KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

Ensuring Equitable Distribution Of Coronavirus Vaccines Worth Billions To Developed Nations, Report Shows; Public Trust Vital For Successful Programs, WHO Says

The Guardian: Public trust vital for Covid-19 vaccine programs, says WHO
“The WHO has urged European countries to prepare for vaccinations against Covid-19, stressing that community acceptance will be crucial to the success of the health programs. More than 200 Covid vaccines are under development, some of which have already completed phase 3 clinical trials with an efficacy rate of more than 90%…” (Davis, 12/3).

New York Times: China Poised to Be First to Distribute Virus Vaccine in Latin America, U.S. Official Says
“China, already competing for influence in this hemisphere through a multibillion-dollar network of investment and infrastructure deals, is likely to beat the United States in its own backyard with vaccine diplomacy, according to the military’s top commander for Central and South America…” (Rosenberg, 12/2).

NPR: Developed Countries Plan To Start Vaccination Soon. What About The Rest Of The World?
“At least three coronavirus vaccines have been deemed effective. Some Western countries will start vaccination as early as this month. But it’s unclear when less wealthy nations will get the vaccines…” (Doucleff, 12/3).

Thomson Reuters Foundation: Ensuring global COVID-19 vaccine access seen worth billions to rich nations
“Rich nations stand to lose hundreds of billions of dollars in economic output over the next five years if poorer countries do not get equal access to COVID-19 vaccines, a report said on Thursday as concerns grow about ‘vaccine nationalism.’ As the World Health Organization (WHO) seeks to plug funding gaps in its ACT Accelerator program for global COVID-19 treatments, researchers said their findings showed there was a financial — as well as a moral — case for ensuring equal access. ‘Governments are increasingly focusing on investments that can help their own economies to rebound,’ said Hassan Damluji, deputy director at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which commissioned the report by the Eurasia Group research firm…” (Elks, 12/3).

Additional coverage of issues surrounding coronavirus vaccine approval and distribution is available from Financial Times, The Hill, MedPage Today, NPR, Reuters (2), and Washington Post.

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Vaccine Won't Reverse Social, Economic Impacts Of COVID-19 Pandemic, U.N. SG Warns During General Assembly Special Session

AP: U.N. chief: Vaccine can’t undo damage from global pandemic
“The U.N. chief warned Thursday that the social and economic impact of COVID-19 ‘is enormous and growing’ and said it’s foolish to believe a vaccine can undo damage from the global pandemic that will last for years or even decades. Speaking to world leaders at the General Assembly’s first and mainly virtual special session on COVID-19, Secretary-General António Guterres accused some countries he didn’t name of ignoring or rejecting the World Health Organization’s recommendations at the start of the crisis early this year, resulting in nations going in their own directions and the virus spreading ‘in every direction’…” (Lederer, 12/4).

U.N. News: COVID-19 recovery, focus of U.N. General Assembly special session
“Nations united on Thursday for a special session of the U.N. General Assembly to survey the wreckage of the COVID-19 pandemic, reflect on the best response, and forge a path to better days ahead. ‘Today marks an overdue and much needed moment of reckoning. None of us could have imagined, this time last year, what was to come,’ said Assembly President Volkan Bozkir, speaking at the opening of the two-day gathering…” (12/3).

Additional coverage of the special session is available from Canadian Press/CP24, POLITICO, Reuters, and Xinhua.

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Reports Highlight Missed Opportunities For World Bank's COVID-19 Response, Economic Impacts On World's Poorest

The Guardian: World Bank ‘missed vital opportunities’ to support Covid response, says Oxfam
“Millions of people in low-income countries have been forced to go without healthcare or have had to pay for it during the coronavirus pandemic, despite billions of pounds in emergency World Bank funding, research has found. The World Bank’s $6bn (£4.45bn) emergency health fund to 71 countries in response to Covid-19 failed to strengthen health systems or remove financial barriers to using them, according to an Oxfam report published on Friday…” (Hodal, 12/4).

