KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

Amid Wait For COVID-19 Vaccines, LMICs Push For WTO To Temporarily Waive Intellectual Property Protections For Vaccines, Treatments, Diagnostics

Devex: At WTO, a battle for access to COVID-19 vaccines
“High-income countries appear to be maneuvering to avoid a showdown at the World Trade Organization’s General Council meeting, beginning Wednesday, over a proposal to temporarily waive intellectual property protections for all COVID-19 vaccines and other technologies. With the United Kingdom, United States, and Canada already immunizing their citizens and high-income countries laying claim to the vast majority of current and future vaccine doses, supporters of the waiver argue that it is more critical than ever…” (Green, 12/15).

NBC News: Covid-19 vaccines are being hoarded by rich countries — poor ones are missing out
“Lost among the jubilation of America’s vaccine rollout this week is an uncomfortable reality: The world’s poorest countries will have to wait months and possibly years to see any doses at all. … In this critical game of medicine logistics — where supply is small but demand immediate and universal — campaigners and some officials accuse these wealthy nations of snapping up orders and hoarding more than they need…” (Smith, 12/16).

Science: As COVID-19 vaccines emerge, a global waiting game begins
“…The COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility, set up by the World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners to help purchase and distribute proven vaccines, was meant to avert such inequity. But COVAX is strapped for cash and its impact remains to be seen…” (Cohen/Kupferschmidt, 12/15).

Additional coverage of the United States’ coronavirus vaccine rollout amid rising numbers of deaths and hospitalizations is available from STAT and Washington Post.

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E.U. Finalizes €500M In Grants, Loans For COVAX Advanced Market Commitment; U.K. Spending On Vaccines Reaches Nearly £12B; ACT Faces $28B Funding Shortfall, WHO Says

Devex: E.U. finalizes €500M boost for COVAX
“The European Union signed over a promised €100 million ($122 million) grant and €400 million loan to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance Tuesday, reinforcing efforts to ensure people in low- and middle-income countries have swift access to a COVID-19 vaccine. The money will be channeled through Gavi’s COVAX Advanced Market Commitment, which is working to make 1 billion vaccine doses available to people in 92 LMICs. The AMC is financed mainly through official development assistance, and philanthropic and private sector contributions…” (Chadwick/Ravelo, 12/16).

Financial Times: U.K. spending on Covid vaccines hits nearly £12bn, watchdog says
“The U.K.’s push to secure and administer hundreds of millions of doses of coronavirus vaccines is estimated to have cost up to £11.7bn so far, according to the public spending watchdog. The government has signed deals for five vaccines providing up to 267m doses at an expected cost of £2.9bn, with non-binding agreements with two other companies set to bring total provision to 357m doses, the National Audit Office said in a report published on Wednesday…” (Mancini, 12/15).

Reuters: New kinds of loans and bonds could fill $28 billion COVID funding gap: WHO
“The World Health Organization is looking at new financial instruments to help to fill a $28 billion funding shortfall for tools to fight COVID-19, a senior official said on Tuesday. … Bruce Aylward, a senior WHO adviser and its ACT coordinator, said that new financing mechanisms — including concessional loans and catastrophe bonds — were discussed at a meeting of the ACT facilitation council on Monday, co-chaired by Norway and South Africa…” (Nebehay/Farge, 12/15).

U.N. News: To end the pandemic, WHO says $28 billion ACT project is ‘the best deal in town’
“An international coalition aiming to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic needs $28 billion, a bargain price for stopping the damage done by a virus that has run rampant for the past year, a senior U.N. World Health Organization (WHO) official said on Tuesday. … The group has three big targets, Dr. Aylward said: two billion doses of vaccines at least by the end of 2021, 500 million new rapid diagnostics for low- and middle-income countries, and 250 million therapeutic tests…” (12/15).

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E.U. Medicines Agency Expected To Meet Dec. 21 To Consider Approval Of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine

AP: E.U. regulators move up Pfizer vaccine assessment to Dec. 21
“Facing strong pressure from Germany and other European Union nations, the bloc’s medicines agency on Tuesday moved up a meeting to assess the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to Dec. 21, likely bringing vaccinations a step closer for millions of E.U. citizens. The agency said it made the decision after receiving additional data from the vaccine makers. The announcement came after Germany’s health minister and others had publicly demanded that the agency move quicker than its previously planned Dec. 29 meeting at which it was to discuss approving the vaccine…” (Grieshaber et al., 12/15).

