KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

COVAX Initiative To Provide Equitable Access To Vaccines Risks Failure, According To Internal Documents Citing Lack Of Funding, Supply Risks, Complex Agreements

Reuters: EXCLUSIVE — WHO vaccine scheme risks failure, leaving poor countries no COVID shots until 2024
“The global scheme to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to poorer countries faces a ‘very high’ risk of failure, potentially leaving nations home to billions of people with no access to vaccines until as late as 2024, internal documents say. The World Health Organization’s COVAX program is the main global scheme to vaccinate people in poor and middle-income countries around the world against the coronavirus. It aims to deliver at least 2 billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021 to cover 20% of the most vulnerable people in 91 poor and middle-income countries, mostly in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. But in internal documents reviewed by Reuters, the scheme’s promoters say the program is struggling from a lack of funds, supply risks, and complex contractual arrangements which could make it impossible to achieve its goals…” (Guarascio, 12/16).

Additional coverage of the COVAX internal documents’ outlook is available from Forbes and The Guardian.

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Nearly 25% Of World Might Not Get COVID-19 Vaccine Until 2022; FDA Committee Considering Moderna Vaccine; Media Outlets Cover Vaccine News From Nations Worldwide

STAT: One-quarter of the world may not get a Covid-19 vaccine until 2022, experts warn
“As wealthy governments race to lock in supplies of Covid-19 vaccines, nearly a quarter of the world’s population — mostly in low- and middle-income countries — will not have access to a shot until 2022, according to a new analysis. … Looked at another way, the projected vaccine courses per capita by country show Canada, followed by Australia, the U.K., Japan, the European Union, and U.S., have reserved at least one vaccine course per person. Canada has reserved 9.5 doses, or well over four courses, per person. By contrast, low- to middle-income countries, such as Brazil and Indonesia, reserved less than one course for every two people…” (Silverman, 12/15).

U.N. News: Vaccines for all, an ‘acid test’ in COVID-19 battle
“Equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines will represent an ‘acid test’ for the international community, the president of the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) told journalists on Wednesday, highlighting the importance of global cooperation and solidarity in beating back the disease…” (12/16).

Wall Street Journal: Covid-19 Vaccines: What’s Coming and When?
“Some 200 Covid-19 vaccines are in development around the world, according to the World Health Organization, each one promising to protect people from the deadly coronavirus and allow them to go back to work and school…” (Rivas et al., 12/14).

AP: WHO: Vaccination in Asia-Pacific expected mid or late 2021 (Milko, 12/17).

AP: Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout draws wary, mixed response (Litvinova, 12/17).

Reuters: Chilean health regulator approves Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for emergency use (Cambero et al., 12/16).

Reuters: Indonesia pledges free COVID-19 vaccines, with president first in line (Jefriando, 12/16).

Reuters: Nigeria expects to get its first COVID-19 vaccine doses in January (Onuah/George, 12/16).

USA TODAY: FDA advisory committee to consider second COVID-19 vaccine, this one from Moderna, during all-day meeting (Weintraub, 12/17).

Washington Post: An FDA committee is reviewing Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine. Here’s what to look for (McGinley/Johnson, 12/17).

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WTO Weighs South Africa, India Proposal To Waive Intellectual Property Rights On COVID-19 Products

Foreign Policy: WTO Meeting Pits Rich Against Poor In Fight For Vaccines
“…South Africa and India are leading a group of low- and middle-income countries calling for a waiver on intellectual property rights on products related to the pandemic — including personal protective equipment, therapeutics, and vaccines. China has also backed the measure. Rich countries and entities such as the United States and the European Union oppose the move, claiming that IP rights are not the hurdle they are made out to be, since voluntary licensing and global facilities like COVAX can help poorer countries meet their needs effectively…” (Quinn, 12/16).

