KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

Civil Rights Further Deteriorating Amid COVID-19, With More People Living In Closed, Repressed Societies, Report Says

The Guardian: Covid used as pretext to curtail civil rights around the world, finds report
“The state of civil liberties around the world is bleak, according to a new study which found that 87% of the global population were living in nations deemed ‘closed,’ ‘repressed,’ or ‘obstructed.’ The figure is a 4% increase on last year’s, as civil rights were found to have deteriorated in almost every country in the world during Covid-19. A number of governments have used the pandemic as an excuse to curtail rights such as free speech, peaceful assembly, and freedom of association, according to Civicus Monitor, an alliance of civil society groups which assessed 196 countries…” (Hodal, 12/9).

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Corruption Cannot Be Allowed To Hinder COVID-19 Recovery, U.N. SG Says In International Anti-Corruption Day Message

U.N. News: We cannot allow corruption to infest COVID-19 recovery, U.N. chief says
“Corruption has thrived under the coronavirus pandemic and anyone involved in graft must be prevented from exploiting the rollout of new vaccines, the U.N. Secretary-General has said. In a message on International Anti-Corruption Day, on Wednesday, Secretary-General António Guterres underscored the need to ensure that recovery from COVID-19 is not hampered by corruption and unscrupulous acts…” (12/9).

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AstraZeneca/Oxford Coronavirus Vaccine Shows 62% Efficacy With 2 Standard Doses, Data Published In Lancet Show

The Guardian: Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine has 70% efficacy, full trial data shows
“The Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine has efficacy of 90% in a small group who got a half-dose first, but only 62% in the majority, full trial data newly published in The Lancet has confirmed. The results may create a quandary for regulatory bodies, which will have to decide on how the vaccine should be used if they approve it…” (Boseley, 12/8).

STAT: Detailed data on AstraZeneca-Oxford Covid-19 vaccine show it has moderate efficacy
“…The results confirm that two standard doses of the vaccine were 62% effective in preventing symptomatic Covid-19 disease in some trials. But when efficacy data from the trials were combined — including trials in which volunteers received a low dose followed by a standard dose of vaccine — the vaccine was deemed to be 70% efficacious. Among only volunteers who received a low dose followed by a standard dose of vaccine, the vaccine had 90% efficacy. It’s still not clear why efficacy in this group — which did not include anyone over the age of 55 — was so high. Some experts even wonder if it is the result of the play of chance, and not a true difference…” (Branswell/Herper, 12/8).

Washington Post: AstraZeneca vaccine details published in Lancet, but data suggests need for more trials
“…Researchers also are still studying which dose regimen can produce the greatest protection. Still, the results show a safe, well-tolerated and effective vaccine, and one that is cheaper — at $2 or $3 a dose — and easier to manufacture, transport, and store than its competitors, Maria Deloria Knoll of the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health wrote in a commentary accompanying the article in The Lancet…” (Booth/Johnson, 11/8).

Additional coverage of the vaccine study results is available from Al Jazeera, Bloomberg, and Nature.

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U.K. Regulators Urge People With Severe Allergies To Avoid Pfizer Coronavirus Vaccine After 2 HCWs Experience Reactions

Wall Street Journal: Two in U.K. Suffer Allergic Reaction to Pfizer’s Covid-19 Vaccine
“Two of the first people vaccinated in the U.K. on Tuesday with the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE shot responded adversely to the injection, the country’s National Health Service said, prompting the regulator to issue new guidance warning those with a history of significant allergic reactions against having the inoculation. … The two people are NHS workers, part of the first tranche to receive the vaccine in line with front-line staff having initial access. Each of them carried an adrenaline auto-injector to deal with their allergies. … The agency said that the vaccine, which is administered in two doses at least 21 days apart, had triggered an anaphylactoid reaction in the two people shortly after they received the shot. Such reactions are triggered sometimes by drugs such as aspirin, certain anti-inflammatory drugs, and opiates…” (Sugden, 12/9).

Additional coverage of the U.K. regulators’ warning is available from AP, Financial Times, New York Times, and TIME.

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FDA Releases First Evaluation Of Pfizer-BioNTech Coronavirus Vaccine Data, Showing Antibody Response Within 10 Days; Final Decision Expected This Week

AP: Pfizer vaccine moves closer to getting the OK in the U.S.
“U.S. regulators Tuesday released their first scientific evaluation of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine and confirmed it offers strong protection, setting the stage for the government to green light the biggest vaccination effort in the nation’s history. The analysis by Food and Drug Administration scientists comes ahead of a Thursday meeting where the agency’s independent advisers will debate if the evidence is strong enough to recommend vaccinating millions of Americans. A final FDA decision and the first shots could follow within just days…” (Neergaard/Perrone, 12/8).

New York Times: Pfizer’s Vaccine Offers Strong Protection After First Dose
“The coronavirus vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech provides strong protection against Covid-19 within about 10 days of the first dose, according to documents published on Tuesday by the Food and Drug Administration before a meeting of its vaccine advisory group. The finding is one of several significant new results featured in the briefing materials, which include more than 100 pages of data analyses from the agency and from Pfizer…” (Weiland/Zimmer, 12/8).