Additional coverage of the expected meeting is available from DW and Financial Times.

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BioNTech To Supply 100M Coronavirus Vaccine Doses To Chinese Partner Fosun Pharma

Financial Times: BioNTech set to become first foreign jab to enter China market
“BioNTech will supply 100m doses of its coronavirus vaccine to Chinese partner Fosun Pharma for use in mainland China next year in the country’s first publicly announced order of a foreign jab against the disease…” (Shepherd, 12/16).

Additional coverage of the agreement is available from Bloomberg.

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FDA Panel Endorses Moderna's Coronavirus Vaccine, Clearing Way For Approval Later This Week

The Hill: FDA endorses safety and efficacy of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine
“A coronavirus vaccine manufactured by Moderna is on the verge of authorization after Food and Drug Administration (FDA) scientists found it to be safe and 94 percent effective at preventing severe cases of COVID-19. The evidence will be discussed during a panel meeting of independent experts on Thursday. Based on the track taken by the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer and BioNTech, the FDA could grant emergency use authorization for the Moderna vaccine as soon as Friday…” (Weixel, 12/15).

Additional coverage of the FDA panel’s findings is available from Financial Times, New York Times, POLITICO, and Roll Call.

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FDA Authorizes Emergency Use Of Over-The-Counter, At-Home Rapid Test For Coronavirus

New York Times: New At-Home Covid Test Gets Green Light From FDA
“The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday issued an emergency authorization for the country’s first coronavirus test that can run from start to finish at home without the need for a prescription. People as young as 2 years old are cleared to use the test, which takes just 15 to 20 minutes to deliver a result. Unlike many similar products, which are only supposed to be used by people with symptoms of Covid-19, this test is authorized for people with or without symptoms. The test, developed by the Australian company Ellume, detects bits of coronavirus proteins called antigens…” (Wu, 12/15).

Additional coverage of the FDA’s authorization of the test is available from Axios, CNN, The Hill, NPR, POLITICO, USA TODAY, and Washington Post.

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AP Series Examines COVID-19 Pandemic At 1 Year, Various Nations' Responses

AP: A pandemic atlas: How COVID-19 took over the world in 2020
“Almost no place has been spared — and no one. The virus that first emerged a year ago in Wuhan, China, swept across the world in 2020, leaving havoc in its wake. More than any event in memory, the pandemic has been a global event. … Journalists from the Associated Press around the world assessed how the countries where they are posted have weathered the pandemic — and where those countries stand on the cusp of year two of the contagion…” (Multiple authors, 12/16).

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Quartz Examines Timelines For Vaccines Research, Development After Record Approval Of Coronavirus Vaccine

Quartz: Has Covid-19 permanently altered the development timetable for other vaccines?
“Creating vaccines, experts were careful to remind us at the beginning of the pandemic, takes time. It took two decades for researchers to develop a vaccine for polio, in 1953, and even longer to get a chickenpox vaccine, in 1995. … In more recent years the vaccine development timeline has been shortened and in some cases is now less than five years — the vaccine for SARS, for instance, was in development for two years. That was the timeline experts were expecting for Covid-19, too — but surpassing even the most optimistic expectations, it took less than a year to deliver the first vaccines…” (Merelli, 12/15).

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Visit Of E.U. Delegation To African Union Headquarters Sparked Fears Of Coronavirus Transmission Among Ethiopian Officials

POLITICO: Africa visit by E.U. officials set off coronavirus super-spreader fears
“A visit to Addis Ababa in October by a high-level delegation including E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell was designed to showcase a donation of 7.5 tons of coronavirus testing kits. Instead, it ended up setting off fears of a super-spreader event at the African Union headquarters and among top Ethiopian officials…” (Herszenhorn/Barigazzi, 12/16).

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Brazilian President Bolsonaro Remains Popular Despite Rising COVID-19 Cases, No Vaccination Plan

Al Jazeera: COVID cases skyrocket in Brazil with no vaccination start date
“…Long queues for intensive care beds are forming outside public healthcare systems across Rio de Janeiro with wait times of more than 15 days for some COVID-19 patients. … Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has been at odds with health officials over how to respond to the pandemic. Bolsonaro has consistently downplayed the novel coronavirus as a ‘little flu’ and said on Thursday Brazil was at the ‘tail end of the pandemic’…” (Peet, 12/15).