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Pfizer Vaccine Vials Contain Up To 7 Doses, Expanding U.S. Supply; Some Doses Stored At Too-Low Temperatures; Company Facing Manufacturing Issues

The Hill: FDA says Pfizer vaccine supply is up to 40 percent higher than previously thought as vials hold multiple doses
“The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday said that health officials may be able to obtain as many as seven doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine from vials initially intended to hold just five. Hospital pharmacists had noted the discovery on Twitter and pharmacy message boards this week as front-line health care workers began receiving the vaccine on Monday. On Wednesday evening, the FDA officially released a statement on Twitter, writing that it was aware ‘that some vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech #COVID19 Vaccine have contained extra product after five doses are obtained’…” (Castronuovo, 12/16).

Reuters: Some vaccine doses kept too cold, Pfizer having manufacturing issues, U.S. officials say
“The first days of Pfizer Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout have seen unexpected hitches including some vaccines being stored at excessively cold temperatures and Pfizer reporting potential challenges in its vaccine production, U.S. officials said on a Wednesday press call…” (O’Donnell et al., 12/16).

Additional coverage of the Pfizer vaccine supply, storage, and manufacturing is available from POLITICO, STAT (2), and Washington Post.

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Health Systems Worldwide Strain Under Pressures From Growing Number Of COVID-19 Cases, Hospitalizations

CIDRAP News: COVID-19 surges stretch health systems in U.S., elsewhere
“COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the United States continue to climb, with some declines seen in some Upper Midwest states, but surging activity in states such as California. In Europe, some countries are struggling with slowing their activity in the final days leading up to Christmas, and several Americas countries are experiencing steady rises…” (Schnirring, 12/16).

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President-Elect Biden Faces Challenge Of Uniting Country Around Coronavirus Vaccine, Mitigation Efforts

Washington Post: Biden will arrive in office amid a pandemic. It will be his biggest challenge — but also an opportunity.
“As President-elect Joe Biden and his team devise a governing strategy to defeat the coronavirus pandemic — the incoming administration’s most urgent priority — they have become centrally focused on instilling broad, bipartisan faith in vaccines. … The political stakes and the consequences for public health are considerable, said Larry Levitt, executive vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health policy group. ‘The success of Biden’s presidency likely rests in large part on tamping down the pandemic and having a successful vaccine rollout,’ Levitt said. ‘The Biden administration is going to need to bring red America and blue America together. If the vaccine is a repeat of masks, our efforts to end the pandemic will be stymied’…” (Goldstein, 12/15).

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French President Emmanuel Macron Tests Positive For COVID-19, Will Self-Isolate For 7 Days

AP: French President Macron tests positive for COVID-19
“French President Emmanuel Macron tested positive for COVID-19 Thursday, following a week when he has met with numerous European leaders. The French and Spanish prime ministers are among those self-isolating because they had recent contact with him. Macron took a test ‘as soon as the first symptoms appeared’ and will self-isolate for seven days, the presidency said in a brief statement…” (Corbet, 12/17).

Additional coverage of Macron’s positive test is available from CNN, NPR, and POLITICO.

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WHO-Led Team Investigating Coronavirus Origins To Arrive In China In January; China Blames Frozen Foods For New Cases, Contradicting International Guidance

NPR: China Has A Theory About Its New COVID-19 Cases. Many Scientists Are Skeptical
“China now reports few to none domestically transmitted COVID-19 cases — only 12 cases were reported on Dec. 15. But a flurry of recent cases has Chinese public health officials worried. They claim that the cases stemmed from workers who had contact with imported food and packages. … There’s a problem with this theory. The cases directly contradict international health guidance, which says such transmission is highly unlikely…” (Feng, 12/16).

Reuters: Exclusive: WHO-led team expected in China in January to probe COVID-19 origins — experts
“An international mission led by the World Health Organization (WHO) is expected to go to China in the first week of January to investigate the origins of the virus that sparked the COVID-19 pandemic, a member and diplomats told Reuters on Wednesday. … Now a team of 12-15 international experts is finally preparing to go to Wuhan to examine evidence, including human and animal samples collected by Chinese researchers, and to build on their initial studies…” (Nebehay/Skydsgaard, 12/16).

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Air Pollution To Be Listed As Cause Of British Child's Death, Landmark Ruling Says

New York Times: In Landmark Ruling, Air Pollution Recorded as a Cause of Death for British Girl
“A 9-year-old girl who suffered a fatal asthma attack in 2013 became the first person in Britain to officially have air pollution listed as a cause of death, a British official said. The landmark ruling puts a face and a name on one of the millions of people whose deaths are hastened by air pollution across the world every year. And in Britain, legal experts said, it could open a new door to lawsuits by pollution victims or their families…” (Peltier, 12/17).