Additional coverage of the data and FDA’s expected approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is available from Bloomberg, CNBC (2), Financial Times, NBC News, Reuters, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post.

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U.A.E. Endorses Sinopharm Coronavirus Vaccine For General Use, Says Data Show 86% Efficacy

New York Times: Chinese vaccine is 86 percent effective, says U.A.E., where trials were held.
“The United Arab Emirates said on Wednesday that it approved a Chinese coronavirus vaccine that is being tested in the country after preliminary data showed that it was 86 percent effective. The U.A.E.’s Ministry of Health and Prevention said it reviewed an interim analysis by Sinopharm, a Chinese state-owned vaccine maker, of data from late-stage clinical trials that showed its vaccine was 86 percent effective in preventing infection from Covid-19. Sinopharm’s analysis showed the vaccine was 100 percent effective in preventing moderate and severe cases of the disease and that there were no serious safety concerns, the government said. It did not say if it conducted an independent analysis of the raw data…” (Wee, 12/9).

Additional coverage of U.A.E.’s analysis of the Sinopharm vaccine data is available from Bloomberg, CNBC, NPR, and Washington Post.

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News Outlets Examine Inequities In Vaccine Distribution, Vaccine Diplomacy, Nationalism

CNN: Rich countries are hoarding Covid-19 vaccines and leaving the developing world behind, People’s Vaccine Alliance warns
“Rich countries have bought enough Covid-19 vaccine doses to immunize their populations three times over, an international vaccine watchdog has said, but developing countries are being left behind in the global sprint to end the coronavirus pandemic. In 67 poorer nations, just one in 10 people can hope to receive a vaccine by the end of next year, the People’s Vaccine Alliance said on Wednesday…” (Picheta, 12/9).

PRI: As COVID-19 vaccines roll out, does the world face ‘tragedy of the commons’?
“David McAdams, an economist at Duke University, has been thinking a lot about a nearly 200-year-old concept lately. The ‘tragedy of the commons’ centers on a group of shepherds who let their sheep graze on a ‘common’ field. ‘But because everyone is focusing on their own sheep, the grass gets eaten down to the roots, and everyone’s sheep die,’ McAdams said of the hypothetical shared-resource situation. As nations now vie for COVID-19 vaccines, McAdams and other global health experts wonder — are we living through another tragedy of the commons?…” (Gordon, 12/8).

Quartz: China’s coronavirus vaccine diplomacy has already begun
“China began the year with its international reputation tarnished after anger that it quelled early reports of a new respiratory virus. It hopes to end it on a better note — by dispatching vaccines to countries who might otherwise have to wait longer for the shots. Over the weekend, Indonesia received 1.2 million vaccine doses from Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac, prompting a major discussion on social network Weibo, where the topic garnered 120 million views…” (Li, 12/8).

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Media Outlets Examine Trump Administration Efforts To Secure COVID-19 Vaccines

New York Times: Blunders Eroded U.S. Confidence in Early Vaccine Front-Runner
“…[A] pattern of communication blunders by AstraZeneca … has damaged the company’s relationship with regulators, raised doubts about whether its vaccine will stand up to intense public and scientific scrutiny and, in at least one instance, slowed the vaccine’s development. The result is that a vaccine that was expected to account for a substantial portion — by one metric, as much as 60 percent — of the total vaccine supply in the United States faces an uncertain future…” (Robbins et al., 12/8).

Roll Call: ‘America First’ order unlikely to save vaccines for Americans
“President Donald Trump signed a mostly symbolic executive order Tuesday specifying that the United States should get first access to any vaccine, formalizing with fanfare what experts say is already de facto U.S. policy. … But the executive order won’t create any new rules or prevent pharmaceutical companies from entering into bilateral agreements with foreign nations, according to a background briefing with senior administration officials Monday. It’s not clear the administration could prevent pharmaceutical companies from drawing on U.S. plants to satisfy agreements. … Some global health experts say the ‘America first’ message is counterproductive in a pandemic that easily seeps across borders. Advocates for greater global access to vaccine technology describe this position as ‘vaccine nationalism’…” (Kopp, 12/8).

Washington Post: The White House declined to buy more of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. Here’s where it could go instead.
“The Trump administration turned down the chance to secure more of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, which Britain became the first to roll out Tuesday, and will probably need to wait until June or July to procure doses beyond an initial order of 100 million because other countries have snapped up limited supply, the company told the White House. Trump administration officials defended their decision, noting that the United States is at the front of the line for the promising Moderna vaccine, which is expected to be approved in coming weeks, along with the Pfizer jab. … Given the Trump administration’s big promises on vaccines, the prospect of limited supply and long waits in the United States will lead to questions about where those doses are going. Here is what we know so far…” (Rauhala, 12/8).