Reuters: Brazil says China ‘not transparent’ on COVID-19 vaccine emergency use
“Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa said on Monday China’s health authorities are not transparent in their authorization of COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use, a statement that may further inflame political tension in the South American country…” (Simões et al., 12/15).

Washington Post: Brazil has the world’s second-highest coronavirus death toll. But Bolsonaro is as popular as ever.
“There are few more curious political stories in 2020 than the enduring popularity of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. … Polling also found that a majority of Brazilians — 52 percent — believed Bolsonaro deserves ‘no blame’ for coronavirus deaths. To an outsider, at least, it’s a surprising verdict on a president who raged against social distancing restrictions, squabbled with cabinet ministers who took the pandemic’s threat more seriously than he did, feuded with state governors who instituted local lockdowns and ended up contracting the virus himself…” (Tharoor, 12/16).

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NYT Reports On Trump Administration's Interference At CDC

New York Times: ‘Like a Hand Grasping’: Trump Appointees Describe the Crushing of the CDC
“Kyle McGowan, a former chief of staff at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and his deputy, Amanda Campbell, were installed in 2018 as two of the youngest political appointees in the history of the world’s premier public health agency, young Republicans returning to their native Georgia to dream jobs. But what they witnessed during the coronavirus pandemic this year in the CDC’s leadership suite on the 12-floor headquarters here shook them: Washington’s dismissal of science, the White House’s slow suffocation of the agency’s voice, the meddling in its messages, and the siphoning of its budget. In interviews this fall, the pair decided to go public with their disillusionment…” (Weiland, 12/16).

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Pediatric Formulation Of Malaria Drug Shown To Prevent Disease Relapse In Children, Study Shows; Developers Hope To Receive Regulatory Approval

Devex: Study finds malaria drug can also prevent relapse in children
“After a new study found a pediatric formulation of a malaria drug is effective in preventing relapse of the disease in children months after treatment, developers are hopeful this latest evidence would lead to regulatory approval of the drug. The formulation provides a simpler treatment option for children infected with the Plasmodium vivax parasite that causes malaria. … MMV and GSK plan to use this latest evidence for regulatory submissions in Australia, and subsequently other malaria-endemic countries…” (Ravelo, 12/16).

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More COVID-19 & Global Health News

Bloomberg: The Coronavirus Vaccine Could Be the Ultimate Gateway Drug (Baker/Patel, 12/16).

Bloomberg: Southeast Asia Covid-19 Vaccine Tracker: Who Gets What, When (Sayson/Jiao, 12/16).

Borgen Magazine: America’s Role in the Fight Against Global Poverty (Wallman, 12/14).

Devex: Fragile countries are ‘backdoors’ for Russian attacks, says former Trump official (Igoe, 12/15).

Devex: K-shaped recovery threatens an unequal Latin America, IMF head says (Welsh, 12/16).

Financial Times: Sweden’s government blamed for failing to protect elderly from coronavirus (Milne, 12/15).

IPS: Pandemic Puts Jamaican Children at Heightened Risk of Abuse (Chappell, 12/16).

Reuters: Mexico weighing vaccine proposals from Moderna, four other companies (Fernandez/Garrison, 12/15).

U.N. News: Tigray crisis: Humanitarian aid for children must be a priority, UNICEF says (12/15).

U.N. News: Put me out of a job: U.N. refugee chief’s challenge to world leaders (12/15).

U.N. News: Desert Locust ‘re-invasion’ threatens millions in Horn of Africa (12/16).

USA TODAY: German scientist Özlem Türeci was focused on cancer at BioNTech, then came COVID-19. It was her ‘duty’ to help develop a vaccine (Weintraub, 12/16).

Washington Post: Europe wanted to keep schools open this winter. Coronavirus surges have disrupted those plans (Noack, 12/15).

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Editorials and Opinions

Opinion Pieces Discuss COVID-19 Pandemic, Response, Including Regional Vaccine Manufacturing In Africa; Vaccine Rollout, Regulation; Funding For Global Efforts In Next U.S. Stimulus

Devex: Opinion: A call to boost African manufacturing for COVID-19 and other vaccines
Perrer Tosso, senior manager of advanced manufacturing technologies at USP, and Skhumbuzo Ngozwana, CEO of Kiara Health, chair of the board of Biovac, and board member of the Federation of African Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (12/16).