U.N. News: Revealed: The cost of the pandemic on world’s poorest countries
“More than 32 million of the world’s poorest people face being pulled back into extreme poverty because of COVID-19, leading U.N. economists said on Thursday, highlighting data showing that the pandemic is likely to cause the worst economic crisis in decades among least developed countries (LDCs). In a call for urgent investment and support from the wider international community, the U.N. trade and development agency, UNCTAD, warned that the new coronavirus risked reversing years of ‘painstaking progress’ in poverty reduction, nutrition, and education…” (12/3).

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Facebook To Remove COVID-19 Vaccine Misinformation; Africa Alliance Launched To Counter Coronavirus 'Infodemic'

New York Times: Facebook says it will remove coronavirus vaccine misinformation.
“Facebook on Thursday said it would remove posts that contain claims about Covid-19 vaccines that have been debunked by public health experts, as the social network acts more aggressively to bat down coronavirus misinformation while falsehoods run rampant. The move goes a step beyond how Facebook had handled misinformation about other kinds of vaccines…” (Isaac, 12/3).

U.N. News: New Africa alliance aims to tackle deadly COVID ‘infodemic’
“A new network in Africa aims to combat the ‘infodemic’ of misinformation online surrounding COVID-19 and other health emergencies on the continent, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Thursday. The Africa Infodemic Response Alliance (AIRA), brings together 13 international and regional organizations, together with fact-checking groups which have expertise in data and behavioral science, epidemiology, research, digital health, and communications…” (12/3).

Additional coverage of Facebook’s efforts to remove vaccine misinformation is available from CNBC, USA TODAY, and Wall Street Journal.

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U.K. Defends Pfizer-BioNTech Coronavirus Vaccine Authorization; Fauci Apologizes For Suggesting U.K. Regulators Acted In Haste

AP: U.K. defends vaccine decision amid criticism it moved too fast
“U.K. regulators went on the offensive Friday to beat back criticism that they rushed their authorization of a COVID-19 vaccine, saying they rigorously analyzed data on safety and effectiveness in the shortest time possible without compromising the thoroughness of their review. … America’s top infectious disease expert late Thursday apologized for suggesting that U.K. authorities had rushed their authorization of the vaccine. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, had told U.S. media outlets that U.K. regulators hadn’t acted ‘as carefully’ as the Food and Drug Administration. He later clarified to the BBC that he had meant to say that U.S. authorities do things differently than their British counterparts, not better, but didn’t phrase his comments properly…” (Kirka, 12/4).

Additional coverage of Fauci’s comments is available from The Hill and POLITICO.

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Public Health Experts Urge Biden-Harris Administration To Include Officials With Medical Expertise In Cabinet; Biden Names Murthy As Surgeon General, Fauci As Chief Medical Adviser

STAT: Public health experts are pressuring Biden to include health expertise in his Cabinet
“Prominent public health experts are pressuring President-elect Biden and his team to include a doctor or experienced health professional in the Cabinet — and growing increasingly alarmed this week that their warnings will go unheeded. Several former state and local health officials, leaders of public health advocacy groups, and representatives from physician groups have placed calls to contacts advising Biden, drafted formal correspondence to the transition, or, in the case of numerous physician groups, worked to draft open letters stressing the necessity for Biden to appoint high-ranking officials with medical expertise…” (Facher, 12/3).

USA TODAY: Health officials lay out wish list for Biden administration: Restore the CDC, prioritize health across the globe
“A who’s who of health officials published a commentary Wednesday outlining their wish list for the incoming Biden-Harris administration, starting with their desire for the U.S. to rejoin the global public health community. ‘A threat anywhere is a threat to all of us,’ said Dr. Michelle Williams, dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and an author of the commentary, published in The Lancet…” (Weintraub, 12/3).

