As I walked home from the coffee shop, I checked my phone and learned that the first U.S. death from coronavirus had been announced, at a hospital just outside of Seattle. And that a nursing home, just three miles from my daughters’ school, had identified their first two cases.

The next few days, in every aspect, I felt life cleaving into Before and After. I went to church, where Before and After wrestled for dominance: The traditional handshake greeting was ruled out, but the sacramental wine was still offered via a shared chalice. I went out to dinner, knowing it would be the last time for quite a while.

On Monday, we received an email from my children’s school announcing that the school would be closing at the end of the day for the next six weeks. Most parents were shocked and thought this was a radical step to take after just a few deaths, but to this day, I praise the fast-thinking leaders who understood the risks at hand and took decisive action as the first school in the nation to close. As the week went on, I canceled a business trip and announced we would be closing our office for “at least a month.” I shared information with friends to encourage them to take this seriously and explain what our new world of social distancing meant. Then, on March 11, the WHO officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

A year into this pandemic, what have we learned? And what can we do to ensure we never have a year like this again? If we don’t draw lessons from this experience, then we’re doomed to repeat it.

Predictable problem

I had spent a year working on the West Africa Ebola outbreak in 2014-2015. That experience left me passionate about the need to do all we could to prevent large-scale outbreaks in the future.

For anyone who pays attention to disease outbreaks, it was common knowledge that the world was likely to face a major pandemic “in our lifetime.” However, in my mind, that lifetime was always in the distant future, and always in another part of the world.

Just 10 weeks before an unusual disease outbreak was reported in China, I participated in a simulation exercise designed to raise awareness about the potential damage a worldwide pandemic could have. This session certainly drove home the massive risk to global corporations, supply chains, and the travel industry. But what it didn’t capture was the pain of saying good-bye to loved ones by phone, the boarded-up restaurants, and the monotony of pandemic life.

Having just marked the anniversary of the day everything changed for me, and on the eve of the anniversary of the WHO’s pandemic declaration, I’m reflecting on what we could have seen coming and what we can learn from the shocks and losses we’ve experienced.

What isn’t surprising. . .

Leadership and fact-based communications are essential — Decisive political action and clear, fact-based communication are indispensable during crisis. We have seen way too many examples of leadership being abdicated and non-science-based messaging on COVID-19, which have led us to the point that we are now in year two of this pandemic.

Increased inequity — Outbreaks always hit vulnerable populations hardest. We have certainly seen this here in the U.S., but it is a global problem too. Early in the pandemic, we created the Pandemic Action Network to accelerate the response to COVID-19 and advocate for future pandemic preparedness. One of the major initiatives we are advocating on behalf of is the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), which was created to ensure equitable access to vaccines, drugs, and diagnostics to all countries of the world, not just those who can pay the highest prices.

Investment in research and development pays off — Back when I worked in the Clinton administration, the budget for the National Institutes for Health was doubled, seeding much of the research that allows us to have a vaccine today. If scientists hadn’t been picking away at spike proteins “just in case,” I shudder to imagine where we’d be today. And next time there is an outbreak, we won’t be as lucky unless we invest and plan ahead now.

What did surprise me. . .

Leadership (part 2) — I had no idea how disengaged and downright antagonistic the U.S. federal government would be. Withdrawing from the WHO? Leaving every state to make their own plans? I’m still shocked by these moves, and we’re still suffering because of them. The importance of strong national leadership and clear, consistent messaging simply can’t be understated. Pandemics are universal — that’s the “pan” part of the word. You can’t fight them locally. It takes national and global coordination.

Speed of vaccine development — This was a good surprise. A huge and heroic win. And a record-breaking timeline that far exceeded the best hopes of many. The fastest a vaccine had previously been developed was four years. The fact that the COVID-19 vaccine was being distributed within a year of the virus being sequenced is just short of a modern miracle and is a direct result of investment in research and development.

Progress toward equitable vaccine distribution — While there is still an extremely long road ahead to ensure that everyone in the world has access to a COVID-19 vaccine, it was good to see vaccines arriving in Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and quite a few other African countries this week. Thanks to the ACT-A, this came only 11 weeks after the first vaccine was given in the U.K. In the past, the average gap between wealthy and low-income countries receiving vaccine supply was closer to 11 years. There are many, many more doses that need to be delivered to low- and middle-income countries, but at least the wait has been in weeks, not years.

The ongoing gap in health workers accessing PPE — While this problem has been mostly resolved here at home, it remains a challenge in many parts of the world. In many countries, there is no local manufacturing and there isn’t enough PPE to protect the community health workers who serve hundreds of millions of patients who don’t have access to a medical clinic or hospital. In response to this challenge, the Pandemic Action Network worked with other partners to create the COVID-19 Action Fund for Africa, which brings together global manufacturers and shippers with African health systems. To date, the fund has delivered nearly 86 million pieces of PPE to nearly 500,000 community health workers in 18 countries. But this is a stopgap measure, and we need to ensure that health workers like these around the world have ready access to critical supplies, so we don’t have to play catch-up in the future.

Personal loss and disruption — The pandemic simulation I mentioned above discussed projected costs in GDP and other common macro measures. Living through a pandemic puts you in touch with other costs — all the micro-level changes and personal losses. The disruption to education caused massive ripples I hadn’t thought about, from childcare to mental health. Now, with my teenagers spending a whole year at home during the most socially dynamic stage of their lives, I think about it every day. Then there’s the millions of mothers who have been driven out of the workforce because of the lack of childcare. The holiday gatherings that didn’t happen. I had no idea how much, and in how many ways, a year like this would hurt.

So what have we learned?

The last 12 months have taught us so much. About the need to be prepared. The vast and also personal cost of being unprepared. The things we have to do better.

We must put these lessons to use. National and global leaders must act now to prepare for the future. The Pandemic Action Network has identified six priorities for international action, including better means of detecting outbreaks, more research into infectious diseases, more secure supply chains for pandemic-fighting materials, and greater investment and accountability in health security. That’s how we beat the next pandemic.

After this year, the world can’t afford excuses. We’ve all seen the ways our systems break down or reveal that they’re broken and unfair to begin with. We’ve all felt the ways our lives suffer. None of us wants to experience another year like this.

Our Pandemic Anniversary Wish: Let’s Pandemic-Proof the Planet

Co-founders of Pandemic Action Network: Carolyn Reynolds, David Kyne, Eloise Todd, and Gabrielle Fitzgerald

One year ago, on March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) finally told the world what was already clear: that with 118,000 cases in over 110 countries and territories around the world, COVID-19 could be “characterized as a pandemic.” Of course, we had no idea at that time just how large and protracted this global crisis would become, with more than 117 million cases and over 2.6 million deaths worldwide and counting as of today.

It’s been a year of both horrible and amazing developments. Around the world, governments have scrambled, misinformation has flourished, advocates have rallied, scientists have mobilized, frontline healthcare, public health, essential workers have stepped up. There have been incredible stories of resilience, adaptation, and innovation by families, communities, and businesses. Yet crisis can be a great revealer, and this one has also exposed and preyed upon deep and longstanding global inequities, vulnerabilities, and broken systems.

The anniversary of this crisis should be a moment for all of us to reflect on what we have learned, and to commit to bold and urgent action.

Leaders have an historic opportunity to take actions now that will not only hasten the end of this pandemic, but will also begin to pandemic-proof the planet so that future generations never again experience the health, economic, and social devastation we have seen over the past year. 

The pandemic has affected every aspect of our lives and the solutions require leadership from all of us. We need the best and brightest not only working in science and health but also in finance, defense, technology, education, manufacturing, transport, and across every other sector of the global economy to join forces to solve this global challenge. And pandemic-proofing the planet demands that we tackle the dual threats of climate and health hand-in-hand.

We are calling on world leaders to seize this moment to commit to take action in four areas that will help pandemic-proof the planet and leave humanity healthier, safer, more resilient, and more prosperous.

Pandemic Action Network’s Pandemic-Proof Agenda

Speed up access and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines and other lifesaving tools to everyone, regardless of where they live. This starts with fully funding the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator and COVAX Facility. It also means countries which have secured more vaccine doses than they need should start donating vaccines to reach other nations in need, in parallel to their domestic vaccine rollout. Governments and industry also must join together to find the resources, and eliminate the bottlenecks, necessary to ramp up global manufacturing capacity, as part of a roadmap to get to at least 60-70% vaccine coverage in every country. With the evolving virus strain mutations, we are in a race against time to control this pandemic. But let’s also make sure these efforts do not come at the expense of other global health needs and goals.

Get serious on investing in pandemic preparedness. Donor nations, private foundations, and investors should come together to establish a sustainable global financing mechanism for pandemic preparedness, with an initial funding target of US$20 billion. Now is the time to fuel a global “pandemic-proof challenge” to ensure that every country has the plans, capacity, trained workforce, and functioning system it needs to effectively prevent, detect, and respond to outbreaks at their source before they spread and become deadly pandemics. This initiative should also incentivize countries to prioritize pandemics in their domestic budgets as a long-term security threat. Smart climate, biodiversity, and land-use policies must be a critical piece of those plans.

Bolster global research, development, and delivery of tools for emerging infectious disease threats. The COVID-19 crisis has shown that the world needs an at-the-ready capacity for timely delivery of the health technologies and supplies needed to combat both the known and unknown diseases likely to spark the next pandemic. A good start will be to support the US$3.5 billion five-year strategy of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to achieve its moonshot goal to have a new vaccine ready within 100 days when the next novel disease outbreak happens. And we must build a seamless global network of regional R&D, manufacturing, and supply hubs and streamline regulatory processes so that every nation can quickly get the tools when they need them.

Build a smarter global pandemic defense system. Defense starts with prevention, and the UK’s five-point plan for the G7 and the COP26 meeting later this year offer the opportunity for bold action on climate which could drastically reduce the chances of pandemics occurring in the first place. But we know outbreaks will happen, and more frequently. So the WHO must be strengthened and fit-for-purpose, with reliable funding, enhanced authority to conduct early and independent outbreak investigations, and the ability to hold member states accountable for compliance with the International Health Regulations (IHRs). To help “pandemic-proof” the future, the world also needs a new international preparedness framework or pandemic treaty and a state-of-the-art, global virus surveillance and detection system to better predict and manage cross-border threats.

A year into this crisis, we are all experiencing pandemic fatigue. The rollout of new vaccines is providing hope that the end may be near, and we can get on with our lives. Yet the reality today is that for the vast majority of the world’s population, that hope remains elusive. Everyone will remain at risk until there is universal access to the vaccines and the virus is contained everywhere. Unless we speed up the global response, we could be marking the second anniversary of this pandemic next year. Furthermore, the next pandemic could be around the corner, and could be even more lethal and costlier than this one.

But it doesn’t have to be this way: we can pandemic-proof the future if world leaders heed our wish and take action now in these four areas. The world can’t afford to wait.

There Are Reasons to Be Hopeful About Beating COVID-19. But We’re Not Done Yet.

By Friederike Röder, Global Citizen & Eloise Todd, co-founder of the Pandemic Action Network

We’re one year into the pandemic but may now be entering a new, more optimistic phase — at least from a political point of view.

The new US administration is now in place, but there is momentum elsewhere too. Until recently, many leaders had been focused largely on domestic action and on short-term fixes. But there are now signs that leaders are starting to understand that airborne COVID-19 cannot be defeated within borders, and that global solutions are needed.

Last week’s informal G7 summit saw funding for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) finally ratcheting up with important new commitments pledged.

Germany was the first G7 country to meet — and even surpass — its “fair share” contribution to the ACT-Accelerator, for which Chancellor Merkel deserves huge credit. Since the ACT-A was launched in May 2020, the financial gap has been reduced by $16 billion, including through a $4.3 billion contribution pledged during last week’s G7 summit.

The European Council on Thursday concluded that “strengthening the [World Health Organization] WHO and working towards an international treaty on pandemics” is necessary to enhance multilateral cooperation, and support for funding Europe’s fair share of COVAX — a facility designed to combat vaccine nationalism and ensure low-income countries have access to COVID-19 vaccines — was underlined.

On Friday, G20 finance ministers took a step towards new Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) — an IMF asset that could help provide crucial funding for COVID-19 response and recovery (you can read all about them here).

Kristalina Georgieva has been tasked to develop a proposal – with one more heave the G20 could make a decision in the coming weeks that could change the game for the global fight against COVID. An initial one-off issuing of these SDRs would give governments the security and fiscal space to fully fund the $22 billion that’s needed for ACT-A, but would also help low-income countries go from 20% to 60% coverage in terms of vaccination coverage, help address the many impacts of COVID-19, and invest in pandemic prevention and preparedness. The G20 have requested the IMF to work out a proposal that could help achieve this.

