KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

2021 Could Be Humanitarian 'Catastrophe,' U.N. Officials Warn

Reuters: U.N. warns 2021 shaping up to be a humanitarian catastrophe
“Next year is shaping up to be a humanitarian catastrophe and rich countries must not trample poor countries in a ‘stampede for vaccines’ to combat the coronavirus pandemic, top U.N. officials told the 193-member U.N. General Assembly on Friday. World Food Programme (WFP) chief David Beasley and World Health Organization (WHO) head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke during a special meeting on COVID-19, which emerged in China late last year and has so far infected 65 million globally. The pandemic, measures taken by countries to try to stop its spread and the economic impact have fueled a 40% increase in the number of people needing humanitarian help, the United Nations said earlier this week. It has appealed for $35 billion in aid funding…” (Nichols, 12/4).

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U.N. Officials, Scientists Express Optimism Over Coronavirus Vaccines, Call For More Preparedness, Solidarity At U.N. General Assembly Session

U.N. News: Scientists optimistic about COVID-19 vaccines for all
“Scientists developing COVID-19 vaccines are optimistic that by the end of next year, all people everywhere will have access to safe and effective treatments against a disease which has disrupted the entire planet. Principals from BioNTech and Oxford University — both pioneers in the COVID vaccine rollout — participated in an online dialogue on Friday, held under the special session of the U.N. General Assembly devoted to the pandemic…” (12/4).

VOA News: WHO Chief Urges Investment, Preparation for Next Pandemic
“The head of the World Health Organization said Friday that with a COVID-19 vaccine on the horizon, nations must start investing and preparing for the next pandemic. ‘Despite years of warnings, many countries were simply not ready for COVID-19,’ WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a special session of the U.N. General Assembly on the coronavirus. ‘Many mistakenly assumed their strong health systems would protect them’…” (Besheer, 12/4).

Xinhua: Roundup: U.N. principals call for right decisions, science, solidarity, ceasefire in fight against COVID-19
“Principals of the United Nations, including the U.N. deputy chief and the development chief, on Friday called on the global community to make the right decisions, respect science, seek solidarity and cease fire in the struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been ravaging human beings for almost a year. ‘This session comes at a critical moment. If we make the right decisions now, we can meet the humanitarian needs, reset the development pathways, accelerate implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and secure a life of dignity and opportunity for all on a safe and a healthy planet,’ U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said, while addressing the second and final day of the U.N. General Assembly’s special session on COVID-19…” (12/4).

Additional coverage of the General Assembly’s special session is available from AP, U.N. News, and Xinhua.

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Many Countries Can Expect Vaccine Delivery In Early 2021, WHO Says, Warning Pandemic Not Over

Health Policy Watch: Most Countries Can Expect Vaccine Supply in Early 2021 — But The Pandemic is Far From Over, Warns WHO
“While the U.K. and U.S. are likely to start vaccinating its citizens against COVID-19 before the end of the year, the 189 countries that are part of the COVAX initiative should expect to start getting vaccines towards the end of the first quarter of 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said. Currently through COVAX, the vaccine arm of the WHO-led Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, WHO has agreed deals that could provide 700 million doses of a COVID vaccine. ‘But that’s not sufficient,’ said Dr Soumya Swaminathan, WHO’s Chief Scientist, at a media briefing on Friday…” (Cullinan, 12/4).

Reuters: WHO hopes to have 500 million vaccine doses via COVAX scheme in first quarter of 2021 — chief scientist
“… ‘The goal is to get at least 2 billion doses by end of 2021 which will be enough to vaccinate 20% of the populations of countries that are part of COVAX,’ chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan told a Geneva news conference. This would be enough to ‘bring to an end the acute phase of the pandemic’ by reducing mortality and the impact on health systems, she said…” (Nebehay/Shields, 12/4).