Washington Post: Biden taps Murthy as nation’s top doctor, offers Fauci key role as covid team takes shape
“President-elect Joe Biden has selected a close adviser to help lead the nation’s response to the coronavirus crisis, tapping a veteran of the Obama administration to serve as America’s top doctor as the country suffers from a surging pandemic. Vivek H. Murthy, a former U.S. surgeon general, has been asked to reprise the role in an expanded version in the new administration, according to an individual familiar with the decision. … On Thursday, Biden told CNN that Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, would serve as a chief medical adviser and help his administration with its coronavirus response plan. Fauci, who served on President Trump’s coronavirus task force, has been attacked by the president in recent months as he has contradicted the White House’s message that the pandemic is under control and on the verge of disappearing…” (Olorunnipa/Goldstein, 12/3).

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U.N. Officials, Diplomats Hope Biden Team Can Restore Engagement With United Nations

New York Times: Feeling Spurned by Trump, U.N. Sees Redemption in Biden and Team
“After four years of disparagement and disengagement by the Trump administration, the United Nations is infused with expectations that President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. will restore much of what his predecessor dismantled. … The president-elect has vowed to reverse Mr. Trump’s widely criticized decision to withdraw from the World Health Organization, the U.N.’s public health arm, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. He has pledged to restore the funding that Mr. Trump ended to the United Nations Population Fund, a leading provider of family planning and women’s reproductive services, a cut that was part of a conservative-led policy to penalize groups that offer abortion counseling. Mr. Biden’s choice for U.N. ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a veteran American diplomat with vast experience in Africa — and his plan to restore that position to Cabinet rank, another reversal of Trump administration policy — have also sent powerful signals about the president-elect’s views toward the United Nations…” (Gladstone, 12/3).

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NPR Outlines Reasons Biden's Promise Of Overturning Mexico City Policy Might Be Slow To Implement

NPR: A Biden Promise About Overseas Abortion Funding Could Prove Difficult To Implement
“Among the promises that President elect-Biden is expected to fulfill immediately upon taking office: lifting [the Mexico City policy]. … Even if he repeals the [policy] as expected, there’s reason to wonder how much things will actually change on the ground for the people on the receiving end of U.S. foreign aid money. Here are five reasons…” (Aizenman, 12/3).

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GAO Report On Timeliness Of USAID Spending 'Misleading,' Agency Spokesperson Says

Devex: USAID says watchdog analysis of spending delays is ‘misleading’
“A new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office points to roughly $20 billion in unspent funding accumulated in the U.S. Agency for International Development’s accounts. An agency spokesperson described the watchdog’s analysis as ‘misleading and, in some cases, inaccurate.’ Almost $20 billion of USAID’s $185 billion in foreign assistance funding from 2009 to 2019 remained unspent — or ‘unliquidated’ — as of March 31, according to the GAO report, released on Wednesday. However, the ‘vast majority’ of these funds are recently appropriated from fiscal years 2017 to 2019, and they have been obligated in accordance with national-level bilateral agreements at USAID’s country missions, USAID acting spokesperson Pooja Jhunjhunwala wrote to Devex by email…” (Igoe, 12/4).

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U.K. Withheld Information About Aid Cuts From NGOs, Contractors; Cuts Will Impact Millions, Campaign To Defend Aid And Development Estimates

Devex: U.K. withheld information about aid program cuts from NGOs and contractors
“The U.K. government withheld information on development program cuts from NGOs and contractors despite promises to work ‘openly and pragmatically’ with suppliers during the pandemic, according to the public aid watchdog. Delays in deciding which development programs should be protected also ‘made the required cuts deeper and more abrupt,’ according to research by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact, a public body tasked with scrutinizing development policy. The findings have triggered fears in the development sector about how transparent the government will be as it proceeds with the next round of aid cuts…” (Worley, 12/4).