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Paul Farmer Awarded $1M Prize For Decades Of Work Strengthening Health Systems

New York Times: Paul Farmer Is Awarded the $1 Million Berggruen Prize
“Paul Farmer, a medical anthropologist who has fought for stronger public health care infrastructure around the world, has been named the recipient of the 2020 Berggruen Prize. The $1 million prize, which is awarded annually to people who ‘have profoundly shaped human self-understanding and advancement in a rapidly changing world,’ went to the doctor in recognition of his leadership related to the coronavirus pandemic…” (Carmel, 12/16).

Additional coverage is available from Forbes and NPR.

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More COVID-19 & Global Health News

AFP/YouTube: Virus hunters delve into Gabon forest in search for next threat | AFP (12/16).

Devex: Q&A: The woman tasked with bringing gender to the center of the Gates Foundation (Cheney, 12/17).

Devex: Q&A: Addressing polio through a gender lens (12/17).

Devex: How a new data portal aims to accelerate insights for the Pacific (Cornish, 12/16).

Devex: U.K. aid watchdog ICAI ‘must continue’ its work, says foreign secretary (Worley, 12/16).

Devex: Finding the money to keep social safety nets afloat in Africa (Jerving, 12/16).

The Economist: How malaria has shaped humanity (12/19).

Global Health NOW: New Dashboard Aims to Democratize COVID-19 Data (Winney, 12/16).

The Guardian: Wear masks when you see family for Christmas, WHO urges Europeans (Beaumont, 12/16).

Health-e News: High rates of gender-based violence linked to high rates of HIV infection among women, study shows (Lefafa, 12/17).

New Humanitarian: A quiet crisis: As the economy fractures, violence soars for Afghan women (Cousins, 12/16).

New York Times: The Virus Trains: How Lockdown Chaos Spread COVID-19 Across India (Gettleman et al., 12/15).

Science: COVID-19 is 10 times deadlier for people with Down syndrome, raising calls for early vaccination (Wadman, 12/15).

Science: Messenger RNA gave us a COVID-19 vaccine. Will it treat diseases, too? (Servick, 12/16).

STAT: After experts criticized its approach, Facebook overhauls its Covid-19 misinformation policy (Brodwin, 12/16).

Thomson Reuters Foundation: Why Ebola survivors like me can help fight COVID-19 (Moloney, 12/16).

U.N. News: Syria: Millions displaced, impoverished and traumatized, Security Council hears (12/16).

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Editorials and Opinions

Opinion Pieces Address Various Topics Related To COVID-19 Vaccine, Including Role Of Pharmaceutical Industry, Access, Intellectual Property Protections

New York Times: Don’t Fall for Big Pharma’s Savior Act
Stephen Buranyi, science journalist and visiting lecturer at the European Business School (12/17).

Scientific American: How to Expand Access to COVID Vaccines without Compromising the Science
Peter Doshi, associate professor of pharmaceutical health services research at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy and associate editor of The BMJ, and Donald Light, visiting scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study, professor of psychiatry and health policy at the Rowan School of Osteopathic Medicine, and faculty affiliate of the NYU Division of Medical Ethics (12/17).

Wall Street Journal: Covid Vaccine Shakedown at the WTO
James Pooley, former deputy director general of the World Intellectual Property Organization and member of the Center for Intellectual Property Understanding (12/16).