There are further reasons to be hopeful about the global COVID-19 response, too. For example, the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which can be kept at refrigerated temperatures, has now been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

This vaccine could be a game-changer, in particular for poorer countries that don’t necessarily have the infrastructure to be able to keep vaccines at very low temperatures. The Pfizer vaccine, for example, needs to be stored at below -60 degrees C, which isn’t possible without advanced cold supply chains.

What’s more, the European Commission is exploring how to boost local production capacities under licencing arrangements in Africa, a much needed initiative as we need to increase supply.

While all of the above is encouraging, it doesn’t yet add up to the scale of ambition needed to end this pandemic and prevent the next.

We need a comprehensive roadmap with government, private sector, and multilateral action towards achieving 60% vaccine coverage for the world, in line with the minimum coverage the WHO says is needed to break the chain of transmissions.

Such a roadmap will allow us to reverse engineer this objective and set ourselves a date for completion. It will need to provide solutions to quickly ensure equitable vaccine distribution across the world, increasing supply accordingly, and ensuring we have the means to prevent and prepare for any future pandemic.

Key pieces of such a roadmap are already out there.

French President Emmanuel Macron last week called for rich countries to donate 5% of their vaccine doses to low-income countries immediately, prioritizing health care workers.

Less than half a percent of the vaccine donations currently pre-purchased by the G7 (including the whole of the EU) would be enough to vaccinate all health care workers in Africa, and thereby make real progress in limiting the spread of the virus for all of us.

Vaccine nationalism is a serious obstacle in ending COVID-19 everywhere. Even if 100% of one country’s population receives the most effective vaccine, that will mean very little if a vaccine-resistant mutant develops anywhere else in the world.

While leaders, especially from the G7, have spoken frequently about taking global action for nearly a year now, in reality, current vaccine distribution is deeply unequal and needs urgent interventions to plug the gap in supply to low- and middle-income countries.

As President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen put it, in her foreword to Global Citizen’s white paper A Recovery Plan for the World: “A global vaccination campaign is the most effective way to drive down the virus’ capacity to evolve” and is, therefore, our only way out of the crisis. More leaders need to start accepting this reality and be courageous enough to defend it.

Such a roadmap towards global vaccination coverage also needs to include concrete steps to increase manufacturing capacity worldwide, particularly in regions, such as Africa, that currently have very little.

Building on the EU Commission’s initiative, this now requires real commitment from both governments and pharmaceutical companies to support and develop partnerships to share expertise and expand global manufacturing, with both public and private investment.

For all of this to happen, future finance needs to move faster than any virus. The setting up of ACT-A in record time is to be applauded, but in future such mechanisms need the finance on tap, ready in advance of pandemics striking for the countries that need it most.

The issuing of SDRs could not only be the financial response of scale we need to end COVID-19 and to fuel a global, sustainable recovery, but could also allow us the time needed to find the long-term financing mechanisms that will be essential in the future.

Achieving vaccine access for all, ramping up manufacturing in low- and middle-income countries, and ensuring adequate finance for pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response are all issues the G20 Global Health Summit — which will be jointly hosted by the Italian Presidency and the EU Commission in Rome in May — is well placed to tackle.

We are calling on the G20 Presidency and the European Commission to convene the world to agree on a clear road map focused on vaccine access, manufacturing, and sustainable finance to make sure we end this pandemic and prevent, and prepare for, the next.

This is the year, this is the opportunity — there is no option but to take this path.

Pandemic Action Network Statement on Outcomes of the G7 Special Summit and Munich Security Conference on the Global COVID-19 Response

Eloise Todd and Carolyn Reynolds, Co-Founders of the Pandemic Action Network, said:

The Pandemic Action Network applauds the financial pledges made today by global leaders to the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) and its COVAX facility, which together constitute a significant jump forward toward ACT-A’s US$38B funding target. Substantial contributions from the leaders of the US, Germany, and the European Commission helped make this leap, along with new contributions from Canada and Japan. We also welcome US President Joe Biden’s call for increased investments in global health security to address emerging pandemic and biosecurity threats.

This strong show of multilateralism, together with commitments already made by the United Kingdom’s leadership of the G7 Presidency and the Italian G20 Presidency to prioritize global health security in their forthcoming summits, gives us hope that 2021 could be the year in which we not only can turn the corner on COVID-19, but also lay the foundation for a world that will be better prepared for future pandemic threats.

To accelerate the end of this global crisis, we urge G7 leaders to heed the call of French President Emmanuel Macron to ensure healthcare workers and the most vulnerable people in the poorest countries can urgently access to COVID-19 vaccines, by sharing some of the vaccines ordered by the wealthiest countries without delay, as well as by closing the remaining financing gap for the ACT-Accelerator.

Yet even as the world is fighting this crisis, we must urgently prepare for the next one. That’s why we also are urging G7 and G20 leaders to join with President Biden in plans for “creating an enduring international catalytic financing mechanism for advancing and improving existing bilateral and multilateral approaches to global health security.” Speaker after speaker at the Munich Security Conference today talked about how the costs of inaction vastly outweigh the cost of acting in advance of future outbreaks to quash potential pandemic threats, yet preparedness has been ignored for far too long. Actions speak louder than words: Now is the time for the G7 and G20 to commit the policies, plans, and resources necessary to build a future that will protect both people and planet.

2021 could be a historic year for multilateral action to combat some of the gravest threats facing humanity. There is an opportunity for leaders to ensure equitable access to vaccines and to advance ambitious pandemic preparedness, climate, and biodiversity plans toward a better, safer, and healthier world. Our Network of more than 90 partners around the world stands ready to work with world leaders to seize this unprecedented opportunity. We simply cannot afford to fail.

Calling on Wealthy Countries to Reallocate Excess Vaccine Doses

As more and more people in high-income countries become vaccinated against COVID-19, the inequitable allocation of approved vaccines across the globe is coming into stark relief. Wealthy nations have secured multiple times the amount of vaccine needed to protect their population, while low- and middle-income countries still need to get to the 20% of the population coverage offered by the COVAX Facility. Pandemic Action Network’s Funding and Access to COVID-19 Tools Working Group produced a policy brief urging high-income countries to coordinate with COVAX to donate excess COVID-19 vaccine doses to low- and middle-income countries – and to engage in ‘slot swaps’ to make sure vaccines can be delivered without delay to LICs and LMICs. As vaccines arrived in wealthy nations in December and January,  it became clear that countries without bilateral deals with pharmaceutical companies could be left behind. In light of this reality, the working group pushed COVAX to offer countries the option to reallocate excess supplies. Read the paper here. If your organization wishes to add their logo to the briefing, please email [email protected].

An Opportunity for a Leap Forward: Reflections from the 34th African Union Summit

By Nahashon Aluoka

This year’s African Union (AU) Heads of State Summit (February 6-7, 2021) went virtual because of the COVID-19 pandemic. For some, it was refreshing to see this important meeting happen devoid of all the pomp and color that has characterized it in the past. As anticipated, the COVID-19 pandemic, the African Union Commission (AUC) elections, and AU reforms dominated the Summit. Looking at the journey of the AU, the progressive reforms, and the continental leadership and solidarity it has cultivated—albeit with some pockets of contention in responding to different crises ranging from wars and conflicts to pandemics like COVID-19—it is time for the Union to take a leap forward.

Leadership Reassurance
While some changes in the midst of a pandemic can be scarring, the decision by the new AU Chairperson, President Felix Tshisekedi of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to appoint his immediate predecessor, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa as the champion for the COVID-19 vaccine strategy and acquisition by AU member states is reassuring. The latter has been deeply involved and spearheaded efforts at the global level to ensure that the continent accesses the required tools for COVID-19 response, including diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines. It is also calming to an extent that the incumbent AU Commission Chairperson, former prime minister of Chad Moussa Faki Mahammat, who was unopposed for re-election, successfully retained his chair seat for a second and final four-year term. In a recent International Crisis Group report, Faki is highlighted for his firm focus on conflict prevention and resolution, strengthening the AU’s relations with multilateral partners, especially the UN and European Union, and his proactive leadership in coordinating Africa’s response to the pandemic.

Opportunity for a Strategic Leap Forward
Although President Felix Tshiekedi’s assumption of responsibility as the AU chair is due to the rotational nature of the role, he has an opportunity to demonstrate leadership at the national level with regard to COVID-19 response, and to help steer the continent to make a strategic leap forward in preparedness for future responses based on the stark and unpleasant lessons the continent has continued to observe with this pandemic. These include the ban on export of COVID-related tools mostly by the developed countries just after the declaration of COVID-19 as a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) by the World Health Organization (WHO). This action disrupted the global supply chains for life-saving tools, including diagnostics and therapeutics. Vaccine nationalism has also seen African countries being last on the queue in accessing vaccine doses despite the gallant efforts by Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (ACDC), and other actors to acquire vaccine doses beyond the COVAX facility.

It is commendable that President Tshiekedi acknowledges the importance of enhancing investment in research and development (R&D) for the continent to be able to better deal with its challenges in responding to the current pandemic and future pandemics. He has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lead at the national level to significantly invest in R&D and significantly shore up investment in COVID-19 response. Given DRC’s experiences with Ebola and the expertise at various levels in responding to outbreaks, leadership demands that President Tshiekedi ramp up testing for COVID-19 and lead preparation for vaccine roll-out. At the continental level, he has an opportunity to rally our leaders and specialized institutions to implement important continental strategies that would enhance the continent’s preparedness for future pandemics. These include the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa (PMPA), the Health Research and Innovation Strategy for Africa (HRISA), and the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA). These critical health frameworks are only useful if implemented.

Further, given the common understanding that political instability, wars, and conflict on the continent complicate response to pandemics—as was the case with Ebola in the DRC—it is important that the AU continues its razor-sharp focus on responding to, mitigating, and preventing conflicts even as it coordinates efforts to contain COVID-19. Wars and conflict-related disruptions will continue to jeopardize efforts to contain COVID-19 and ensure the health of citizens across the continent.

Read the official press release from the AU Heads of State Summit here.

“Honoring Health Care Workers Is Not Enough—We Must Work to Protect Them.” – Recommendations from Resolve to Save Lives for Governments, Health Systems, and Funders

By Amanda McClelland, Senior Vice President, Resolve to Save Lives

The COVID-19 pandemic has been unprecedented in many ways. But in at least one respect, it is tragically similar to other outbreaks of infectious disease: health care workers have not been provided adequate protections and have been hit disproportionately hard.

The World Health Organization estimates at least 30,000 health care workers have already died from COVID-19. Health care workers are so critical to our response to COVID-19 and other epidemics that it’s difficult to imagine what the response would look like without them. Times like this are when we need health care workers most; we depend on them to work intimately with patients, providing both lifesaving care and comfort, even when that means putting their own lives on the line. And although health care workers’ heroism and sacrifices during COVID-19 have been loudly applauded, this well-deserved recognition can hide another truth: these sacrifices—of time, well-being, even their lives—are largely avoidable. By not prioritizing and investing in the safety of health care workers, governments around the world have chosen, once again, words over deeds.

As a nurse, I know firsthand what it is like to be on the frontline of an epidemic without sufficient support. When you don’t have the resources, equipment, policies, training, guidelines or other support you need, it puts you, your patients and your health system at risk.

But there is good news. Protecting health care workers is easier than you think. In a new report, Resolve to Save Lives and partners highlight the risks health care workers face, and break down what governments, NGOs, donors, and advocates can do to start protecting health care workers better today:

  • Put measures proven to prevent and control the spread of infection in place. Health facilities everywhere need clean water, sanitation, and hygiene protocols (also known as WASH standards). Other necessary improvements include increased ventilation, and standards to triage and isolate patients. Adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks, hand sanitizer, and gowns are also needed.
  • Provide training on how to prevent and control infections for health care workers at all levels. Stopping the spread of infections means following best practices—health care workers need quality training (and frequent updates) on how to keep themselves, and their patients safe.
  • Advocate for laws and policies that support health care workers, in and out of the workplace. Employer-sponsored benefits like paid sick leave and access to mental health services allow health care workers to care for themselves, which makes them better able to care for patients. Burn out is a serious threat to the health workforce, a field which already faces critical shortages around the world. This also means prioritizing health care workers everywhere—not just in wealthy countries—to receive COVID-19 vaccines immediately.
  • Collect data on health care worker infections and protections and use it to improve safety practices. Tracking factors like handwashing, hospital-associated infections, availability of PPE, and adequate water and sanitation in health care facilities can help to identify gaps. International leaders like the World Health Organization should prioritize this issue and use available data to publish regular reports and recommendations for improvement.