Devex: U.K. aid cuts will deny millions of water and vaccines, NGOs say
“Millions will lose out on access to education, clean water, and vaccines as a result of U.K. aid cuts, according to preliminary estimates by development advocates. Around 7.6 million women and girls per year will also be unable to access modern methods of family planning, the Campaign to Defend Aid and Development predicted. … A lack of information from FCDO about where the cuts will fall led campaigners to make the estimate based on a 30% cut across the board on the results of U.K. development spending in recent years. That is because the U.K. is expected to have 30% less to spend on aid next year compared with 2019…” (Worley, 12/3).

Devex Pro: U.K. aid cut has ‘profound implications’ for COP26, experts say
” ‘The success or failure of major summits is hugely determined by the political capital and moral credibility of the host,’ says Sarah Colenbrander, climate director at ODI…” (Worley, 12/3).

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Yemen Closer To Famine; Experts Brief U.N. Security Council On Human Rights Violations In Country

The Guardian: Yemen ‘one step away from famine’ as donors dry up amid Covid, U.N. warns
“The window to prevent the return of famine to Yemen is rapidly closing, U.N. agencies have warned, with a new assessment showing millions could head further into hunger in the coming months. The alert came as a World Health Organization food security assessment showed thousands of people are slipping into famine — a number that is predicted to triple in the first half of next year — while millions more have seen declining access to food…” (Beaumont, 12/3).

U.N. News: Yemen: Unchecked violations ‘may amount to war crimes,’ Security Council hears
“U.N. experts called on the Security Council on Thursday, along with the international community at large, to put an end to the ‘surreal and absurd dimension’ of human rights violations engulfing war-torn Yemen, where abuses continue unchecked. … The U.N. rights experts outlined to ambassadors serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, which encompassed indiscriminate mortar attacks; laying of landmines; recruitment of child soldiers; and the use of torture, including sexual violence while in detention…” (12/3).

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UNAIDS Sexual Harassment Investigation Findings Not Being Made Public Nor Released To Whistleblowers

Devex: Exclusive: UNAIDS fails to release sexual harassment investigation
“The United Nations is withholding the findings of a high-profile investigation into allegations of sexual harassment at UNAIDS, Devex has learned. Although the investigation has concluded, the outcomes have not been made public or even shared with whistleblowers. The investigation relates to allegations of sexual harassment by Luiz Loures, former deputy executive director at UNAIDS, who stepped down in 2018. The same year, the World Health Organization’s Office of Internal Oversight Services cleared Loures of wrongdoing but the investigation was reopened after concerns were raised about the process and after additional women spoke out. Loures denies all allegations. The U.N. General Assembly mandated the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services to carry out the new investigation independently. … Whistleblowers requested a copy or summary of the report, but were told that the decision to share the results lies with WHO and UNAIDS…” (Ravelo, 12/4).

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More COVID-19 & Global Health News

AP: In southern Madagascar, ‘nothing to feed our children’ (Bezain, 12/4).

BMJ: African malaria deaths set to dwarf covid-19 fatalities as pandemic hits control efforts, WHO warns (Dyer, 12/2).

CNBC: Bill Gates says we need a new federal organization and five-fold spending increase to fight climate change (Novet, 12/3).

Devex: Experts advocate for ‘basic set of metrics’ to define women’s economic empowerment (Cheney, 12/4).

PBS NewsHour: This biologist is figuring out how to short-circuit sperm as birth control (Santhanam, 12/3).

Science: First-of-its-kind African trial tests common drugs to prevent severe COVID-19 (Kupferschmidt, 12/3).

STAT: CDC advisory panel’s lone dissenter on why long-term care residents shouldn’t receive Covid-19 vaccine first (Branswell, 12/3).

TIME: Even the Pandemic Hasn’t Made Public Health Icon Paul Farmer Lose Hope (Ducharme, 12/3).

U.N. News: Amid ‘unprecedented’ needs, UNICEF asks for $6.4 billion to help 190 million children (12/3).