U.N. News: It isn’t over: WHO concerned at ‘growing perception’ COVID pandemic is passing
“The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) sounded the alarm on Friday over the ‘growing perception’ that the COVID-19 pandemic is over, despite exploding infection rates in some countries and enormous pressure growing on health services. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists at the regular Geneva briefing that progress on vaccines, in recent days, ‘gives us all a lift, and we can now start to see the light at the end of the tunnel’…” (12/4).

Additional coverage of vaccine development and distribution is available from Bloomberg, Financial Times, Health Policy Watch, The Lancet, New Yorker, Thomson Reuters Foundation, and Washington Post (2).

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U.K., Russia Begin Coronavirus Vaccination Efforts With Different Vaccines

AP: U.K. gears up for huge vaccination plan watched by the world
“Shipments of the coronavirus vaccine developed by American drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech were delivered Sunday in the U.K. in super-cold containers, two days before it goes public in an immunization program that is being closely watched around the world. Around 800,000 doses of the vaccine were expected to be in place for the start of the immunization program on Tuesday, a day that Health Secretary Matt Hancock has reportedly dubbed as ‘V-Day,’ a nod to triumphs in World War II…” (Pylas, 12/7).

AP: Moscow opens dozens of coronavirus vaccination centers
“The city of Moscow [is] opening 70 vaccination facilities where thousands of doctors, teachers, and others in high-risk groups had signed up to receive COVID-19 vaccines starting Saturday, a precursor to a sweeping Russia-wide immunization effort. The centers in the capital started giving shots to willing recipients three days after President Vladimir Putin ordered the launch of a ‘large-scale’ COVID-19 immunization campaign even though a Russian-designed vaccine has yet to complete the advanced studies needed to ensure its effectiveness and safety in line with established scientific protocols…” (Isachenkov, 12/5).

Additional coverage of coronavirus vaccination efforts in the U.K. and Russia is available from New York Times, NPR, VOA News, and Wall Street Journal.

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China Prepares Domestic, International Distribution Of Coronavirus Vaccines; Media Outlets Examine Funding Issues

AP: China prepares large-scale rollout of coronavirus vaccines
“Provincial governments across China are placing orders for experimental, domestically made coronavirus vaccines, though health officials have yet to say how well they work or how they may reach the country’s 1.4 billion people. Developers are speeding up final testing, the Chinese foreign minister said during a U.N. meeting last week, as Britain approved emergency use of Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine candidate and providers scrambled to set up distribution…” (Wu/Zhang, 12/7).

Additional coverage of China’s vaccine production efforts, funding, and alleged industry scandal is available from AP, Financial Times, and New York Times.

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Chinese Authorities Push False Stories On Coronavirus Origins, NYT Reports

New York Times: China Peddles Falsehoods to Obscure Origin of Covid Pandemic
“…Facing global anger over their initial mishandling of the outbreak, the Chinese authorities are now trying to rewrite the narrative of the pandemic by pushing theories that the virus originated outside China. In recent days, Chinese officials have said that packaged food from overseas might have initially brought the virus to China. Scientists have released a paper positing that the pandemic could have started in India. The state news media has published false stories misrepresenting foreign experts … as having said the coronavirus came from elsewhere. The campaign seems to reflect anxiety within the ruling Communist Party about the continuing damage to China’s international reputation brought by the pandemic. Western officials have criticized Beijing for trying to conceal the outbreak when it first erupted…” (Hernández et al., 12/6).

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U.S. Health Officials Warn Americans Must Continue Mitigation Efforts; FDA To Hold Meeting On Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine On Thursday; Targets Likely Will Not Be Met In Vaccine Roll Out

AP: Health officials warn Americans not to let their guard down
“With a COVID-19 vaccine perhaps just days away in the U.S., most of California headed into another lockdown Sunday because of the surging outbreak and top health officials warned Americans that this is no time to let their guard down. … A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel is scheduled to take up a request Thursday to authorize emergency use of Pfizer’s vaccine. Vaccinations could begin just days later, though initial supplies will be rationed, and shots are not expected to become widely available until the spring…” (Groves et al., 12/6).

