What To Know Before the G7 Leaders’ Summit

The G7 Leaders’ Summit is just around the corner, and — as one of the five priorities of the German Presidency — pandemic preparedness and response is expected to have a central role in the meeting. In Germany’s own words, this year’s program aims “to expand the G7’s pioneering role in the commitment to pandemic prevention and control as well as improving the international health architecture.” While this might be a good omen for relevant agreements and commitments, the G7’s record on pandemics is not consistent and makes many of us wary. So, what do we need to know to understand the landscape and ensure this G7 goes beyond a series of photo ops and warm words?

A bit of historical background… Seven years ago, under the German Presidency as well, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa drove forward similar promises to those on the table in 2022. The 2015 Elmau Declaration contained crucial commitments, including support for the “World Bank to develop a Pandemic Emergency Facility” advanced by the G20 and strengthening of a mechanism for rapid response to pandemics. Side note, the 2015 declaration also includes clear language on “finding a solution to the conflict in Ukraine.” Déjà vu, anyone? We know that over the following years, these commitments lost traction and their implementation lagged. The following declarations — 2016 Ise Shima Declaration, 2017 Taormina Declaration, 2018 Charlevoix Declaration, and the 2019 Biarritz Declaration — progressively erased pandemics off the agenda until it made it back in 2020, this time under an unprecedented global crisis.   

So, what tells us that 2022 could be different? Germany’s G7 leadership this year is a reason for optimism. The country has made significant contributions to the ACT-Accelerator, has supported and raised funds for the COVAX Advance Market Commitment mechanism, and also committed financial contributions to CEPI and the forthcoming new Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response Fund at the World Bank. Moreover, in preparation for the Summit, Germany has convened high-level officials to discuss pandemics and pave the way for the Leaders’ Summit.

The G7’s preparatory work in May provides some hints and insights about what agreements might be in the making. Here’s a summary of the outcomes and work of the following Ministers’ meetings:

  • Foreign Ministers. They have mainly focused on the G7’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and on addressing gaps in the global vaccination campaign. On May 13, they released an “Action Plan on COVID-19,” which aims to align the group’s response efforts. In its last communiqué, they also noted that they are already working on “planning the ongoing COVID-19 response for 2023” but didn’t share specific details.
  • Health Ministers. Their last communiqué provides an overview of the issues and variables shaping the conversation and shows how the G7 is looking into preventing future pandemics and enhancing the world’s response to pandemic threats. Recently they released a concept note for a “G7 Pact for Pandemic Readiness,” which has a strong emphasis on surveillance. It is unclear though if other essential aspects for pandemic preparedness will also be considered by the group and how.  
  • Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors. As they are responsible for aligning commitments and funding, their last communiqué helps to understand what are the competing priorities. They expressed support for the establishment of the new Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response Fund, hosted by the World Bank, but they clearly stated that a broader group of countries should contribute financially as well. 
  • Development Ministers. This group has discussed the effects of COVID-19, as shown in their last communiqué, and has worked with Health Ministers to accelerate the G7’s response to ending the pandemic globally — putting emphasis on access to vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics — and increasing countries’ capacities on pandemic preparedness and response. It stands out that their support for expanding access to vaccines, testing, and therapeutics worldwide seems to rely only on voluntary technology transfer and not in more proactive measures. 

What’s missing, and what’s ahead? If after reviewing these different pieces you get a feeling that something is missing, you are not alone. So far, the information proactively disclosed by the German Presidency does not reveal specific actions or preliminary plans. It remains unclear how most of the commitments will be advanced and turn into concrete changes. With the information available up to this point, this next G7 Leaders’ Summit could yield good commitments but the risk of forgetting them in the coming years might be as present as in 2015. As such, the six months following the Leaders’ Summit will be critical to ensuring clear actions and setting the stage for Japan to pick up the G7 leadership baton in 2023.

If you are attending the G7, please let us know! Otherwise, stay in touch on social media.

Investing in Global Health Security: How to Build a Fund for Pandemic Preparedness in 2022

Health experts from around the world have warned for years that countries, regional bodies, and global institutions must invest more in critical capacities to prevent, detect, and respond to epidemic and pandemic threats. The COVID-19 pandemic—with more than six million deaths to date and costs to the global economy estimated by the International Monetary Fund to reach at least $12.5 trillion through 2024—is the latest, and most devastating, crisis to underscore the need to shape and sustainably fund long-term pandemic preparedness capacities globally.

On April 21, 2022, immediately after G20 finance ministers and central bank governors reached consensus to establish a new Fund for preparedness at the World Bank, a group of leading experts and stakeholders from governments, civil society, academia, and multilateral institutions working in global health, global health security, and biodefense met to review progress and offer advice on next steps.

This paper reflects the key takeaways from that conversation and aims to inform next steps to structure, approve, and launch a new Fund, including the consultative process led by the World Bank.