Financial Times: Should we take a chance and divert early booster shots to the unprotected?
Anjana Ahuja, science commentator at the Financial Times (12/15).

Financial Times: Beware the criminal threat to the fight against Covid
Vanda Felbab-Brown, senior fellow at Brookings Institution (12/16).

The Hill: Global Funding must be in the next COVID-19 emergency supplemental
Thomas J. Coates, director of the University of California Global Health Institute, distinguished research professor of Medicine at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, and director emeritus of the UCLA Center for World Health (12/15).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

Blog Posts, Releases Discuss Various Aspects Of COVID-19 Vaccine, Including Equity, Access, R&D

BMJ Opinion: The people’s vaccine: How a covid-19 vaccine will be a test of global accountability and equity
Brenda Killen, member of the U.N. Secretary-General’s Independent Accountability Panel for Every Woman, Every Child, Every Adolescent (IAP), and director of governance at GAVI, the Global Vaccine Alliance, and colleagues (12/15).

Global Citizen: Ask an Expert: Why Are There So Many COVID-19 Vaccines — and Is It Better to Have More?
Jackie Marchildon, Global Citizen’s managing editor for North America (12/15).

Global Health Technologies Coalition: New report finds global health research infrastructure — a key force accelerating advances against COVID-19 — now imperiled by the pandemic (12/11).

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders: Governments must support this week’s historic move at WTO to prevent COVID-19 monopolies (12/15).

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Ensuring Women's, Girls' Well-Being Critical As World Recovers From COVID-19, World Bank VP For Western, Central Africa Says

World Bank Blogs: The silent epidemic
Ousmane Diagana, vice president for Western and Central Africa at the World Bank, discusses violence against women and girls, and writes, “This silent epidemic must stop. We need to ensure that no woman or girl is left behind as we build a resilient recovery post-COVID. So, what can we do? From our research and experience, we have identified three promising areas of focus: Cash transfers have strong potential to reduce gender-based violence. … Safe spaces, mentoring, and training can make a difference in the lives of adolescent girls. … Implementing policies that work for girls and promote women’s equality is a critical step…” (12/10).

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Governments, Partners Commit To Addressing Hunger, Nutrition Crisis At Virtual Launch Of Nutrition For Growth Year Of Action

Scaling Up Nutrition: Global leaders committed to address hunger and nutrition crisis
“The Governments of Canada and Bangladesh, in partnership with the Government of Japan, [on Tuesday] hosted a virtual launch of the Nutrition for Growth Year of Action, setting in motion a year-long effort to address a global hunger and nutrition crisis that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The event featured more than USD 3 billion in financing commitments or re-commitments from a range of stakeholders including the Government of Canada, the Government of Pakistan, World Vision International, UNICEF, and the World Bank. Additional strong policy commitments from Guatemala, Nigeria, and Senegal were also highlighted…” (12/15).

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From the U.S. Government

FDA, HHS, NIH Issue Statements On FDA Authorization Of First At-Home, Over-The-Counter Coronavirus Test

FDA: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Authorizes Antigen Test as First Over-the-Counter Fully At-Home Diagnostic Test for COVID-19
“… ‘Today’s authorization is a major milestone in diagnostic testing for COVID-19. By authorizing a test for over-the-counter use, the FDA allows it to be sold in places like drug stores, where a patient can buy it, swab their nose, run the test, and find out their results in as little as 20 minutes,’ said FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D…” (12/15).

HHS: HHS Secretary Azar Statement on FDA Authorization of First Fully At-Home, Over-the-Counter COVID-19 Test
In a statement, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said the authorization represents “a major breakthrough for Americans’ ever-expanding access to convenient COVID-19 testing options. HHS provided support for this new option through NIH’s RADx initiative, the diagnostics component of Operation Warp Speed, which supports not only development work but also efforts to scale up production to deliver the broadest possible access to new testing options…” (12/15).

NIH: NIH-funded COVID-19 home test is first to receive over-the-counter authorization from FDA
“…Ellume developed the test with a $30 million contract and technical support from the RADx Tech program, managed by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), part of NIH…” (12/15).

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From KFF

KFF Provides Resources On Global, Domestic Aspects Of Pandemic

KFF: COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker — Updated as of December 16, 2020
Data on country government actions in response to COVID-19 are included in the tracker (12/16).

Additional KFF COVID-19 resources on the global situation, as well as those focused on the response and impact within the U.S., are available here.

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