STAT: On the ground, the pledge to vaccinate 20 million against Covid-19 in December seems unrealistic
“Hospitals across the United States are preparing for a Covid-19 vaccine distribution timeline that’s well behind official government targets as they face ongoing confusion about the process for inoculating frontline employees. Leaders of Operation Warp Speed have repeatedly said they are on track to vaccinate 20 million people in December, enough for nearly all the health care workers and long-term care residents who are first in line to get a vaccine. But those involved in vaccine planning at four health care systems, in California, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Kansas, told STAT they expect to still be giving staff their first shots in mid-January…” (Goldhill, 12/7).

Additional coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. and efforts to approve and distribute a vaccine is available from CNBC, CNN, The Guardian, Reuters, STAT, and Washington Post (2).

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Biden Taps California AG Xavier Becerra As HHS Secretary, Harvard Infectious Disease Specialist Rochelle Walensky To Lead CDC

AP: Biden picks Calif. AG Becerra to lead HHS, pandemic response
“President-elect Joe Biden has picked California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to be his health secretary, putting a defender of the Affordable Care Act in a leading role to oversee his administration’s coronavirus response. Separately, Biden picked a Harvard infectious disease expert, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, to head the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention…” (Alonso-Zaldivar et al., 12/7).

Devex: Biden’s plan for global COVID-19 leadership to face early tests
“Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to be a defining focus of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s approach to global health, development, and humanitarian engagement. While some features of the incoming administration’s international pandemic plans are clear — particularly those that serve as direct rebukes to President Donald Trump — there are still a number of open questions about how Biden’s White House will marshal resources, organize the U.S. government, and shape global health assistance for a world transformed by COVID-19…” (Igoe, 12/7).

POLITICO: To rebuild CDC, Biden picks Rochelle Walensky
“…[Rochelle] Walensky, who is also a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and an expert on AIDS and HIV, will be tasked with rebuilding a critical health agency that has been sidelined by the Trump administration amid a pandemic. Walensky will replace Robert Redfield, who assumed the role of director in March 2018, and take a top role in helping the Biden administration curtail the coronavirus pandemic…” (Pager, 12/6).

USA TODAY: Meet Biden crisis manager Ron Klain, who will dive into the COVID-19 fight with Dr. Anthony Fauci
“…[Ron] Klain’s leadership on Ebola and his work with then-Vice President Joe Biden on the 2009 economic stimulus during the Great Recession were central to Biden’s selection of Klain as his incoming White House chief of staff. … Klain, 59, may be the most prepared White House chief of staff in recent times, especially for the twin health and economic crises facing the country…” (Groppe, 12/6).

Additional coverage of the Biden-Harris administration’s plans to address COVID-19 and the transition is available from CNN, The Hill (2), NBC, and Reuters.

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Trump Administration Considers Labeling Houthi Rebels In Yemen As Terrorist Organization; Aid Groups Warn Move Would Complicate Humanitarian Aid As Nation Faces Famine

NBC News: Trump admin debates labeling Yemen’s Houthis terrorists, aid groups warn thousands face famine
“Trump administration officials are locked in an internal debate about whether to label Houthi rebels in Yemen as a terrorist organization, as aid groups and United Nations officials warn that the move could trigger a humanitarian disaster in a country that has now spent five years at war, four people familiar with the discussions told NBC News…” (Williams/De Luce, 12/6).

Additional coverage of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen is available from New Humanitarian and Reuters.

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WHO Appoints Anil Soni As CEO Of New WHO Foundation; Soni Speaks With Devex About Foundation's Future

AP: WHO tries to bolster fragile funding with new foundation CEO
“Hoping to strengthen its funding, the World Health Organization is appointing a CEO to a foundation intended to bring in more private donations, which should leave the global health body less vulnerable if a country withdraws or cuts funding as the United States did. Anil Soni will join the new WHO Foundation in January after eight years with the multinational pharmaceutical Viatris…” (Hinnant, 12/7).