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

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

CEPI’s Unique Impact Opportunity: Pandemic Preparedness & Response R&D

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was founded with the mission to accelerate the development of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases (EID) and enable equitable access for all during outbreaks. Less than three years after its start, CEPI’s quick response during the COVID-19 pandemic propelled the development and manufacturing of new vaccines and it was the only entity with the mandate to invest in de-risking COVID-19 vaccine research and development (R&D) with global access in mind. CEPI’s role fills some of the critical gaps that governments do not address and on March 7-8, the U.K. Government will host the CEPI replenishment at the Pandemic Preparedness Summit. The replenishment aims to raise US$3.5 billion for the delivery of CEPI’s critical 2022-2026 strategy to accelerate the development of vaccines and other health tools against epidemic and pandemic threats.

Produced by Pandemic Action Network and DSW, CEPI’s Unique Impact Opportunity: Pandemic Preparedness & Response R&D examines the characteristics and ways in which CEPI is distinctly positioned to bolster global and regional health security initiatives, especially through vaccine R&D against EIDs, to ensure the world is equipped to end the COVID crisis for everyone and is better prepared for the next pandemic.

Key messages of the brief explainer include:

  • CEPI is uniquely positioned to address global pandemic threats through vaccine R&D for emerging infectious diseases.
  • Because of its commitment to equitable access for the global good, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, CEPI’s work leads to increased access and distribution of much-needed vaccines to traditionally underserved populations.
  • Building on its role, investments, and relationships, CEPI delivers catalytic impact globally in pandemic preparedness and response.
  • CEPI fills critical gaps in the vaccine R&D ecosystem that would otherwise go unfilled.
  • Emerging infectious diseases, such as COVID-19, do not recognize international borders. CEPI’s global mandate naturally complements regional and national R&D institutions that work to counter pandemic threats.

Read the full brief.

Amplify these messages using our social media toolkit.

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.

Bridging the Innovation Gap to Prevent the Next Pandemic — Policy Brief

The world was woefully unprepared to prevent or rapidly respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the result of decades of failure by national and global policymakers to address pandemics as a systemic and growing threat. A glaring weakness is that the ecosystem for pandemic preparedness research and development (R&D) — the system that is meant to develop vaccines, treatments, and other tools for known and unknown health threats — is rife with market and systems failures that prevent it from operating efficiently, effectively, and equitably.

While pandemics can affect the whole world and create large, global markets for vaccines, treatments, and other technologies, those markets have repeatedly failed to respond with the foresight and urgency needed to match the scale, scope, and unpredictability of pandemic threats. The world must urgently address the persistent market and systems failures in the global health R&D ecosystem to prepare for the next pandemic threat.

This policy brief, prepared by Pandemic Action Network, covers the market and systems failures in the pandemic preparedness R&D ecosystem and lays out the unique role that the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) plays in leveraging partnerships and incentives to counter the failures as one key step in building a smarter, more effective and equitable pandemic R&D ecosystem.

Read the policy brief here and the full analysis here.

Addressing Market Failures: The Role of CEPI in Bridging the Innovation Gap to Prevent the Next Pandemic

The global response to COVID-19 not only shows that the world was ill-prepared to prevent and respond to a pandemic caused by a novel respiratory pathogen, but also that there are an array of system and market failures in global health research and development (R&D). Solving for these failures ― and building a ready and sustainable R&D ecosystem for pandemic preparedness ― will be critical to advancing global health security and preventing future infectious disease outbreaks from becoming the next deadly and costly pandemic.

Addressing Market Failures: The Role of CEPI in Bridging the Innovation Gap to Prevent the Next Pandemic, produced by Volta Capital, Pandemic Action Network, and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (ACDC), examines global health R&D failures to help inform policy and funding decisions to bolster preparedness and response for emerging pandemic threats. In particular, the paper considers the unique role of CEPI in addressing some of these failures, its strengths and challenges in the COVID-19 response, and the role it can play through its new strategy to bolster future epidemic and pandemic preparedness.

Key findings of the paper include:

  • Longstanding and persistent market and systems failures in global health R&D, especially for vaccines against novel pathogens, have left the world at grave risk of deadly and costly pandemics.
  • The world cannot wait for the next pandemic to bolster investments in R&D and preparedness for emerging infectious disease threats.
  • CEPI has a key role to play in a better prepared global R&D ecosystem.

To learn more, read the full analysis Addressing Market Failures: The Role of CEPI in Bridging the Innovation Gap to Prevent the Next Pandemic and the accompanying policy brief.

Share the key messages using our social media toolkit.

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.