Take action to advance these critical recommendations!

Read the full report from Resolve to Save Lives: Protecting Health Care Workers, A Need for Urgent Action

Share on social media: Protecting Health Care Workers Social Toolkit

 


Amanda McClelland is the senior vice-president of the Prevent Epidemics team at Resolve to Save Lives. A registered nurse, she has more than 20 years of experience in primary health care, global health and responding to natural disasters, conflict and epidemics in more than 15 countries including the West Africa Ebola response.

Resolve to Save Lives was created to save 100 million lives from cardiovascular disease and to prevent epidemics. Resolve to Save Lives provides catalytic funding to countries interested in improving epidemic preparedness or their citizens’ heart health.

“The Pandemic Demands That We All Get Political.” – A Message from Incoming UNITE Executive Director Amish Laxmidas

By Amish Laxmidas

The current pandemic has shown us that we all need to be political. While we rely on our policymakers to effectively legislate on clinical and non-clinical COVID-19 response, to allocate smart budgets to stimulus packages for our much-damaged economies, and to use diplomacy to make the COVID-19 vaccine as a global public good, there is another pandemic in the making. And it will severely hit us all, if we don’t seize this moment to take action so that COVID-19 leaves a legacy to better prepare humanity to deal with outbreaks.

It has been a year since the WHO has declared SARS-CoV-2 as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. Recently, we gathered policymakers and global health experts from around the world to grapple with lessons learned and the political commitments required to take action on COVID-19 while not losing sight of the Sustainable Development Goals in the midst and aftermath of the pandemic. With an eye on the next pandemic, the following key recommendations for policymakers emerged:

  1. Lead the discussion on the creation of national and global systems of alert that put in place a strong mechanism to alert national governments and international institutions of the possibility of an imminent global health threat. Lawmakers should be the frontline of a future pandemic rather than healthcare workers.
  2. Hold national governments accountable. 2020 will always be marked by the year in which science, multilateralism, and diplomacy have prevailed after all. However, vaccine nationalism and unilateralism are on the rise. The only stakeholder that has the power to hold national governments accountable for their international commitments are members of parliament, congresses, and senates. They are the ones who truly represent the most vulnerable communities, and therefore they have a duty to fulfill.
  3. Pandemic preparedness and response demand a global response. UNITE is a platform of dialogue and action in which donor countries and policymakers are united in a shared understanding that no one is safe until everyone is safe. Unless we fully fund COVAX and the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), policymakers from low- and-middle-income countries will continue to witness their constituencies suffering from the virus and consequently the global economy and supply chains for the high-income countries will continue to be broken.
  4. Invest now for the future. There is enough data for policymakers that shows that the cost of response exceeds the cost of preparedness. The Global Preparedness Monitoring Board is clear in saying that ‘expenditures for prevention and preparedness are measured in billions of dollars, the cost of a pandemic in trillions. It would take 500 years to spend as much on investing in preparedness as the world is losing due to COVID-19’. Further, the latest World Economic Outlook (January 2021) estimates that the global growth contraction for 2020 to be at -3.5 per cent. Countries like the United States or Germany are expected to grow slower than emerging economies in this year and the following.
  5. Democracy must be the most important determinant for health & well-being for all. The linkage between health and democracy is clear: regular, free, and fair democracies have higher legitimacy (and incentives) to provide resource allocation to their constituencies. On the other side of the spectrum, a recent piece from the British Medical Journal shows that ‘countries in which democracy is being eroded have made less progress on universal health coverage’. The economic downturn, the lack of funding for social welfare state mechanisms, and the rise of vaccine nationalism are key ingredients for the rise of misinformation, mistrust in multilateralism, and lack of confidence in policymakers. Political polarisation toward the current virus has allowed a narrative that leads to easy answers for difficult questions. Political cycles and democratic transition of power should be firm but also safe for its most important stakeholder: The People.

 

Over the last year, everyone has been impacted by COVID-19 in some way and the pandemic is everyone’s business now. But, for policymakers, in particular, it is time to turn lessons learned into actions. Policymakers who had never legislated during a pandemic had to turn to public health experts to know when to reopen schools, museums, restaurants or their borders. Global, national, and regional sovereignty is at stake because we did not act accordingly years ago. Now is the time for policymakers around the globe to prioritise long-term pandemic preparedness for the security and health of our countries. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.


About UNITE

UNITE is an independent, non-profit, global network of current and former parliamentarians. UNITE is committed to ensuring that no life is limited by infectious disease through unified political advocacy. Read the UNITE Global Summit Handbook for policymakers here.

Briefing: China in the Global COVID-19 Response ― Vaccine Development and Distribution

By Ming Geng

Ending the pandemic requires a robust, coordinated global response ― the virus does not respect borders. The longer COVID-19 is allowed to languish anywhere in the world, the more likely we will see other highly transmissible variants of the virus emerge and a continuing loop of infections, needless deaths, and lockdowns. Yet most of the world’s population still lacks a clear path to access the vaccines and other tools they need to stop this pandemic and prepare for the next one. Without concerted and swift action on all fronts, it could be years before COVID-19 vaccines are widely available in many low- and middle-income countries.

Amidst this context, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued the following statement, “The whole world needs to pull together in order to defeat the pandemic. China will continue to provide in a timely manner, to the best of its capability, vaccines to relevant countries, especially the developing countries, and contribute its share to building a global community of health for all. We also hope the international community will work together to promote the equitable allocation and use of vaccines globally to make sure developing countries have access to and can afford them.”

The following briefing details the current state of China’s vaccine development and distribution strategy.

Vaccine Development
Sinovac and Sinopharm are the two most advanced COVID-19 vaccine developers in China.

Sinovac Research and Development Co., Ltd, the Beijing based biopharmaceutical company is behind the CoronaVac, an inactivated COVID-19 vaccine. CoronaVac has recently been authorized for emergency use in Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Indonesia, and Turkey. There is now an academic debate on the wide range of the efficacy rate of CoronaVac reported by different countries. The effectiveness ranges from 91.25% in Turkey to 50.4% in Brazil.

The China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) has led the development of two inactive COVID-19 vaccines which have gone through phase III clinical trials in several countries. BBIBP-CorV is developed by Sinopharm, China National Biotec Group, and the Beijing Institute of Biological Product, and has already received emergency use authorization from China, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The other inactive vaccine candidate is developed by Sinopharm, China National Biotec Group, and the Wuhan Institute of Biological Product. This vaccine is currently undergoing phase III clinical trials in UAE, Peru, Morocco, and China. Some reports indicate that this vaccine has also been granted emergency use authorization in some countries.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are currently three Chinese vaccine candidates that are undergoing phase III clinical trials, which are Ad5-nCov by CanSino, ZF2001 by Anhui Zhihui Longcom, an unnamed SARS-CoV-2 vaccine by the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences. In addition, there are three Chinese vaccine candidates that are currently in phase II clinical trial: DelNS1-2019-nCoV-RBD-OPT1 by Wantai Biological Pharmacy, a Recombinant SARS-CoV-2 by West China Hospital, and an inactivated SARS-CoV-2 vaccine (Vero cell) by Beijing Minhai Biotechnology Co. In addition, Chinese manufacturers are also actively involved in global vaccine development cooperation. Most notably, Fosun Pharma participated in Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine development.

Vaccine Distribution ― Domestic Market
The current vaccination strategy in China is a two-step approach: the first step targets priority groups, and the second step covers the rest of the population. At present, the vaccination campaign covers people ages 18 to 59 with a high risk of infection and transmission, including people engaged in the handling of imported cold-chain products, people working in wet markets, medical workers, customs officers, watercraft pilots, air crews, public transport workers, and people who have to work and study abroad in high-risk countries.

According to a recent press conference held by the National Health Commission on January 13, China will expand the target population for COVID-19 vaccination to include elderly people over the age of 60. The expanded strategy is due to increasing data from clinical research on vaccines, a growing supply of vaccines, and the need to better control the outbreak.

In addition, youth ages 3 to 17 years-old may also be vaccinated as early as March 2021, according to Sinopharm. The company is submitting relevant clinical data to the National Medical Products Administration.

According to the National Health Commission, more than 10 million people have already been vaccinated as of January 13, 2021. The aim is to vaccinate another 40 million by Chinese New Year. In Beijing alone, it was reported that 1.7 million people have been vaccinated in 205 infusion sites, set up across the city.

Beyond the domestic vaccination plan, the Chinese government also will provide assistance to Chinese citizens who now live abroad in receiving vaccination, especially with Chinese-produced vaccines.

Vaccine Distribution ― International Market
As of January 15, at least 20 countries have purchased COVID-19 vaccines developed by Chinese manufacturers, including Sinovac and Sinopharm, according to Global Times calculations, with more planning to purchase Chinese vaccines, despite politicalized scrutiny by some western media over their efficacy and safety.

The following graph shows the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines produced by two main Chinese vaccine manufacturers.

 

GT_Vaccine Purchase

According to China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, China has already joined COVAX, the global initiative on equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. In order to bridge the huge supply gap in developing countries, China will donate 10 million doses of vaccines to COVAX upon the request from WHO. Meanwhile, China is providing vaccine aid to Pakistan, Brunei, Nepal, the Philippines, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka, Mongolia, Palestine, Belarus, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, and Equatorial Guinea, altogether 13 countries. In addition to taking an active part in COVAX, China is targeting reach to additional 38 low- and middle-income countries.

A Year into COVID-19: It’s Time to Urgently Fund the Global Response and Start Preparing the World for the Next Pandemic

By Carolyn Reynolds and Eloise Todd

January 30 marks the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization’s declaration of COVID-19 as a global health emergency. Yet as governments around the world have scrambled to respond and protect their citizens from the fast-moving pandemic, support for the global COVID-19 response has continued to be given short shrift. If we are going to end this devastating pandemic and make sure we are better prepared for the next one, this national near-sightedness must change now. 

The frightening speed with which variant strains of COVID-19 are spreading around the globe is further proof of how highly nationalist responses to the pandemic are misguided. While it may seem intuitive for governments to first take action at home, this approach belies the fact that the virus does not respect borders. Many countries that managed to control or even stop the spread of the virus earlier are once again seeing a surge in cases. There simply is no effective domestic response without also embracing a global approach.  

That’s why at the Pandemic Action Network we have been urging support for a robust, coordinated global response as the only way to hasten the end to COVID-19 everywhere and ensure that the trillions that countries are spending to try to end this crisis also help jumpstart long-ignored investments in better global preparedness to help stop the next pandemic before it starts. 

Early announcements on the importance of global engagement on the COVID-19 response and pandemic preparedness from the new Biden Administration in the US, together with the plans from the Italian presidency of the G20 and the European Commission to host a Global Health Summit in May and a 5-point plan from the UK presidency of the G7, are important signals of support for a stronger international approach. Those opportunities, along with the forthcoming final report of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, offer an unprecedented political window of opportunity to act. But that window will likely close quickly as high-income countries get more of their populations vaccinated from COVID-19 and governments begin to shift their attention toward economic recovery and other needs that have been neglected during the pandemic. 

Our international network of more than 90 partner organizations is calling on world leaders to own and accelerate an aggressive agenda to stop the spread of COVID-19 everywhere and leave humanity better prepared for emerging pandemic threats. The imperative to act has never been greater: this deadly and costly pandemic has affected every nation, and the next one is lurking. Leaders need to get these four things done urgently in 2021 to make the world safer:

Fully fund the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) and COVAX Facility to   speed up global access to COVID-19 vaccines. If vaccines are distributed only to high-income countries first, recent estimates are that the world may only avoid one-third of COVID-19 related deaths. While political commitments made thus far toward the ACT-A and its COVAX Facility have been a bright spot of rhetorical solidarity, world leaders must act on those words to urgently close the ACT-A financing gap to accelerate widespread distribution, not only in vaccines, which are in the spotlight right now, but also of diagnostics and therapeutics which will be needed even more while supplies of vaccines build up. When it comes to vaccines, all countries should also commit to work through the COVAX Facility to exchange and donate their excess vaccine supplies to support other nations in need.