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Precise Mapping Helps Uncover Inequities In Measles Vaccine Coverage, Could Help Improve Distribution, Opinion Piece Says

Nature: Precise mapping reveals gaps in global measles vaccination coverage
C. Edson Utazi and Andrew J. Tatem, both of WorldPop at the School of Geography and Environmental Science at the University of Southampton

“Improved access to childhood vaccines has been one of the biggest breakthroughs in public health in recent decades, as evidenced by the eradication of smallpox in 1980 and this year’s declaration of Africa as polio-free. But for measles, the road towards elimination and eradication has been bumpy, despite the existence of a safe and cost-effective vaccine. … [Precise] maps reveal substantial improvements in measles-vaccine coverage globally from 2000 to 2010, but they also show that slower progress was made between 2010 and 2019. In addition, the maps uncover remarkable inequities in vaccine coverage, both within and between countries… The Immunization Agenda 2030 is a global strategy for immunization set out by the World Health Organization this year, which recognizes the need to make immunization coverage more equitable within countries, serving to renew the drive towards achieving a world without measles. We advocate greater commitments from governments, donors, and other stakeholders, and call for vaccination programs to use the valuable resource of the current paper and the modelling approaches it outlines to support the agenda. Opportunities exist for capacity strengthening within countries: map production and ownership can be shifted to governments, their vaccination programs, and local academic institutions, and these efforts should be a priority over the coming years” (12/16).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

Proposal At WTO To Waive Intellectual Property Rights To COVID-19 Technologies Not In World's Best Interest, Paper Argues

Cato Institute: An Unnecessary Proposal: A WTO Waiver of Intellectual Property Rights for COVID-19 Vaccines
James Bacchus, distinguished university professor of global affairs and director of the Center for Global Economic and Environmental Opportunity at the University of Central Florida and adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, discusses a proposal at the World Trade Organization to waive intellectual property rights for COVID-19 technologies, writing, “Their waiver request raises anew the recurring debate within the WTO over the right balance between the protection of IP rights and access in poorer countries to urgently needed medicines. But the last thing the WTO needs is another debate over perceived trade obstacles to public health. … A new and contentious ‘North‐​South’ political struggle definitely would not be in the interest of the developed countries, the developing countries, the pharmaceutical companies, or the WTO. Certainly it would not be in the interest of the victims and potential victims of COVID-19…” (12/16).

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COVID-19 Pandemic Provides Opportunities To Address Inequities Within Global Health Sector, Blog Post Says

BMJ Opinion: Ankit Raj: The unequal dynamics of global health — are we still colonial at heart?
Ankit Raj, global surgery fellow at the WHO Collaborating Centre on surgical care research in LMICs in Mumbai, discusses inequities in the global health sector and highlights the impact of colonialism, writing, “In a world of huge divisions and inequity pervading every aspect of life, we need better accountability and fairer practices from those who have benefited from the systemic colonial mindset of global health. … The voices we hear in global debates are still mainly from privileged socioeconomic backgrounds, with far too little being heard from the most disadvantaged communities. … Steering global health in a new direction, in which we don’t repeat the same mistakes of the colonial past, could be the biggest lesson we learn from the pandemic” (12/17).

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Blog Post Outlines Steps Biden Administration Could Take To End HIV, Advance Reproductive Health, Rights Globally

Health Affairs Blog: In Global Efforts To End HIV And Advance Reproductive Health, President-Elect Joe Biden Should Seize The Opportunity For Bold Leadership
Monica Kerrigan, executive director of Planned Parenthood Global, discusses the links between HIV prevention and reproductive health and rights and outlines actions the Biden administration could take to end HIV and advance reproductive health, including rescinding the Mexico City policy; clarifying that PEPFAR funding can be used for contraceptives; and reinvesting in international partnerships to support women and girls (12/16).

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Aidspan Publishes New Issue Of 'Global Fund Observer'

Aidspan: Global Fund Observer
Aidspan, an independent watchdog of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, has published Issue 391 of the ‘Global Fund Observer.’ The newsletter includes an article on how COVAX has boosted hope for developing countries to access the COVID-19 vaccine; an article on progress toward eradicating global malaria; and an article on the continuity of HIV, TB, and malaria services in challenging operational environments (12/16).

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From the U.S. Government

STOP FGM Act Of 2020 Passed By Congress, Heads To President

H.R. 6100: STOP FGM Act of 2020
The STOP FGM Act of 2020, which was introduced in March and clarifies the criminalization of female genital mutilation in the United States, was passed by Congress on December 15, 2020. The bill now goes to President Trump (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 17, 2020
Data on country government actions in response to COVID-19 are included in the tracker (12/17).

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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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, California.