Devex: Q&A: New CEO Anil Soni on the future of the WHO Foundation
“…Soni, a global health leader who has worked in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors — most recently as head of the Global Infectious Disease at Viatris, a global pharmaceutical company — said he saw the role as an opportunity to support the work of WHO. … Soni spoke with Devex about the aims, goals, and challenges of the new foundation…” (Ravelo, 12/7).

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Experts Hope Coronavirus R&D Response Can Spur More Malaria Vaccine Research; Oxford To Start Final Stage Of Human Malaria Vaccine Trials

Devex: Just over $600M a year goes to malaria R&D. Can COVID-19 change that?
“The accelerated phase of vaccine development for the novel coronavirus has experts hopeful that it could have knock-on effects for other diseases, such as malaria. On average, malaria research and development have seen just over $600 million in investment annually from 2007 to 2018. … Total malaria R&D investment from 2007 to 2018 was over $7 billion, according to data from Policy Cures Research in the [World Malaria Report]. Of that total, about $1.8 billion went to vaccine R&D. In comparison, U.S. investments in vaccine R&D for COVID-19 this year through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority have exceeded $11 billion…” (Ravelo, 12/4).

The Guardian: Team behind Oxford Covid jab start final stage of malaria vaccine trials
“The Oxford team that has produced a successful coronavirus vaccine is about to enter the final stage of human trials in its quest for an inoculation against malaria. The Jenner Institute director, Prof. Adrian Hill, said the malaria vaccine would be tested on 4,800 children in Africa next year after early trials yielded promising results. … More than 400,000 people a year die of the disease, and in Africa a child under five dies every two minutes. … The vaccine could be in use by 2024 if the final human trials are successful, [Hill] said. It is regarded as a potentially huge breakthrough, given that no vaccine is fully licensed for malaria despite a century of research…” (Marsh, 12/5).

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New Humanitarian Reports On Delayed Circulation Of Inter-Agency Review Of DRC Ebola Response

New Humanitarian: Exclusive: U.N. criticized for holding back review of troubled Congo Ebola response
“A review by leading aid agencies of Ebola operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo was not widely circulated to organizations involved in the response until several months after the epidemic was declared over, despite containing details of mismanagement, sexual abuse and exploitation, and coordination problems during the deadly outbreak. The internal report from the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), a grouping of major U.N. agencies and NGOs, is one of the clearest acknowledgements — by humanitarian agencies themselves — of mistakes made during the Ebola crisis, which claimed more than 2,200 lives between August 2018 and June 2020…” (Kleinfeld/Parker, 12/4).

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Conflict In Ethiopia's Tigray Region Impacting Country's Coronavirus Efforts; U.N. Preparing To Access Region With Humanitarian Aid

AP: Ethiopia’s conflict stokes humanitarian and virus crisis
“Ethiopia’s month-long war in its northern Tigray region has severely hampered efforts to fight one of Africa’s worst coronavirus outbreaks, as the fighting has displaced almost 1 million people and strained local humanitarian services to the breaking point. Tens of thousands of those fleeing the conflict between Tigrayan and Ethiopian federal forces have crossed into neighboring Sudan, where countrywide virus numbers are also rising rapidly. More than 45,000 refugees from the Tigray conflict are now living in remote parts of Sudan, where they have taken shelter in crowded camps that have no coronavirus testing or treatment capabilities…” (Abuelgasim/Anna, 12/6).

Devex: Humanitarians worry about limitations in Tigray agreement
“Over the past month, aid groups have not had access to people living in the northern Ethiopian region of Tigray due to clashes between the national military and local forces. This has raised alarm over food, medicine, and fuel shortages, and lack of access to populations impacted by the violence. No supplies have been allowed into the conflict zone and the government cut off communications in the region. Aid groups have not been able to fully account for the safety of their staff. Following humanitarian pleas, an agreement between Ethiopia’s government and the United Nations that will allow humanitarian access to Tigray, including the bordering regions of Amhara and Afar, was announced on Wednesday…” (Jerving, 12/4).