Ramp up investments in frontline preparedness. Recent estimates point to at least a  US$5-10 billion annual funding gap to make the world better prepared for pandemics. This amount is likely now higher given the toll of COVID-19 has inflicted on frontline health workers and already struggling health systems around the world, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Yet this is still a small fraction of the trillions governments have spent on COVID-19 stimulus packages, vaccines, and other response measures to date. Just as the world mobilized to respond to the global AIDS crisis, this moment calls for a bold, dedicated multilateral financing mechanism to supercharge pandemic preparedness. Creating a Global Health Security Challenge Fund will support countries to close their critical health security gaps and stimulate a global “race to the top” for better preparedness. Once the ACT-A is fully funded, donor nations, private foundations, and investors should kickstart the Challenge Fund with an initial US$10 billion this year.

Bolster global research, development, and delivery of tools for emerging infectious disease threats. This crisis has shown that the world needs an at-the-ready capacity for timely delivery of the health technologies and supplies needed to combat the known and unknown diseases likely to spark the next pandemic. Leaders should secure and finance the effective Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to ensure it has the resources necessary to continue to respond to COVID-19 and also to secure its future. Building on the emerging lessons from the current pandemic, CEPI has the potential to serve as a permanent global R&D coordination hub with an end-to-end approach, working closely with the World Health Organization on the global R&D Blueprint. Leaders should also help build and/or fortify a network of regional R&D, manufacturing, and supply hubs so that every continent and every nation can quickly get the tools to stop outbreaks at their source.  

Build a smarter global pandemic defense system. The WHO must be fit-for-purpose, with reliable funding, enhanced authority to conduct early and independent outbreak investigations, and the ability to hold member states accountable for compliance with the International Health Regulations (IHRs). To help “pandemic-proof” the future, the world also needs a new international preparedness framework and a state-of-the-art, global outbreak detection system to better predict and manage cross-border threats. European allies have laid out a 10-point WHO reform plan which, together with the forthcoming report of the Independent Panel, can provide the basis to achieve consensus on a more responsive global system. Pandemic preparedness should be at the top of the UN Security Council agenda, and the UN Secretary-General should convene heads of state in a global preparedness summit before the year’s end to secure their commitments to act – and enable their citizens to hold them to account.

Everyone deserves to hope for a swift end to the pandemic, regardless of where they live. But it will only be possible if our political leaders act globally as well as locally, knowing no country will be safe until every country is safe. Their shared goal should be even bigger: to leave a legacy of a healthier and safer world by taking the steps necessary to help prevent another deadly and costly pandemic from happening again.

Pandemic Action Network Praises White House Actions to Bolster the COVID-19 Response and Prioritize Pandemic Preparedness

The Pandemic Action Network warmly welcomes the suite of early announcements by the Biden-Harris Administration to elevate and accelerate global efforts to help hasten an end to the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure that America and the world is better prepared for emerging pandemic threats. The decisions and commitments by the White House adopt several of the recommendations that were included in a paper submitted to the Biden-Harris transition team by a group of leading U.S. global health policy experts, including two of our Pandemic Action Network co-founders, Carolyn Reynolds and Gabrielle Fitzgerald.

On his first day in office, President Biden signed a new Executive Order to organize and mobilize the U.S. government to provide an effective COVID-19 response and provide U.S. leadership on global health security. This was followed on day two with a National Security Directive on U.S. Global Leadership to Strengthen the International COVID-19 Response and Advance Global Health Security and Biological Preparedness and an Executive Order on Ensuring a Data-Driven Response to COVID-19 and Future High Consequence Public Health Threats. In addition, to underscore the new Administration’s support for the global COVID-19 response, Vice President Kamala Harris spoke with World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr. Tedros and Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke to the WHO’s Executive Board meeting.

Pandemic Action Network Co-Founder Carolyn Reynolds said,

“These early announcements and actions by President Biden and his Administration to prioritize global health security represent the kind of bold leadership that has been lacking on pandemic response and preparedness for far too long. We are delighted to see that President Biden has rightly elevated pandemic threats as a top national security priority for the United States, and that the plan he has put forward is both national and global, recognizing that America’s health and security depends on stopping COVID-19 and future biothreats both at home and abroad.

The Pandemic Action Network and our partners look forward to working with the Biden-Harris Administration and Congress to follow through on these commitments and leave a legacy that better prepares America and the world to address emerging pandemic threats and ensure that a deadly and costly pandemic like COVID-19 never happens again.”

Collectively, the White House actions taken to date respond to our Network’s calls for the Biden-Harris Administration on several issues, including to: prioritize and scale up financing for pandemic preparedness and response both at home and abroad; step up U.S. support for the global COVID-19 response, including joining the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) and the COVAX Facility; reform and strengthen the World Health Organization; invest in better outbreak detection and analytics; strengthen global supply chains for frontline pandemic response, including for personal protective equipment; and elevate leadership and accountability within the U.S. government on pandemics.

Open Letter – Calling on President Biden to Establish a COVID-19 Task Force Focused on U.S. K-12 Schools

A collective of educators and public health professionals is urging the Biden Administration to establish a task force focused specifically on reopening schools as quickly and as safely as possible.  Pandemic Action Network Co-founders Gabrielle Fitzgerald and Carolyn Reynolds have signed on to this open letter. While we applaud the urgency set forth by the Biden Administration already, evidenced by inclusion of school funding in the stimulus proposal as well as the goal of reopening schools in the first 100 days, we believe there needs to be focused interdisciplinary attention to schools at a national level to address the intersection of health, education, and labor issues. We have already lost significant time. Please read and sign on to the letter to ask President Biden to urgently stand up a task force to focus on schools in support of the first 100 days agenda.

Read the full letter here.

Email [email protected] to sign on to this open letter.

Go Big: President Biden Has an Unprecedented Opportunity to Make Humanity Safer from Pandemic Threats

By: Carolyn Reynolds

The inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the new U.S. President and Vice President has arrived with a mix of sadness and hope. The 400 lights along the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool and 200,000 flags on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. are poignant reminders of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic. The deadly combination of this protracted health crisis and the recent assault on the U.S. Capitol building have cast a dark shadow over this historic occasion. Yet it also underscores the tremendous urgency – and opportunity – to finally get COVID-19 under control and take the steps necessary to make America and the world better prepared for future pandemic threats. It is now or never to go big – both on pandemic response and on preparedness.

With 400,000 American deaths and counting and tens of millions of families struggling with unemployment, hunger, and virtual schooling, the new Administration has rightly made the domestic COVID-19 response job one. Before inauguration, President Biden rolled out an ambitious $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus and response plan and plan to vaccinate 100 million in 100 days. Included in the package is a relatively very modest, but critically important, $11 billion toward the global pandemic response – recognizing America will not be safe until every country is safe, and that America’s health and economic recovery from the pandemic is highly dependent on the world’s health and recovery.

More good news came from Secretary of State-designate Tony Blinken’s remarks at his confirmation hearing that the United States would formally join COVAX to promote global access to COVID-19 vaccines. Together with the appointment of an experienced slate of leaders to key Administration posts who are highly knowledgeable on pandemic threats – Blinken, Ron Klain, Jake Sullivan, Susan Rice, Samantha Power, Beth Cameron, Bonnie Jenkins, and Rochelle Walensky, among others – and the plan to reverse withdrawal of the United States from the WHO on day one, the Biden-Harris Administration is off to a good start.

But the new President and his team must do much more to meet this moment in history. Even as we fight the pandemic before us, the next pandemic will not wait. The failure to sustain high-level political leadership and investments to prioritize pandemic preparedness left the world highly vulnerable to the novel coronavirus. A full year into this crisis, there are still gaping holes around the world in frontline infection prevention and control capabilities and reliable data. Gaps in affordable access to vaccines, diagnostics, treatments, personal protective equipment and other essential supplies to detect, prevent, and respond to outbreaks are more glaring than ever, despite repeated warnings and solutions from numerous expert commissions and reports over the past five years. It should not be this way.

It is time to go big. As a centerpiece of President Biden’s plans to assert America’s position as a go-to leader and partner on the world stage, we are urging the Biden-Harris Administration to work with Congress and world leaders to launch and lead an aggressive agenda for action on global health security, including:

1) Finish the fight on the global COVID-19 response: Urgently help close the remaining financing gap for the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator to support widespread global distribution of vaccines, and commit to work through the COVAX facility to exchange and/or donate vaccine supplies to support other nations in need.

2) Ramp up U.S. investments in global health and pandemic preparedness: Establish a dedicated Global Health Security Challenge Fund to accelerate national investments to close critical health security gaps and stimulate a global “race to the top” for preparedness. The United States should commit $2 billion to kickstart a $10-20 billion Challenge Fund – a tremendous bargain compared to the trillions being spent for COVID response and recovery. Overall, the United States should double funding for global health security and other global health programs over the next five years, including investing in a stronger frontline health workforce as the first line of defense for outbreaks.

3) Build a smarter global pandemic defense system: Ensure the WHO is fit-for-purpose, including reliable funding, enhanced authority to conduct early and independent outbreak investigations, and the ability to hold member states accountable for compliance with the International Health Regulations (IHRs). To help “pandemic-proof” the future, the world also needs a new international preparedness framework and a state-of-the-art, global outbreak detection system to better predict and manage cross-border threats. The United States should also put pandemic preparedness at the top of the UN Security Council agenda and call on the UN Secretary-General to convene heads of state in a global preparedness summit this year.

4) Bolster global research, development, and delivery of tools for emerging infectious disease threats: Make a $200 million commitment for U.S. participation in the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and expand its capacity to serve as a permanent global R&D coordination hub with an end-to-end approach. Leaders should also fortify a network of regional R&D, manufacturing, and supply hubs so that every continent and every nation can quickly get the tools to stop outbreaks at their source. Supporting a global health security-focused Grand Challenge at USAID and a permanent emerging and reemerging infectious diseases funding line for BARDA will be other key tools in our pandemic arsenal.

5) Elevate U.S. global leadership, diplomacy, and accountability: Designate and empower high-level interagency leadership roles with the funding necessary to elevate and sustain global preparedness as a continuing national security, diplomatic, and health priority. A 9/11-style bipartisan Commission on the U.S. Response to COVID-19 would provide a critical public examination and political pressure to address the most urgent national and global preparedness gaps, and seek ways to protect the independence of our science and public health agencies.

This won’t be easy, given pressing domestic demands and deep divides and distrust in Congress and the American public. But like the response to 9/11 and the AIDS pandemic, the COVID-19 crisis demands extraordinary U.S. global leadership, ingenuity, and political resolve – to treat pandemics as the existential global and national security threat they are.

The good news is that there is a strong record of bipartisan support on addressing infectious disease threats to build on – from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA) to the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) and the 2015 Ebola supplemental bill. President Obama’s November 2016 Executive Order was left in place by the Trump White House, which also produced a strong Biodefense Strategy (2018) and Global Health Security Strategy (2019) at the direction of Congress. Bipartisan House and Senate bills introduced in the last Congress provide a starting point for building a new consensus.

Just as the military continuously prepares for war on multiple fronts, we can and must prevent the next pandemic while fighting this one. But the political opportunity to act is now, while the impact of COVID-19 is still front and center in people’s lives. Waiting until this pandemic is over or the next one comes is simply too late. We must not wait for the next crisis to act.

What We’re Reading to Start the New Year

By Autumn Lerner

Like so many, our team took a brief break at the end of 2020. The break gave us rest first and foremost, but also time to reflect on the challenges and opportunities ahead. As we enter 2021, the world is navigating a dark winter with the rampant spread of COVID-19, but also promise and opportunity presented by multiple viable vaccines. Despite vaccine rollout in 42 countries, low-income and middle-income countries have largely been left out. The second year of the pandemic is a critical time to secure political will and financing for both near-term global response measures and longer-term pandemic preparedness. As we start 2021, here’s a short list of pieces we are reading to inform our thinking and actions in the year ahead.

The Plague Year
Lawrence Wright, Staff Writer for The New Yorker, dissects what went wrong in America’s response to the coronavirus. The U.S. has only 4% of the world’s population—and yet it accounts for 20% of all COVID-19 deaths. Wright’s 30,000-word account, based on extensive interviews, offers an expansive portrait of how the pandemic has changed our lives. For a summary version, Wright was interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air last week.

Which Countries Have Responded Best to COVID-19?
In this opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Tom Frieden discusses ways countries around the world responded best to COVID-19 in 2020. As we begin the new year continuing to fight the virus, he argues that we should learn from the most successful strategies to improve our testing, tracing, strategic closure, and other public health responses, even as vaccines are distributed around the world.