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Editorials and Opinions

Editorials, Opinion Pieces Address Topics Related To COVID-19 Pandemic, Including Women's Role In Vaccine Development; Vaccination Campaign Strategies; Private Sector Involvement; Global Mitigation Plans

Bloomberg: Women Take the Lead in Vaccine Development
Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg Opinion columnist, professor of economics at George Mason University, and writer for the Marginal Revolution blog (12/3).

CNN: How Elvis Presley can help us with a Covid vaccine
David M. Perry, journalist, historian, and senior academic adviser in the history department of the University of Minnesota (12/3).

The Conversation: What Elvis Presley’s televised polio vaccination can tell us about the shortfalls of celebrity-endorsed health campaigns
Agnes Arnold-Forster, research fellow in the history of medicine and healthcare at the University of Bristol, and Caitjan Gainty, lecturer in the history of science, technology, and medicine at King’s College London (12/3).

Financial Times: Business can make a big difference in ending Covid
Scott Ratzan, distinguished lecturer at the CUNY School of Public Health and co-founder of CONVINCE (12/4).

The Lancet: An African plan to control COVID-19 is urgently needed
Editorial Board (12/5).

Project Syndicate: The Secret of Pakistan’s COVID-19 Success
Zulfiqar A. Bhutta, chair in global child health at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), co-director of the SickKids Centre for Global Child Health, and founding director of Aga Khan University’s Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health and Institute for Global Health and Development (12/3).

Washington Post: The pandemic’s lessons are clear and simple. We must act now
Editorial Board (12/3).

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Science Must Serve As Nonpartisan Guide To Addressing COVID-19 Pandemic, Opinion Piece Says

STAT: Make science bipartisan again
Tom Daschle, former U.S. Senate majority leader (D-S.D.), founder and CEO of The Daschle Group, and cofounder of the Bipartisan Policy Center; Bill Frist, physician, former Senate majority leader (R-Tenn.), senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center, and a co-chair of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s work on health innovation; and Max G. Bronstein, founder of the Journal of Science Policy & Governance and principal at MGB Consulting

“The Biden-Harris administration faces daunting challenges. Chief among them is tackling the Covid-19 pandemic and bending the case curve. This challenge cannot be met, let alone overcome, without a national plan plus substantial new investment in public health, science, and technology. And it will require prioritizing science over politics. … Like so many parts of our culture, however, science has become polarized, with leaders from both parties struggling to agree on even basic facts and guidance relating to the pandemic. … Science can serve as the nonpartisan voice to navigate [a] middle-of-the-road approach. To help heal political divisions, elected officials should allow scientists and public health experts to be the key spokespersons on the pandemic. … We must allow science to be a nonpartisan messenger that advances the public health of Americans rather than a political agenda. … Science is uniquely positioned to help end the scourge of the pandemic and set us on a course to rebuild our economy. But getting there requires our political leaders to come together to prioritize and champion public health. We are seeing a tale of two Americas unfold, dramatically hampering our ability to effectively respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. We hope leaders of both parties will work together to bring our nation back to a more unified, healthy, and secure future” (12/3).

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African Civil Society Leaders Discuss Impact Of Mexico City Policy On Women's Health In Opinion Piece

Mail & Guardian: Battery acid, cassava sticks and clothes hangers: We must end the global gag rule
Nelly Munyasia, executive director at Reproductive Health Network Kenya and member of She Decides Kenya, and Womba Wanki, executive director of Generation Alive and member of She Decides Zambia

“…Research has found that the [Mexico City policy, otherwise known as the global gag rule (GGR),] causes critical funding losses for health systems and civil-society partners; tears apart fragile health systems through disruption of partnerships and referral networks; and emboldens hostility towards women’s bodily autonomy and choice. Restrictions placed on safe abortion services do not deter women and girls from having abortions. Instead, they force them to seek out unsafe methods to end a pregnancy, putting their lives at risk. … As the executive director at the Reproductive Health Network Kenya and the executive director of Generation Alive based in Zambia, we have both seen this play out on the ground in our native countries, where abortion is allowed beyond the exceptions included in the global gag rule. … As health providers and women’s rights advocates, we’re gravely worried about the continuation of the GGR in the future. We are still trying to quantify the negative impact of the global gag rule’s reinstatement four years ago. In the midst of our concerns, we are also ready to fight back. It’s all we can do” (12/2).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