U.N. News: U.N. working at ‘full speed’ to prepare for humanitarian mission to Ethiopia’s Tigray
“The U.N.’s humanitarian coordination office, said on Friday that it was doing its utmost to secure aid access to Ethiopia’s Tigray region, after a deal was struck to reach displaced civilians, following weeks of fighting between federal and regional forces. … At a scheduled press conference in Geneva, the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said that it was ‘poised’ to resume full humanitarian activities in the Tigray region ‘as soon as the situation allows’ following the agreement to restore access. … Ahead of assessment missions by the U.N. and its partners, the U.N. agency provisionally estimated that up to two million people from Tigray Region would need assistance, it said in a statement…” (12/4).

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More COVID-19 & Global Health News

AP: Hundreds ill, 1 dead due to unidentified disease in India (12/7).

Financial Times: What HIV taught Matshidiso Moeti about Covid-19 (Gross, 12/5).

Health Policy Watch: Economic Benefits Of ACT Accelerator Outweigh Costs, Says Eurasia Group (Santos, 12/4).

New York Times: Why Melinda Gates Spends Time ‘Letting My Heart Break’ (Gelles, 12/4).

PBS: Indigenous ‘helpers’ train to combat high maternal mortality rates (12/4).

PRI: How women and girls are especially at risk of hunger during the pandemic (Shenoy, 12/4).

Quartz Africa: Scientists are worried a second wave of Covid-19 infections is starting in Kenya and South Africa (Edward-Ekpu, 12/5).

Reuters: ‘No presents’: Mexicans urged to embrace abstemious Christmas to stop pandemic (Fernandez et al., 12/5).

VOA: Yellow Fever in Nigeria Continues to Spread (Schlein, 12/5).

Washington Post: Height, weight and nutrition of youths vary widely around the globe, study says (Blakemore, 12/5).

Washington Post: The coronavirus has come roaring back into Brazil, shattering illusions it wouldn’t (McCoy/Traiano, 12/5).

Washington Post: Germany was held up as an example of how to do the pandemic. Now it’s struggling (Morris, 12/5).

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Editorials and Opinions

Opinion Piece Discusses COVID-19 Vaccine Accessibility, Argues For Suspension Of Intellectual Property Rights

New York Times: Want Vaccines Fast? Suspend Intellectual Property Rights
Achal Prabhala, coordinator of the AccessIBSA project and fellow of the Shuttleworth Foundation; Arjun Jayadev, professor of economics at Azim Premji University and senior economist at the Institute for New Economic Thinking; and Dean Baker, senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research

“As some reports would have it, this is the beginning of the end. Three coronavirus vaccines have posted excellent results, with more expected to come. But this is not the beginning of the end; it is only the beginning of an endless wait: There aren’t enough vaccines to go around in the richest countries on earth, let alone the poorest ones. That’s why it makes little sense that the United States, Britain, and the European Union, among others, are blocking a proposal at the World Trade Organization that would allow them, and the rest of the world, to get more of the vaccines and treatments we all need. The proposal, put forward by India and South Africa in October, calls on the WTO to exempt member countries from enforcing some patents, trade secrets, or pharmaceutical monopolies under the organization’s agreement on trade-related intellectual property rights, known as TRIPs. … [G]overnments of rich countries can push back against Big Pharma … and sometimes have done so — despite the pharmaceutical industry’s sometimes colossal financial clout. … [M]ounting pressure from poor countries at the WTO should give the governments of rich countries leverage to negotiate with their pharmaceutical companies for cheaper drugs and vaccines worldwide. Leaning on those companies is the right thing to do in the face of a global pandemic; it is also the best way for the governments of rich countries to take care of their own populations…” (12/7).

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Opinion Pieces Discuss U.S. COVID-19 Mitigation Strategies, Balancing Public Health, Individual Freedoms

The Hill: Personal freedoms should not trump public health
James Alwine, virologist and fellow of the American Academy for Microbiology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Felicia Goodrum Sterling, 2018 Public Voices fellow of the OpEd Project, professor, and virologist (12/5).

The Hill: The real threat posed by COVID-19 lockdowns
David S. D’Amato, attorney, columnist at the Cato Institute’s Libertarianism.org, and policy adviser at both the Future of Freedom Foundation and the Heartland Institute (12/5).