Where Year Two of the Pandemic Will Take Us
Ed Yong penned this piece in the Atlantic outlining what Americans can expect in the coming years as the world continues to battle COVID-19, which has taken more than 326,000 American lives to date. Cases continue to rise in the first weeks of 2021, and although vaccines are rolling out, the U.S. and the world have a ways to go to implement successful and equitable vaccine programs.

History will judge us if we vaccinate rich countries while poor ones suffer
Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. John Nkengasong launched the new year with an urgent call-to-action for the world via an interview with Canada’s CBC Radio. “The silence of our friends will be remembered when the history of this pandemic will be written,” Dr. Nkengasong said, speaking to the inequity in the global vaccine rollout.

The Anti-Vaxx Playbook
While vaccine hesitancy and the anti-vaxx movement has been a growing challenge, the current pandemic has supercharged the situation, representing a tipping point for trust in vaccines overall. In a new report, the Center for Countering Digital Hate infiltrates a meeting of the world’s leading anti-vaccine advocates to expose their community’s tactics, messages, and use of social media to disrupt uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine.

What if Scientists Already Know How to Prevent the Next Pandemic?
In the Nation, Jimmy Tobias examines One Health, a pan-species approach to health that could ward off the next big outbreak. The piece details why we need to unite across environment, public health, agriculture, forestry, land use, climate movements, and more to prevent pandemics at the source.

Pandemic-Proof Your Habits
Kate Murphy’s recent article in the New York Times about habits and routines highlights how disruptive the pandemic has been to the structure that our brains typically rely on. This piece describes how and why our bodies and minds crave routine, and how we are not biologically engineered to deal with changes or disruptions to routine—which we got in spades in 2020!

Wishing all a productive reset and thoughtful setting of new routines that will give us the individual and collective energy to seize the opportunities and challenges of the year ahead. Together we can accelerate the journey to the end of COVID-19 and ensure that it leaves a long-term legacy of global pandemic preparedness.

Statement on FY21 Omnibus and Emergency COVID-19 Spending Bill

Pandemic Action Network welcomes emergency funding for Gavi, urges new Administration and Congress to prioritize global investments in pandemic preparedness and response

Pandemic Action Network Co-Founder Carolyn Reynolds released the following statement on the FY21 omnibus and emergency COVID-19 spending bill:

“We are pleased that Congress saw fit to include $4 billion for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, in the final omnibus and emergency spending bill to support the global COVID-19 response. These funds will help ensure that people in need around the world can receive lifesaving vaccines as soon as possible, regardless of where they live.

But Congress must do much more to support global efforts to end this pandemic and help prevent the next one. A U.S. contribution of $4 billion for the Global Fund and $200 million for the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) are also urgently needed as part of a broader global response package to address COVID-19’s devastating impacts, which threaten to set back years, if not decades, of progress in global health.

Increasing global investments in pandemic preparedness and response is squarely in the U.S. interest: America will not be safe until every country is safe, and America’s health and economic recovery is highly dependent on global health and recovery. Like the response to 9/11 and the AIDS pandemic, the COVID-19 crisis demands extraordinary U.S. global leadership to treat pandemics as the existential national security threat they are.

We urge the 117th Congress and incoming Biden Administration to work together to significantly step up the global fight against infectious disease threats and prevent another deadly and costly pandemic from happening again.”

Read our recommendations for the incoming Biden-Harris Administration here.

Recommendations for the Biden-Harris Administration – Now or Never: An Agenda for Global Action to Make America and the World Safer from Pandemic Threats

We urge President-elect Biden and the incoming Biden-Harris Administration to launch and lead an aggressive agenda for action on global health security to end the COVID-19 pandemic as quickly as possible while accelerating global preparedness for the next pandemic. The following five-point agenda for action has been prepared by a group of leading U.S. global health policy experts, including two of our Pandemic Action Network co-founders. The outlined recommendations reflect the group’s collective experience as well as the conclusions of an extensive body of research and reports from numerous expert groups over the past five years. As the pandemic has upended lives and livelihoods in every household in America and every corner of the globe, the political moment is ripe for President-elect Biden to galvanize and lead a global coalition of public and private actors around a shared commitment to help prevent a deadly and costly pandemic like COVID-19 from happening again. President-elect Biden has the opportunity to leave a longer-term legacy that will better prepare humanity to more effectively address emerging pandemic threats, and break the persistent cycle of panic and neglect once and for all. Waiting until this crisis is over or until the next one happens will be too late. It’s now or never. Read the five-point agenda white paper here: Now or Never: An Agenda for Global Action to Make America and the World Safer from Pandemic Threats

The Missing Piece of the Puzzle: Getting from Vaccine Hesitancy to Acceptance

For too long, the global health community has ignored the warning signs, assuming that anti-vaccination challenges were limited to a single geography or vaccine, and that anti-vaccination beliefs were fringe and would not impact broader uptake. In 2019, the WHO finally listed vaccine hesitancy as one of the world’s top ten global health threats. In 2020, this threat has been supercharged by the pandemic, representing a critical tipping point in the decades-long trend of vaccine distrust and hesitancy. The world must now act urgently to address this growing threat in order to end the COVID-19 pandemic and help stop future deadly outbreaks.

As multiple promising vaccine candidates come to market, there is hope that the world will soon turn a corner on defeating COVID-19. But in many countries around the world, fewer than 70% of the population plan to get themselves vaccinated—less than the threshold at which public health experts estimate herd immunity to COVID-19 to be effective. Within communities across the globe, vaccine hesitancy threatens countries’ ability to effectively stop the spread of COVID-19 and risks prolonging the outbreak further, costing more lives. The Pandemic Action Network released a policy paper with a set of recommendations for a wide range of actors, including governments, community leaders, multilateral institutions, and social media companies. This paper urges the world to address the various issues leading to vaccine hesitancy to ensure individuals can make critical decisions about their health and the health of their families and communities based on trustworthy and factual information. No one actor can address vaccine hesitancy alone. The challenge of vaccine hesitancy demands collective global action for vaccine confidence and acceptance.

Read the paper here: The missing piece of the puzzle: Getting from vaccine hesitancy to acceptance

Africa Mask Week Sparks Community Engagement to Keep Masking

Youth, government and public health leaders, celebrities, and people across the continent united around the importance of mask wearing to slowing the pandemic.

During the last week of November, leaders and communities across Africa rallied around an important and critical idea: Keep masking. When we wear a mask, we are protecting our friends, our families, and our communities. 

Africa Mask Week came at a critical time, when data showed COVID-19 cases on the rise, but adherence to masking and other behaviors known to stop the spread waning due to pandemic and prevention fatigue. Between November 23 and 30, 2020 the Pandemic Action Network, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the African Union Office of the Youth Envoy, the African Youth Front on Coronavirus, and Resolve to Save Lives organized the online campaign encouraging people across the African continent to wear masks and stem the spread of COVID-19. In the weeks since, the effort has sustained on social media and moved to offline fora and communities in 50 out of 54 African countries

Over the span of two weeks:

  • The campaign reached more than 299 million people with more than 187 million social media impressions and 112 million traditional media impressions across 106 countries. 
  • Preliminary results have shown an 18% increase in mask-wearing social posting activity compared to the previous period.
  • During the campaign, “community” was the most popular term in social posts, while #AfricaYouthLead was a popular tag alongside #AfricaMaskWeek.
  • The top post came from social media influencer Ihssane Benalluch, promoting mask wearing in English and Arabic.

 

This effort was driven by 75+ global, regional, national, and local partners via a social media partner toolkit with content in English, French, Arabic, Swahili, and Portuguese. Participating partners included Africa CDC, the AU Youth Envoy, Resolve to Save Lives, CORE Group, the COVID-19 Action Fund for Africa (CAF-Africa), Gavi, Global Health Corps, Global Health Strategies, the Global Health Technologies Coalition, GOAL, Goodbye Malaria, HEA Sports, Jhpiego, Last Mile Health, MSH, ONE, PATH, the Rockefeller Foundation, Southern Africa Youth Forum, Sport Connect Africa, UNICEF, UNITE, USAID, VillageReach, WHO African Region, Weber Shandwick, the World Bank, and the World Economic Forum.

The campaign launched with an Africa CDC virtual launch discussion featuring Africa CDC Director Dr. John Nkengasong, AU Youth Envoy Aya Chebbi, and Pandemic Action Network Co-founder Gabrielle Fitzgerald, and has had 3.2K views to date. 

At the launch of Africa Mask Week, Dr. Nkengasong articulated the challenge, “We may be tired. We may have prevention fatigue, but I can assure you the COVID-19 virus is not tired.” Until there are vaccines or medicines to fight COVID-19, wearing a mask is one of the best tools we have, especially when combined with physical distancing and hand washing. 

But arguably the biggest success of this campaign has been its offline reach across local and regional communities, thanks to the many in-country health institutions and NGOs working at the community level to disseminate mask-wearing messaging. Groups like the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Amref Health Africa, Development Media International (DMI) and so many more have folded these messages into their public health communications and community engagement efforts, ensuring that the importance of ongoing mask-wearing is emphasized among a wider audience.

We are grateful to the energy and efforts of all of our partners, and look forward to seeing this momentum continue through the new year. When we work together and #WearAMask, we can help stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.

Spread CHEER, Not COVID

by Gabrielle Fitzgerald, Co-Founder Pandemic Action Network

The holiday season is here. The next few weeks are a time that we would normally hold festive get-togethers with loved ones – Hannukah, Christmas, New Year’s. While every family has unique traditions that make their celebrations special, what binds them in common is gathering, eating, and spending time together.

In 2020, holiday traditions, like almost everything else this year, need to adapt. With COVID cases rising in every single state, it is vital that we put tradition aside for this season and find new ways to celebrate.

The concept of holiday “cheer” is defined by dictionary.com as something that gives joy, gladness, or comfort. And it’s commemorated in carols as different as “Carol of the Bells” (written by a Ukranian composer in 1914) to “Christmas Wrapping” (the modern classic by The Waitresses in 1981).

But this year, there’s a new definition of “cheer” as a way to protect yourself and your loved ones from COVID. In order to “spread cheer, not COVID” everyone should keep in mind these rules for a CHEER-ful holiday.

#SpreadCHEER not COVID this holiday season with these five tips: 

  • Cover your face. Wear a mask to protect you and those around you, especially if you are indoors.
  • Handwash often. Wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after removing your mask. Use hand sanitizer as a back-up.
  • Explore virtual activities. Get creative with online game nights, meals, movie watching or gift exchanges with friends or families.
  • Enjoy outside. If you must meet up with people you don’t live with, go outdoors. Even then, keep distance and masked!
  • Remember we are in this together. Until COVID-19 is gone, we must do our part to keep ourselves and our communities safe.

 

Pandemic Action Network partners helping lead the charge to #SpreadCHEER not COVID this season include the Federation of American Scientists, iHeartMedia, Facebook, National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) and dozens of other national and global organizations that make up the Network. iHeartMedia, for example, is supplying 30-second radio PSAs with the Spread CHEER message to its 800 radio stations around the United States. 

#SpreadCHEER not COVID focuses on tips and stories about creative ways people are celebrating the holidays while staying COVID-safe.

Let’s all work together to have a CHEERful holiday season this year so that we can get back to our traditional cheer next year!

 

 

 

 

Pandemic Action Network Urges Caution and Creativity: This Holiday Season, Spread CHEER Not COVID

New CHEER Tips Translate Public Health Recommendations Into 5 Ways to Stay Healthy and Merry

December 9, 2020, Seattle, WA—With daily cases surging in many parts of the world, and hospitals in the U.S. and many other countries slammed by COVID-19, the Pandemic Action Network is joining the chorus of leaders asking people to scale back their holiday plans. But with one twist: the Network is emphasizing ramping up the fun and creativity while adapting to new traditions that can keep people healthy and safe.

“We have an important message this holiday season: Spread CHEER not COVID,” said Gabrielle Fitzgerald, co-founder of the Pandemic Action Network. “People are craving holiday joy, even more so in the face the unspeakable illness and tragedy we’ve faced during this ongoing pandemic. Our CHEER tips can help make the holidays both merry and safe.”

The five CHEER tips are:

  • Cover your face. Wear a mask to protect you and those around you, especially if you are indoors.
  • Handwash often. Wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after removing your mask. Use hand sanitizer as a back-up.
  • Explore virtual activities. Get creative with online game nights, meals, movie watching or gift exchanges with friends or families.
  • Enjoy outside. If you must meet up with people you don’t live with, go outdoors. Even then, keep distance and masked!
  • Remember we are in this together. Until COVID-19 is gone, we must do our part to keep ourselves and our communities safe.