CGD Experts Provide Recommendations For Incoming Administration On U.S. Engagement With Developing Countries

Center for Global Development: The White House and the World: Practical Proposals for Resetting U.S. Engagement in Developing Countries
Scott Morris, director of the U.S. Development Policy Initiative, co-director of Sustainable Development Finance, and senior fellow at CGD, and Erin Collinson, director of policy outreach at CGD, outline recommendations for the incoming Biden administration, focusing on ways in which the U.S. can engage constructively with developing countries (12/3).

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Investing In Midwives Could Help Prevent About Two-Thirds Of Maternal, Neonatal Mortality, Stillbirths By 2035, Study Says

WHO: Investing in midwife-led interventions could save 4.3 million lives per year, new study finds
“About two-thirds of maternal deaths, newborn deaths, and stillbirths could be prevented by 2035 if the current level of care by professional midwives educated and regulated to international standards was scaled up to provide universal access, finds a new study led by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), WHO, and the International Confederation of Midwives published [Thursday] in the Lancet Global Health…” (12/3).

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From the U.S. Government

CDC's MMWR Publishes Advisory Committee's Recommendations For Allocating COVID-19 Vaccine; VP Pence To Lead Roundtable Discussion On Vaccine Progress, Distribution

CDC’s “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report”: The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ Interim Recommendation for Allocating Initial Supplies of COVID-19 Vaccine — United States, 2020
Kathleen Dooling of the CDC COVID-19 Response Team and colleagues discuss interim guidance for the initial phase of the national COVID-19 vaccination program, recommending that health care personnel and residents of long-term care facilities be offered the COVID-19 vaccine in the initial phase (12/3).

White House: Vice President Pence Leads a Roundtable Discussion on the Unprecedented COVID-19 Vaccine Progress and Upcoming Distribution Stage (12/4).

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MMWR Article Examines Sex Differences In HIV Testing In 20 PEFPAR-Supported Sub-Saharan African Countries In 2019

CDC’s “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report”: Sex Differences in HIV Testing — 20 PEPFAR-Supported Sub-Saharan African Countries, 2019
Bakary Drammeh of the Division of Global HIV & TB at the Center for Global Health at CDC and colleagues discuss sex differences in HIV testing across 20 PEPFAR-supported sub-Saharan African countries in 2019 and note that during the study period, “men [were] less likely to be tested for HIV than women and represented 37% of HIV-positive results. Although women were twice as likely to be tested for HIV, approximately one third of new cases identified occurred among men” (12/4).

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Fogarty International Center Highlights Top 10 Global Health Research Stories Of 2020

NIH Fogarty International Center: Top global health research stories of 2020 from Fogarty and NIH
“During an unprecedented year of challenges for the global health research community, as the COVID-19 pandemic circled the globe, Fogarty and its extensive network of international partners responded to the health crisis, and continued to build and leverage global partnerships, and train the next generation of global health leaders. This year’s top selections from readers and editors of the Fogarty International Center’s Global Health Matters newsletter demonstrate the global health research community’s dedication, flexibility, and resilience…” (12/3).

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From KFF

KFF Provides Resources On Global, Domestic Aspects Of Pandemic

KFF: COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker — Updated as of December 4, 2020
Data on country government actions in response to COVID-19 are included in the tracker (12/4).

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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KFF Updates U.S. Global Health Budget Tracker Interactive

KFF: U.S. Global Health Budget Tracker
This newly updated tracker provides regularly updated information on U.S. government funding for global health. The interactive includes historical trends and tracks funding levels throughout the appropriations process. Data can be customized by fiscal year, sector, and U.S. agency (12/1).

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