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Including Women's Perspectives In COVID-19 Media Coverage Critical To Addressing Gender Gaps In Pandemic Response, Opinion Piece Says

STAT: Women’s perspectives and voices need more inclusion in Covid-19 media coverage
Nandini Oomman, global health and development specialist and chief executive officer of the Women’s Storytelling Salon; Kathryn Conn, nurse, global health specialist, and chief operating officer of the Women’s Storytelling Salon; and Elizabeth O’Connell, global health strategic partnerships consultant and member of the executive committee of the Washington, D.C., chapter of Women in Global Health

“As media coverage of Covid-19 continues 24/7, it routinely ignores an important dimension of the crisis: its impact on women. Writers — journalists, as well as opinion and commentary writers — have largely excluded women’s perspectives, their critical expertise, and the mounting evidence about how the pandemic is affecting women from Covid-19-related articles. … [M]edia organizations are missing out on leveraging the vast networks of women around the world who not only bear a disproportionate burden of the pandemic but who are also essential to containing the virus. … If women’s views as scientists, health care providers, public health officials, parents, and caregivers are excluded from news stories, their perspectives aren’t included in solutions that will address their particular concerns and challenges. There is a very real risk that gender inequalities will limit the success of the Covid-19 response if we are not able to address gender gaps and allow space for women’s voices and women’s stories. … Writing with awareness of and attention to intersecting biases of gender and race will strengthen the role of the media in informing the public, influencing policymakers, and ensuring that the design and delivery of Covid-19 responses are tailored to the needs of all” (12/5).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

Think Global Health Publishes Articles Related To COVID-19

Think Global Health: COVID-19: A Wake-Up Call to Africa for Investing in Responsive and Resilient Health-Care Systems
Tom Achoki, co-founder of Mass Sciences and the Africa Institute for Health Policy Foundation (11/30).

Think Global Health: An Aging World Requires More Support for Health Systems
Joseph L. Dieleman, associate professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, and colleagues (12/4).

Think Global Health: A ‘To Undo’ List for the Biden Administration’s COVID-19 Response
Laura Hoemeke, adjunct professor at the University of North Carolina (UNC) Gillings School of Global Public Health, member of the board of directors of the Global Alliance for Surgical, Obstetric, Trauma and Anesthesia Care (G4 Alliance), and principal of Hoemeke Global, Ltd., and colleagues (12/1).

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Blog Posts Discuss Findings From 'Missing Perspectives Of Women In News' Report

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: Missing Perspectives: How women are left out of the news
Susan Byrnes, chief communications officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Luba Kassova, co-founder and director at AKAS (12/2).

Poynter: The ‘missing perspectives of women in news’ is alarming and grim, a new report shows
Amaris Castillo, writing/research assistant for the NPR Public Editor and contributor to Poynter.org (12/4).

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December 2020 Issue Of WHO Bulletin Available Online

WHO: Bulletin of the World Health Organization
The December 2020 WHO Bulletin features articles on various global health topics, including an editorial on the social, cultural, and economic aspects of antimicrobial resistance; a news article on ensuring equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines; and a research article on lessons from a COVID-19 hospital in South Korea (December 2020).

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From the U.S. Government

USAID Provides Assistance To Support Botswana's COVID-19 Response

USAID: Botswana’s Communities Stand Strong Against COVID-19 With USAID’s Assistance
“In response to the urgent threat posed to the population of Botswana and its health care system by the spread of COVID-19, the United States Government (USG) through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) committed $1.5 million dollars to support the Government of Botswana’s (GoB) swift and decisive response to COVID-19 and to protect the nation from this global coronavirus pandemic…” (12/4).

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From KFF

KFF Provides Resources On Global, Domestic Aspects Of Pandemic

KFF: COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker — Updated as of December 7, 2020
Data on country government actions in response to COVID-19 are included in the tracker (12/7).

A KFF-curated recap of pandemic-related news from last week is available here. 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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