 

Pandemic Action Network partners helping lead the charge to #SpreadCHEER not COVID this season include the Federation of American Scientists, iHeartMedia, Facebook, National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) and dozens of other national and global organizations that make up the Network. iHeartMedia, for example, is supplying 30-second radio PSAs with the Spread CHEER message to its 800 radio stations around the United States.

In the U.S., the CDC is urging Americans to avoid travel during the winter holiday season. For those who decide to travel, the CDC recommends getting a COVID-19 test one to three days before the trip and another three to five days after travel. And regardless of where people celebrate the holiday, heeding guidelines and protocols from local public health leaders can help stop the exponential increases in cases we are seeing.

The Federation of American Scientists convened a group of leading behavioral scientists to advise on the development of its safe holiday initiative. Ultimately, the counsel helped produce messaging that is both empathetic and actionable; recognizing that we’ve all been through a lot this year, we need joy in our lives, but we also want to protect ourselves and our loved ones. The CHEER tips can help people navigate a perilous season.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, people have been asked to adopt behaviors that are good for society but can be hard on them. Behavioral science helps us understand the best way to motivate people to adhere to such requests—to take on a cost for the benefit of others,” said Erez Yoeli, PhD, research scientist at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. Dr. Yoeli, whose research focuses on altruism, advised on the development of the Spread CHEER messaging. “This holiday season, we need to communicate the benefit to the community and be as unambiguous as possible about the guidance… all while demonstrating our understanding that everyone is badly—and rightly—craving joy right now. Spread CHEER not COVID hits those notes.”

The Pandemic Action Network is urging people and organizations to share ideas on how they will #SpreadCHEER not COVID on social media, tagging friends and family to pass on the momentum.

For more information, visit bit.ly/spreadcheer.

The Pandemic Action Network was launched in April 2020 to drive collective action to help bring an end to COVID-19 and to ensure the world is prepared for the next pandemic. Since launch, the Network has been working with influencers to promote mask wearing– along with social distancing and handwashing – to help stop the spread of COVID-19. In August, the Pandemic Action Network introduced World Mask Week, and recently launched African Mask Week. Now facing surging rates of COVID-19, catalyzing the Network to share the important #SpreadCHEER message this holiday season is crucial to help slow the pandemic and save lives.

About the Pandemic Action Network
The Pandemic Action Network drives collective action to help bring an end to COVID-19 and to ensure the world is prepared for the next pandemic. The Network consists of 40+ organizations aligned on the mission to promote policies that save the most lives and protect livelihoods by ending the cycle of panic and neglect on pandemics.

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World AIDS Day: It is Only By Coming Together That We Will Defeat COVID-19 and HIV/AIDS

By Isabelle de Lichtervelde

 

Each year, World AIDS Day is recognized on December 1 to commemorate those who have lost their lives to AIDS and those living with and affected by HIV. It has also been an important occasion to galvanise support for a stronger and fairer response to HIV/AIDS. As with everything else impacted by COVID-19’s devastation this year, World AIDS Day 2020 is a unique moment and opportunity.

COVID-19 has shown the world once again how health is interlinked with other critical issues, such as inequalities and economic well-being. COVID-19 has plunged the world economy into deep contraction and, like many other crises, it is hitting the poorest, most disadvantaged, and most vulnerable the hardest. The pandemic has also reminded us all that a global crisis requires a global response. 

The world has made significant progress since the late 1990s, but HIV remains a major global health crisis that has been further deepened by COVID-19. The UNAIDS annual report shows that HIV services have been worryingly disrupted due to COVID-19, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) where health systems are more fragile. The HIV/AIDS response could be set back by 10 years or more, if COVID-19 leads to severe disruptions to HIV services, leaving many at greater risk of HIV infection and AIDS-related deaths. 

With this in mind, the theme of World AIDS Day 2020 is “Global solidarity, shared responsibility”. The world needs global solidarity and shared responsibility now to beat the epidemics of HIV and pandemic of COVID-19. 

For this to happen, here are three things that the world leaders need to do NOW.

  • Fully fund the global response against COVID-19 while protecting and increasing other life-saving health programmes. World leaders must commit to fully fund the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) without diverting investments from other health priorities, including HIV/AIDS. US$5.1 billion has been committed to the ACT-A to date. US$4.2 billion is still needed urgently, with another US$23.9 billion needed by the end of 2021. We must look beyond scarce development assistance budgets to fund the ACT-A. Official development assistance (ODA) is a precious resource that we must increase rather than decrease at a time of rising need in LMICs. Fully resourcing the ACT-A is not a matter of charity; it is an investment in the world’s recovery. Governments should use a portion of their domestic fiscal stimulus for the multilateral response against COVID-19, while increasing investment in other life-saving global health programmes. 
  • Invest in pandemic preparedness and prevention. Health systems must be urgently strengthened, in particular in LMICs in order to ensure all countries have the capacity to respond to COVID-19, HIV/AIDS, and other epidemics as well as prevent and be prepared for future epidemic threats. Other key pandemic preparedness and prevention priorities include accelerating global health research and development for epidemic-risk diseases and securing reliable access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and other pandemic supplies.
  • Ensure fair and equitable access to health tools globally. No-one can be left behind in accessing life-saving diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines. Errors of the past cannot be made again. Millions of people in LMICs died waiting for HIV treatment. Fully equitable access still isn’t a reality today. Due to lack of access to HIV services, 690,000 people died from HIV-related causes and 1.7 million people were newly infected last year. Fair and equitable access to all health commodities, including COVID-19 treatments, diagnostics, and future vaccines, must be urgently ensured. Global equity must be at the heart of the world’s response to COVID-19 by prioritising multilateral action over bilateral action and ensuring that distribution mechanisms and allocation frameworks are based on equitable terms. Products should be both accessible to LMICs as soon as they become available and suitable for LMIC settings.

 

COVID-19 has brought the world to its knees and has threatened decades of hard-won gains in the global HIV/AIDS response. However, this crisis is also an opportunity to do things differently and build back better. Every effort we make together in the fight against COVID-19 should leave a longer-term legacy that better prepares humanity to more effectively deal with outbreaks and pandemics, including HIV/AIDS.

#AfricaMaskWeek Launches to Build Continent-Wide Movement for Mask-Wearing

At a time when COVID-19 cases are increasing in a second wave in many parts of the world and people are fatigued with the public health and social measures, #AfricaMaskWeek is being launched to sustain and increase mask-wearing as a protective measure among populations in Africa.

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA, 23 NOVEMBER 2020. #AfricaMaskWeek launches today across the continent, from 23 to 30 November 2020. Led by the Pandemic Action Network, in partnership with the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), the African Union Office of the Youth Envoy, the African Youth Front on Coronavirus, Resolve to Save Lives, and many other organisations, this week-long social media campaign will encourage mask-wearing across the African continent.

Until there is a vaccine or medicine, mask-wearing, handwashing and physical distancing are the best tools available to control the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The key to controlling the spread of COVID-19 in the absence of a vaccine is to adopt the age-old public health strategy of wearing a mask, washing your hands regularly and keeping a safe distance from others,” said Dr John Nkengasong, Director of Africa CDC. “As we intensify testing and contact tracing to identify and treat infected persons across the continent, you can avoid being infected by simply wearing a mask to prevent respiratory droplets from reaching your nose and mouth.”

In August 2020, the Pandemic Action Network led over 40 organisations across the globe to observe the World Mask Week, which provided a unique opportunity to draw attention to the need for increased use of face coverings in public places and particularly in settings where physical distancing is not possible.

Over 55 partner organizations are currently working together in implementing the #AfricaMaskWeek initiative to help mobilize support and action for increased mask-wearing as an essential measure to prevent COVID-19 infection and ultimately stop the spread of the COVID-19 at the community level in African countries.

The week will feature several activities, including a virtual launch event today at 6.00 pm East Africa Time, which will feature discussions about mask-wearing and its benefits in controlling the spread of COVID-19. There will be social media campaigns and online events through the week by corporate and private entities and individuals across the continent to promote mask-wearing. Individuals will be able to show their support by sharing photos and messages about mask-wearing using the hashtag #AfricaMaskWeek.

The registration link to join the kickoff event is: #AfricaMaskWeek23Nov2020. Meeting ID 916 5711 1736 and Passcode 072567.

Recent data suggest that mask-wearing in Africa is declining while COVID-19 continues to spread. African leaders and the public must keep practicing what works to stop the spread. More than 40 African countries have enacted policies on mandatory use of masks in public, but there are challenges with compliance to those policies. Implementation has been inconsistent and, in some cases, marred by human rights violations. Furthermore, there are documented rumors, misinformation, disinformation, and stigmatization about mask-wearing. The #AfricaMaskWeek is an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of consistent and correct mask-wearing, address misperceptions and mobilize compliance.

“Africa has the youngest population in the world. African youth are innovative, resilient and have shown unprecedented leadership before and during the response to the pandemic. The victory of this fight against the COVID-19 lies in the hands of young people that’s why I call on youth across the continent to join #AfricaMaskWeek and keep on wearing a mask. COVID-19 is still here and still being spread in Africa. Protect yourself and protect others. Let’s save our continent. Mask Up, stand up and don’t give up the fight!” said Aya Chebbi, African Union Special Envoy on Youth.

#AfricaMaskWeek reminds us to wear masks consistently and correctly to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. “#AfricaMaskWeek is a call to action for leaders and the people of Africa,” said Gabriel Fitzgerald, Co-Founder of the Pandemic Action Network. “Leaders should lead by example by consistently promoting mask-wearing and by wearing a mask in public. We must not rest or stop practicing those things that will help stop the spread of COVID-19, like handwashing, physical distancing and mask-wearing.”

For more information about #AfricaMaskWeek, please visit africamaskweek.com.

About the Pandemic Action Network
The Pandemic Action Network comprises more than 55 multi-sector member and affiliate organizations that drive collective action to help bring an end to COVID-19 and to ensure the world is prepared for the next pandemic. The network’s mission is to promote policies that save the most lives and protect livelihoods, both during this COVID-19 crisis and in future pandemics. In August, the Pandemic Network launched World Mask Week, August 7 – 14, 2020, which was kicked off by the #WearAMask social media challenge issued by WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros and engaged more than 40 global partners to reach 3.5+ billion people across 145 countries with positive messages to raise awareness about the impact of wearing a mask and encourage mask wearing

About the African Union
The African Union leads Africa’s development and integration in close collaboration with African Union Member States, the regional economic communities and African citizens. The vision of the African Union is to accelerate progress towards an integrated, prosperous and inclusive Africa, at peace with itself, playing a dynamic role in the continental and global arena, effectively driven by an accountable, efficient and responsive Commission.

Learn more at: http://www.au.int/en

About the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention
Africa CDC is a specialized technical institution of the African Union that strengthens the capacity and capability of Africa’s public health institutions as well as partnerships to detect and respond quickly and effectively to disease threats and outbreaks, based on data-driven interventions and programmes. Learn more at: http://www.africacdc.org.

CONTACTS:

Pandemic Action Network
Autumn Lerner (US)
[email protected]
+1-206-234-1156

Krystle Lai (UK)
[email protected]
+44-7425-517326

Africa CDC
James Ayodele
[email protected]
+251953912454

What Happened at the Paris Peace Forum: Welcome Baby Steps, But So Much More Needed

By Isabelle De Lichtervelde

 

Last week during the third annual Paris Peace Forum, the European Commission, France, Spain, The Republic of Korea, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation together pledged US$360 million to COVAX, bringing the total committed to the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) to over US$5.1 billion. But an additional US$4.2 billion is still needed urgently, with another US$23.9 billion needed by the end of 2021.

At the Pandemic Action Network, we welcome leaders continuing to step up to fund the ACT-A. However, the road ahead is still very long and funding is still urgently required for the global response.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the European Commission (EC) has shown much-needed leadership in multilateral efforts to fight COVID-19. EC President Ursula von der Leyen committed an additional €100 million to COVAX at this year’s Paris Peace Forum, reminding delegates that the ACT-A US$28.4 billion funding gap is equivalent to “the same sum the transport sector and the global tourism sector lose in just two days of lockdown”.