Calling for a New Multilateral Financing Mechanism for Global Health Security and Pandemic Preparedness

People and countries around the world continue to suffer from the devastating human, economic, and social costs of being unprepared for a deadly pandemic like COVID-19. This crisis is a call-to-action. World leaders must seize this opportunity to leave a legacy of a healthier and safer world — starting with a new global financing mechanism that provides robust and sustained investments in pandemic prevention and preparedness. At the 2021 United Nations General Assembly, world leaders should launch a 100-day action plan to establish and resource a new financing mechanism, or Fund, that can mobilize at least US$10 billion annually over the next five years to bolster global health security and pandemic preparedness. History has shown time and again that if action is not taken during a crisis, then political will dissipates once the crisis fades from view. An expedited timeline for establishing the Fund will provide a critical new tool for the ongoing COVID-19 response efforts and create continuity between the pandemic response and recovery activities while bridging to escalated and sustained efforts on pandemic preparedness.  This policy brief, prepared by contributors from the Center for Global Development, Pandemic Action Network, and Nuclear Threat Initiative, is intended to inform and guide ongoing conversations among governments and non-governmental stakeholders on the parameters and design of the new Fund and action plan. Read the policy brief here.
This policy brief, prepared by contributors from the Center for Global Development, Pandemic Action Network, and Nuclear Threat Initiative, is intended to inform and guide ongoing conversations among governments and non-governmental stakeholders on the parameters and design of the new Fund and action plan.

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!

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.

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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

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.

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

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!

 

 

 

 

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.

The Next Pandemic Won’t Wait: An Agenda for Action to Strengthen Global Preparedness

While the world is focused on the COVID-19 response, we cannot afford to continue to ignore or delay action to bolster global preparedness for emerging pandemic threats. The Pandemic Action Network released a brief paper with topline recommendations from our Global Health Security Architecture working group urging world leaders to take steps now that will help prevent the next pandemic. Read the paper here.

Why Masks Matter

The Pandemic Action team has released a briefing on Why Masks Matter, detailing the growing evidence that wearing a mask or face covering can help slow the spread of the disease and save lives – especially when paired with handwashing, social distancing and when governments introduce effective test and trace policies. Until we have widely available treatments or a vaccine for COVID-19, it is up to every one of us to step up and do all we can to help beat this disease.

The evidence is piling up as to the effectiveness of mask-wearing. Masks are effective because they block large droplets from the wearer of the mask before they become aerosolized. New evidence also shows that mask wearing can reduce the amount of viral load that is passed on – lessening the severity of the impact of the disease on others .

Mask-wearing protects the people around you – my mask protects you and yours protects me, and there is increasing evidence masks help protect the wearer too. So, who should wear a mask, and when? We believe that to fight this pandemic as swiftly and effectively as possible, mask wearing needs to become the new normal. Here’s why:

First, people may have COVID-19 without knowing it. Studies show that people infected with COVID-19 may start to be infectious 1-3 days before the onset of their symptoms and they could even be most infectious in the 24 hours before symptoms appear. This underlines how important it is to wear a mask even when we’re feeling fine—plus some people may never show symptoms, but still have the ability to infect others.

Second, the effectiveness of universal masking could be comparable to that of a societal lockdown. Without the enormous economic, social, health and educational costs of closed workplaces, schools, and public spaces and limited geographical mobility. Mask-wearing is a complementary measure to other measures taken by governments, but right now huge decisions that are affecting everyone’s lives, education and livelihoods are being taken often before universal masking and other behaviours have been made policy and communicated widely. Modelling report cited in our brief shows that if everyone wore a mask, we could diminish the scale and the impact of COVID-19 swiftly.

Third, countries are starting to feel the benefits. An Oxford University study found that in countries where face coverings have been introduced as a national policy (often but not always alongside other measures), transmission rates fell in the subsequent days.

For all these reasons and more, we are calling for clear, comprehensive guidance on mask-wearing in public spaces. Our recommendations call for governments to make mask-wearing mandatory in public as well as properly enforce mask-wearing,  communicate the benefits of mask-wearing to the public, ensure mask supplies for healthcare and other frontline workers while also encouraging the public to wear face coverings. We also ask that they lead by example and wear a mask themselves. We call on businesses to adopt and implement mask-wearing policies and for everyone, everywhere, to don a mask when they leave their home. This simple measure can work if enough of us take collective action, wherever we are around the world.

Get involved, get your mask on, take a selfie and tag your friends to share widely. This is how we can help get this disease under control – together we can beat this if we #WearAMask, this #WorldMaskWeek and every week.

Break the Cycle of Panic and Neglect: Preventing the Next Pandemic

Time for unprecedented international cooperation say global health organizations

In the wake of the US decision to terminate the relationship with the World Health Organization (WHO), Pandemic Action Network and leading global health organizations have published a brief paper outlining some of the critical steps that the world needs to take to prevent pandemics.

The report sets out a key challenge for global leaders to work together in an unprecedented way to end COVID-19 as swiftly as possible and prepare for future pandemic threats.

The report, published jointly by the Pandemic Action Network, ONE, PATH, Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), Global Health Security Agenda Consortium (GHSAC), Management Sciences for Health (MSH) and Global Citizen highlights how years of ‘panic and neglect’ in the international health system has led to inadequate preparedness for pandemics in every country, resulting in the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives to COVID-19. Among the report’s recommendations is to strengthen WHO. Read the report HERE.