But not all the money pledged last week was new. “We aren’t going to beat the virus if we abandon part of humanity,” French President Emmanuel Macron rightly said. But the French president hasn’t quite put his money where his mouth is yet. The €100 million from France and €50 million from Spain that were pledged on the second day of the conference are pledges that had already been announced several months ago. Although the clarification that this money will be allocated to COVAX’s Advanced Market Commitment (AMC) helps provide much needed transparency, and confirms that the funds will help low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) secure vaccines, clarifying past pledges is not the level of ambition needed to end the COVID-19 pandemic.

Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway and co-chair of the ACT-A Facilitation Council, said: “We have to look beyond aid for financing. We need to look at private sector, innovative mechanisms, other ways to get this money, fast. We need to accelerate this faster than we are doing these days.” The world urgently needs to look for other sources of financing in order to fill the ACT-A funding gap. Crucially, countries must look beyond limited official development assistance (ODA) envelopes and not divert ODA from other lifesaving programmes in developing countries.

Working together is the only way out of the pandemic. The ACT-A is our greatest hope to end the crisis as quickly as possible, and will benefit everyone around the world. It is also the best investment every country can make – national economies would see the return on investment in less than 36 hours once global mobility and trade can be safely restored.

Against the ACT-A’s US$38.1 billion total needs, US$5.1 billion has been committed to date, alongside down payments of US$4.8 billion through COVAX self-financing countries. To accelerate the end to the greatest global health crisis in our history, leaders must act boldly and quickly.

Africa Mask Week Rallies Continent to Continue Wearing Masks to Stop COVID-19

Cases of and deaths from COVID-19 are on the rise in Africa, nearing 2M and surpassing 46K, respectively as of the date of this blog. Despite the increasing spread, there is a low perception of both the risk of contracting the virus and of the severity of the disease, particularly among young people. But communities across the continent have demonstrated great resilience in the face of economic and epidemiological uncertainty over the last several months. It is crucial that this momentum continues until COVID-19 is brought under control.

To fuel that momentum, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the African Union Office of the Youth Envoy, the African Youth Front on Coronavirus, Resolve to Save Lives, and Pandemic Action Network are teaming up with more than 75 partners to launch Africa Mask Week – November 23-30, 2020. Building off of the success and learnings of World Mask Week, Africa Mask Week is a social media campaign focused on increasing and encouraging proper mask-wearing across the African continent, especially among young people. We are engaging influencers in sports, politics, and within local communities to champion the effort and lead by example and #WearAMask, and working with dozens of organizations around the world and on the continent to get the message out.

Africa Mask Week is a reminder that we must continue to wear masks to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. The campaign is a call-to-action to the public to continue masking to protect themselves and their communities and a call-to-action to leaders and influencers to lead by example by practicing and promoting consistent mask-wearing. With your help, we can lay the foundation for pro-masking messages and behaviors to be carried through Africa Mask Week and beyond.

Lend your voice and help us spread the word!

Here’s how you can get involved throughout Africa Mask Week, November 23-30:

  • Adapt and share content across platforms using our sample social media posts from our social media and communications toolkit.
  • Highlight your involvement throughout the week by using the hashtag #AfricaMaskWeek.
  • Follow, retweet, share or like content from the Network.
  • Create your own content with people across your organization who are wearing masks during #AfricaMaskWeek and beyond.
  • Take a selfie of yourself wearing a face covering that covers your nose and mouth. Get creative with fabric patterns and designs – we want to see how you style your mask!
  • If you can, tag the Pandemic Action Network in your custom posts and we will amplify with partners and through our social channels.
  • Make it personal: Issue a #WearAMask challenge to your followers by posting a photo tagged #WearAMask #AfricaMaskWeek and tag friends to do the same!

 

Guaranteeing Equitable Access: Considerations During Vaccine Development Impacting Global Access

As world leaders come together to strategize how best to inoculate against, test for, and treat COVID-19 across the world, they must prioritize equity in their agendas to end this pandemic as swiftly as possible. The Pandemic Action Network’s Ending Barriers to Equitable Access Working Group has crafted a briefing with key considerations for decision-makers to ensure vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics reach those who need it most, when they need it most. We are all at risk until this disease is defeated internationally. We must ensure that low- and middle-income countries and vulnerable groups have equitable access to the tools needed to fight COVID-19 on every front. Read the full paper here.

Contributors to the paper include Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevölkerung (DSW), Global Citizen, Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC), PATH, and VillageReach. Special thank you to DSW for design support.

Statement on President-Elect Biden’s Announcement of Ron Klain as Next White House Chief of Staff

The Pandemic Action Network welcomes President-elect Joe Biden’s appointment of Ron Klain to serve as the White House Chief of Staff for President-elect Biden.

Together with the Biden-Harris transition team’s announcement earlier this week of a seven-point plan to fight COVID-19 and a COVID-19 Advisory Board of seasoned public health experts, Klain’s appointment is a welcome signal that the incoming administration will make pandemics a top priority.

Network Co-founders Gabrielle Fitzgerald and Carolyn Reynolds stated, “Getting the COVID-19 pandemic under control is job one for the Biden-Harris Administration. Ron’s experience as Ebola Czar and his continuing advocacy will bring a strong manager and voice on pandemic threats to the White House. When it comes to pandemics, it’s time to break the cycle of panic and neglect once and for all. The Pandemic Action Network looks forward to working with the Biden-Harris Administration to do everything we can to end this pandemic and invest in better preparedness in the United States and around the world so that this never happens again.”

It’s Time for Africa Mask Week

By Nahashon Alouka, Regional Advisor for East and South Africa, Pandemic Action Network

As the world continues to be ravaged by the novel coronavirus, Africa has not been spared. With current cases exceeding 1.8 million and 43,000 deaths, Africa may have not yet suffered the exponential spread of infection as initially feared by many, but we are not out of the woods. If the recent alarming rises in cases in other parts of the world are any indicator for future risk and as more countries on the continent begin to report high daily infection rates, now is the time to be vigilant to protect our communities.

That’s why the Pandemic Action Network, together with Africa CDC, the Office of the AU Youth Envoy, Resolve to Save Lives, and 55+ partner organizations are launching Africa Mask Week from November 23-30 to accelerate and sustain mask-wearing to help stop the spread of COVID-19 on the continent. Africa Mask Week will rally a social media movement of leaders and people to share and show that when we wear a mask, we are protecting our friends, our families, and our communities. 

Africa Mask Week aims to engage people across the continent with the support of the Risk Communication and Community Engagement Working Group and many other national partners. The campaign seeks to further awareness and understanding of the risks associated with COVID-19, influence increased adoption of mask-wearing as the new normal, encourage effective formulation and enforcement of policies on mandatory use of masks in public places, and influence policymakers to model proper masking behavior.

Until there are vaccines or medicines to fight COVID-19, wearing a mask is one of the best tools we have, especially when combined with physical distancing and hand washing. Overall, mask use in Africa is declining, but the COVID-19 pandemic is not over. We need leaders and the public to keep practicing what works to stop the spread. “COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by the transfer of droplets. As the pandemic continues to gain momentum in Africa, we must increase compliance to the public health and social measures so we can protect ourselves and protect our economy. We must increase mass wearing of masks as we expand testing and treatment services,” said Dr. John Nkengasong, Director of Africa CDC.

Today, more than 40 African countries have enacted policies on mandatory use of masks in public. The implementation has, however, been inconsistent and, in some cases, marred by human rights violations. Furthermore, there are documented rumors, untruths, and stigmatization of those who wear masks.

Africa Mask Week is an opportunity to turn the tide on inconsistent masking and misperceptions. Recent COVID-19 KAP survey data reveals that there is a high awareness and value for masking in Africa with 84 percent of respondents saying that wearing a face mask in public when near others is “absolutely necessary”. But we know that we are not practicing masking consistently and COVID-19 is not going away any time soon. It is important that we accelerate and sustain mask-wearing on the continent to reduce the spread of infections in our communities. There is increasing evidence in support of masking:

  • Face coverings block the spray of droplets from sneezing, coughing, talking, singing or shouting when worn over the mouth and nose. They serve as barriers that help prevent droplets from traveling into the air.1,2,3
  • Since people may have COVID-19, but not know it or have symptoms, consistent mask-wearing can reduce the spread of the virus.4,5 
  • A study published in The Lancet examined data from 172 studies from 16 countries and six continents and found that face mask use could result in a large reduction in the risk of infection.6

 

Join us for Africa Mask Week – November 23-30 – by engaging your networks including policymakers, traditional and religious leaders, celebrities and other influencers, friends, and community members. Lead by example and #WearAMask to protect your community. Together we can stop the spread of COVID-19.

Contact: Autumn Lerner, Director of Communications, Pandemic Action Network at [email protected]

Multilateralism Matters: Why the U.S. Should Stay in the WHO

By Carolyn Reynolds, Co-Founder, Pandemic Action Network

*This blog is adapted from an article published in CQ Researcher, September 2020

As the world marks United Nations Day on October 24 – in the midst of a pandemic with no end in sight ― it’s a good moment to reflect on how much the United States benefits from the UN, and in particular its membership in the World Health Organization (WHO). U.S. membership in the WHO is on the ballot in the presidential election, with the current Administration’s decision to initiate withdrawal of the U.S. from the WHO. On the other side, Democratic nominee Joe Biden has said that if he were to be elected President he would reverse the decision on day one in office.

The choice is clear: the WHO serves U.S. interests in several ways, and never more so than now.

First, as the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, infectious disease outbreaks anywhere in the world can quickly put American lives and livelihoods at risk. Until a vaccine exists and is widely and equitably delivered around the world, no country will be safe from COVID-19. Ending the pandemic requires a united global effort, in which the WHO plays an indispensable role. Countries worldwide rely on the WHO’s expertise to lead the global response to the pandemic, from providing technical guidance on proven interventions to coordinating international efforts to accelerate research, development, and universal access to a COVID-19 vaccine and to therapeutics. The WHO-coordinated Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) and Solidarity Trial are unprecedented global efforts that will increase the likelihood of ending the pandemic faster.

Second, the WHO has led global efforts to combat a host of other infectious disease threats. The eradication in 1980 of smallpox, which killed an estimated 300 million people during the 20th century, is one of the agency’s greatest achievements. With sustained WHO leadership, the world is now extremely close to eradicating polio, down to just 176 cases worldwide in 2019.  U.S. political and economic support has been vital to this effort, and withdrawal could stall efforts to end this debilitating scourge. International efforts to fight influenza, HIV/AIDS, malaria, measles, and tuberculosis also depend on the WHO for support.

Third, the WHO provides the backbone for the world’s infectious disease early warning system.  Working closely with experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the WHO helps governments assess their pandemic preparedness gaps and mobilize early detection and response efforts. U.S. withdrawal will hobble that capacity and leave a major hole in the common global defense against growing pandemic threats.

Both the WHO and the United States have lessons to learn from this pandemic. While the WHO’s emergency response capacity has improved considerably in recent years, all agree it can be strengthened. An independent panel has been established to review the global COVID-19 response and what governments, the WHO, and the international system could do differently to improve their preparedness and response. But scapegoating the WHO for COVID-19 is a political distraction. The agency, which lacks the ability to compel member states to act, is only as effective as its members – particularly its most powerful member and largest donor – will allow.

Leaving the WHO will further erode U.S. influence on the global stage. It would be ill-advised at any time, but to do so as the world grapples with the mounting health and economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic is unfathomable. Only global solidarity and a coordinated, multilateral approach will bring us safely out of this war against a deadly virus that knows no borders.

America needs the WHO, and the WHO needs America. The U.S. should not only stay in, it should also step up its support ― to end this pandemic and help prevent the next one.

“Vaccines Don’t Deliver Themselves, Health Workers Do.” – Last Mile Health CEO Raj Panjabi at World Bank and IMF Annual Meeting on COVID-19

 

On October 21, 2020, Last Mile Health CEO Dr. Raj Panjabi shared the following remarks at the World Bank Group and IMF Annual Meeting event on “Investing in COVID-19 Vaccines & Primary Health Care Delivery Systems.”

This summer, I came home after testing patients in a COVID-19 clinic where I was forced to reuse the same gown all day. When I got home, I didn’t want to risk infecting my family. So I took off all my clothes before entering the front door. My children were amused, but I was worried.

And I have been even more worried for my fellow health workers around the world. Without masks, community health workers knock on doors in the poorest neighborhoods to find COVID-19 patients. Without face shields, midwives try to deliver babies in community clinics. Without gloves, nurses canoe across rivers to deliver vaccines to families in the rainforest.

We applaud frontline health workers as heroes. We respect them but don’t protect them. Over 7,000 unprotected health workers have died from COVID-19.

We pray for them but don’t pay them. Over $1 trillion of work by women in health care – many as community health workers, nurses and midwives – goes unpaid.

Yes, vaccines can save lives. Yes, vaccines can speed up economic recovery. But no, vaccines will not be a ‘magic bullet’ – because vaccines don’t deliver themselves, health workers do.

We are honored to partner with many of you to invest in paying and protecting community-based health workers. We know this isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. We know every dollar we invest in community health workers returns ten dollars to the economy through saving lives and creating jobs. During this recovery, we should ask not only how our health policies, but also economic initiatives, can seize this opportunity to protect lives and livelihoods at the same time.

When epidemics like smallpox and polio threatened to bring humanity to its knees, community-based health workers did not surrender. They went door-to-door to vaccinate billions around the world. Now, health workers are prepared to go as far as it takes to control COVID-19. The question is, are we prepared to go as far as it takes to invest in them?

 

G20 Leaders Must Turn Words Into Action on Pandemic Response and Preparedness

By Eloise Todd

The G20 Finance Ministers meeting conclusions yesterday contained some important steps forward that will provide more resources to developing countries to fight COVID-19 and mitigate the impact on already vulnerable communities. Unfortunately, the meetings did not emphasize the need to take action on key health priorities of pandemic preparedness and prevention or on financing the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A).

There were at least some welcome concrete steps taken yesterday. Extending the Debt Service Suspension Initiative by six months, and promising to consider a further six-month extension, frees up important liquidity for indebted countries at a time when resources are scarce. Ongoing commitments to support domestic tax revenue generation and collection in developing countries also helps economies weather the storm of this pandemic.

But on health-specific investments, it was words, not action, that dominated. Pandemic preparedness appears in the outcome text, but as all too often, as the last pillar of all – almost an afterthought. Our investments in preventing future pandemics should be top of mind, rather than at the end of the list. The G20 Finance Ministers at least agree to “enhance resilience against future shocks,” including using G20 infrastructure efforts to increase the resilience of infrastructure, as well as committing to better understanding the range of risks that lead to pandemics. At the Pandemic Action Network, we would like to see the efforts to protect our countries from future waves and risks rolled out alongside – and where possible integrated with – COVID-19 response efforts. Every effort we make in the fight against COVID-19 should leave a longer-term legacy that better prepares our countries to more effectively deal with pandemic outbreaks and – where possible – prevent them at the source. Pandemic prevention and preparedness should be among the G20’s top priorities throughout this pandemic and beyond.

At a time of crisis, we also need good intentions to convert as quickly as possible into action. While the updates to the G20 Action Plan hit the right topics, we need to see moments like G20 Finance Ministerials being used as a place to write the checks, not just agree with the general principle that more money is needed. The update to Pillar 1 of the Action Plan: “Health Response – Saving Lives,” for example, states that the G20 countries are “committed to investing in an effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic to bring the spread of the virus under control and prevent further transmission” – noting that getting on top of the disease is ultimately the only way in which our economies will recover. The reference highlighting the role of the ACT-A as a way in which we can take “forward our collective action to accelerate the research, development, manufacturing and distribution of COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines” is also welcome. But with the financing gap for 2020 hovering above $14B and just over two months to go until the end of the year, a meeting of the world’s most powerful Finance Ministers must lead to immediate action in the midst of a global pandemic. Not only does that gap need to be filled, but the time it takes from pledging funds to disbursement must be accelerated so that the time lag does not cost needless delays, and ultimately, lives.

As the Pandemic Action Network works with partners to encourage vaccinations and better understand vaccine hesitancy, we welcome the G20 showing a united front in “recognising the role of extensive immunization against COVID-19 as a global public good for health.” We also recognize that this important statement must be translated into action in the weeks and months ahead.

The G20 has a responsibility not only to free up liquidity, but also to direct funds from their own countries – the richest in the world with the access to the most diverse set of financial tools – toward the world’s most urgent priorities. The G20 Leaders’ Summit, then, is the opportunity for leaders to deliver more than in principle statements, and take responsibility for directing funds to the most urgent needs.

We call on leaders heading into the November Summit to convert two clear priorities into action: first, they should ratchet pandemic prevention and preparedness up the priority list; and second, they should turn their strong support for the ACT-A into much-needed funding to help fill the more than $14B funding gap. We will work alongside partners and governments to help encourage these outcomes, but decision makers need to use every opportunity they have to deliver concrete actions and funding in the weeks and months ahead. The longer they procrastinate, the longer it will take us to get a handle on COVID-19 and lives and livelihoods will be needlessly lost. Next month, leaders have to deliver – there is simply no time to delay.

Pandemic Action Agenda: What World Leaders Should Do to Help Prevent the Next Pandemic

With global COVID-19 cases set to surpass 50 million and spiking across the United States and Europe, world leaders are gathering in a series of international summits to discuss what they will do to stop the pandemic. The current crisis demands urgent and united action as a global community, as no country will be safe from the virus until every country is safe.

But this pandemic didn’t have to happen, and the next one won’t wait. As they fight the current battle, leaders must also take steps NOW to bolster our global and national defenses against emerging pandemic threats before they materialize.

Synthesizing lessons of what has gone wrong in COVID-19 and in previous outbreaks and epidemics, the Pandemic Action Network’s Global Health Security Architecture Working Group has identified six priorities for international action to ensure the world is better prepared for the next pandemic. These are captured in our brief Pandemic Action Agenda paper released last month.

 

 

Pandemic Action Agenda Series

Now we’re pleased to release a series of Pandemic Action Agenda papers which expand on each of the six priority areas for action:

Pandemic Action Agenda Summary: Calling on world leaders to strengthen the global health security architecture and governance and make the world better prepared for pandemics. 

Global Health R&D: Bolstering the global research and development architecture for health security.

Outbreak Detection: Enhancing the availability and use of reliable data and early warning systems to drive more effective preparedness and response to outbreaks.

Pandemic Financing: Mobilizing sufficient funding for national pandemic preparedness and global response efforts. 

Country Capacity: Enhancing countries’ capacity to prevent and respond to outbreaks through technical assistance and improving health security infrastructure.

Pandemic Supplies: Solving supply chain bottlenecks and ramping up regional and local production and delivery to ensure health workers everywhere have access to sufficient quality personal protective equipment (PPE) and other frontline health supplies.

Metrics and Evaluation: Increasing accountability through more effective mechanisms to assess—and fill gaps in—country preparedness levels. COMING SOON

 

What You Can Do

Advocate for action. Help us deliver the Pandemic Action Agenda directly to key decision-makers in your country and international organizations, and press them to take action on these issues. Contact Naomi Komuro at [email protected] and let us know who you can reach (or we can give you ideas!). 

Spread the word. Share the #PandemicActionAgenda on your social media channels and through other communications within your networks to help build us momentum to prioritize global preparedness. Find the social toolkit here

Hold leaders to account. Sustained advocacy and communications are essential to avoid repeating the cycle of panic and neglect when it comes to deadly outbreaks. Follow up with decision-makers through emails, meetings or events, and ask them share what they are doing to respond to the Pandemic Action Agenda—and let us know what you learn to inform our ongoing advocacy efforts. 

Every effort we make in the fight against COVID-19 should leave a longer-term legacy that better prepares humanity to more effectively deal with outbreaks and pandemics and—when possible—to prevent them at the source. 

Want to learn more? Please contact Carolyn Reynolds, Co-Founder, Pandemic Action Network at [email protected]

 

Global Partnerships Are Our Due North in the Fight Against This Pandemic

This was the week of partnerships. On Wednesday 30 September, organizations came together in different ways to help end the pandemic. The WHO, FIND, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome, CEPI, GAVI, the Global Fund and UNITAID gave the final lift-off to the Action for COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) which needs to raise $38B in total. The ACT-A  partnership is providing “an integrated ‘end-to-end’ global solution that targets the root cause of the crisissevere COVID-19 disease – to accelerate the end of the pandemic”, with the aim of providing diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines globally and equitably, as well as strengthening health systems so they can deliver these tools and other essential products.

At the ACT-A event, hosted by the UK, South Africa, the WHO and the UN, two more partnerships were announced. The World Bank dug deep from its extraordinary COVID-19 funds to empower lower-middle-income countries to be able to provide their own citizens with COVID vaccines when the time comes. Also, pharma companies and the Gates Foundation announced they are holding themselves publicly accountable to delivering equitable access for the whole world – not just high-income countries. Here’s the detail on what happened at the ACT-A launch:

  1. Funds were raised towards ACT-A’s $38B target – but we need way more.

With $3B already raised, and a $35B funding gap to fill, $15B of which is urgently needed this year, pledges from the UK (GBP 500M in total, though half of that needs match funding), Canada (CAD 200m) and another EUR100m from Germany were welcome – as was $10m from Sweden – but those contributions only closed the urgent $15B funding gap by $933M. We still have a long way to go. On the positive side, the UK has invested over a billion in total (if we include their match fund) – and may still invest more. We need the other big countries to follow the UK lead. In the US, advocates are pushing for $8B for two key ACT-A agencies, and we will be looking to the G20 to work together and dig deep to fill the gap urgently in the coming weeks, with a close eye on the over $14B amount that still needs to be found in 2020. Much of the money raised so far has been for the COVAX pillar of ACT-A – a global risk-sharing mechanism for pooled procurement and equitable distribution of eventual vaccines for COVID. We need to take care that funds for crucial diagnostics, therapeutics and health systems support and PPE are also raised – we will be looking to donors to fund the ACT-A’s urgent needs based on their detailed economic investment case and costing plan.

  1. There was a welcome $12bn pledge from the World Bank – but it may not count towards the $35B ACT-A funding gap.

President David Malpass of the World Bank Group pledged a very welcome $12B to help LMICs to purchase their own vaccines. However, it’s not clear yet whether these funds will help close the specific funding gaps of ACT-A for a few reasons. First, ACT-A partners will need to look at whether this money going to individual countries maps against particular procurement needs; second, these funds are more likely to come onstream in 2021; and third, the decision is yet to be fully approved. All that said, even if this is not part of the ACT-A funding effort, giving LMICs the right to bid for their own vaccines is an important step towards equity, and to getting these countries tooled up to fight COVID-19, and is extremely welcome.

  1. Pharma companies signed up to a new commitment to equity with the Gates Foundation.

Wednesday also saw the launch of a communique signed by the CEOs of 16 pharmaceutical companies and the co-chairs of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, committing to enable affordability for lower-income countries and to support effective and equitable distribution of innovations globally, while ensuring public confidence in those innovations with a commitment to safety.

The communique contains key commitments to deliver vaccines to the developing world. These commitments include:

  • The expansion of clinical trials to account for diverse representation including lower-income settings and addressing the specific product characteristics needed in these settings.
  • Ensuring timely availability. Delivering these effective innovations to countries around the world for broad distribution as early as possible, no matter their income level.
  • Ensuring that products are affordable in lower-income countries.
  • Striving for equitable allocation of products and support global mechanisms like COVAX, the vaccine pillar of ACT-A.

Having the pharma industry pushing for equity on the inside of the COVAX partnership, among others, will be vital in helping push countries towards a multilateral, collective response that distributes vaccines. This will ensure that the most lives are saved and the disease is stamped out in the fastest possible way, overriding bilateral approaches that would in fact cause much more economic and human cost by prolonging the pandemic unnecessarily.

The scale and unprecedented nature of these different partnerships involve governments, private sector, health agencies and foundations, among others, and show how the world has scrambled the jets and is learning  to work in new innovative ways to try and rid the world of COVID-19, and ensure the cures for this disease do not simply go to the highest bidders.

Now the hard work starts to deliver on this vision. At the Pandemic Action Network, we and many of our partners will be focused on raising the full $38B for the ACT Accelerator over the coming 6 months through our weekly Resource Mobilisation working group, to which all those working on the same objective are welcome. We will also be working assiduously to make sure that the global allocation frameworks deliver tools equitably around the world – so that the delivery of tests, therapies and vaccines, like the disease itself, does not discriminate between rich and poor. We will provide strong support, and a close eye on the policies and processes to help put wind in the backs of all those who are fighting for an equitable, global response to this crisis, wherever they sit within or outside these partnerships.

Together, we’ll succeed – because we must.

If you are advocating to help raise $38B for ACT-A, please contact [email protected] or [email protected] for more details on our Resource Mobilisation working group or any other aspects of our work.