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Media Outlets Examine President-Elect Biden's CDC Pick, Potential Choices For USAID Head, Pandemic Response Plan

Devex: Aid advocates look for early signals of Biden’s plans for USAID
“With six weeks remaining until inauguration day for President-elect Joe Biden, the U.S. development community is watching closely for signals about how the incoming team might approach leadership, policy priorities, and budgeting for U.S. foreign aid agencies. While some insiders hope Biden’s arrival might help repair broken relationships and rebuild strained bureaucracies, they also caution that aid advocates should not expect a budget windfall, or a quick fix to long-standing problems. As with every presidential transition, many eyes are on whom the Biden team might nominate as administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development…” (Igoe, 12/9).

The Hill: Biden, Trump offer dueling outlooks on coronavirus pandemic
“President Trump’s and President-elect Joe Biden’s starkly different outlooks on the coronavirus pandemic were on display in real time on Tuesday, underscoring the distrust and problems that have hindered the country’s pandemic response for months. Trump took a victory lap during a White House event on Operation Warp Speed, boasting of rapid vaccine development that he vowed would cause cases to ‘skyrocket down.’ At the same time, Biden was introducing members of his administration’s health team in Wilmington, Del., where he cautioned that ‘things may well get worse before they get better’…” (Samuels, 12/8).

The Hill: Biden aims for 100 million vaccinations in first hundred days
“President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday laid out three goals for the first hundred days of his administration’s COVID-19 response: getting 100 million people vaccinated against the virus, requiring masks where he has authority to, and getting kids back in school. Biden laid out his plan while introducing nominees and appointees who will play a key role in his administration’s response to the pandemic…” (Hellmann/Manchester, 12/8).

Additional coverage of Biden’s pick for CDC director is available from The Hill and Nature.

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U.S. Will Not Penalize Foreign Banks For Financing Medical Supplies, Other Aid For Iran

Reuters: U.S. says no sanctions penalty on humanitarian aid for Iran
“Banks that process payments for humanitarian aid to Iran will not be penalized under U.S. sanctions, the U.S. Treasury has said, following a European appeal for leniency. In a statement explaining the workings of its sanctions, U.S. authorities said foreign banks would not be punished for financing the supply of health and medical items such as hand sanitizer, ventilators, or personal protective equipment. … It also made clear that there were other exceptions to processing payments with the country, such as covering staff costs at international organizations with missions in Iran…” (O’Donnell, 12/8).

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Media Outlets Examine Climate Change-Related Issues, Including Impacts On COVID-19 Relief, Displacement, Disease Outbreaks

CNBC: WHO, World Bank, scientists: Covid-19 relief and climate change fixes must align or both will fail
“Both the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change have become dire due to a failure to act quickly, collaboratively and decisively. But if governments and leaders are strategic in their stimulus spending to recover the global economy from the pandemic, the climate crisis could also be set on a more accelerated path toward amelioration, says the 2020 Report of the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate…” (Clifford, 12/8).

Devex: Debunking myths around the displacement-climate change connection
“Misconceptions about the link between climate change and displacement can hamper humanitarian assistance efforts and protection of people affected by disasters, the head of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre said Tuesday. IDMC director Alexandra Bilak said her organization has become increasingly concerned about misperceptions around the climate change-displacement narrative, which she said is fueled by ‘sensationalist’ media reports. … Too often, she said, the press takes data and figures from studies and reports out of context, oversimplifying what such numbers mean. The domination of these false narratives creates misinformation about the true causes of the challenge, she said, and therefore undermines dialogue about solutions that can be pursued by policymakers…” (Welsh, 12/9).

Rolling Stone: How Climate Change Is Ushering in a New Pandemic Era
“…The reasons for this new era of pandemics are complex, but … one of the main drivers is the climate crisis, which is shaking up the natural world and rewriting disease algorithms on the planet…” (Goodell, 12/7).

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WHO Aims To Help 100M Smokers Quit With Launch Of Yearlong Global Campaign

VOA News: WHO Targets 100 Million Smokers in Yearlong Global Campaign
“The World Health Organization is calling on governments around the world to ensure their citizens have resources and tools to help them give up tobacco smoking as it launches a yearlong campaign aimed at helping 100 million people quit. The campaign, Commit to Quit, is focusing on 22 countries including the United States, and it officially got under way Tuesday ahead of World No Tobacco Day 2021, in May…” (12/8).

Additional coverage of the new campaign is available from U.N. News.

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More COVID-19 & Global Health News

AP: Siberians fight the pandemic by giving weary doctors a lift (Alexeyeva, 12/8).

AP: Merkel backs tougher virus curbs as German deaths hit record (Moulson et al., 12/9).

Borgen Magazine: COVID-19 Showing the Importance of Agricultural Market Resiliency (Friborg, 12/6).

Devex: The man behind Africa’s COVID-19 response (Jerving, 12/9).

Devex: Breaking: A.U.-E.U. meeting postponed ‘until further notice’ (Chadwick, 12/8).

Forbes: Record Flooding In Vietnam Leaves 2.5 Million Children At Risk (Tang, 12/8).

Forbes: Averting A Lost COVID Generation (Buechner, 12/8).

Financial Times: Covid delays India’s attempts to curb widespread overuse of antibiotics (Kazmin, 12/8).

Financial Times: The threat of antibiotic resistance — in charts (Jack/Campbell, 12/8).

The Guardian: U.S. coronavirus cases pass 15m amid stark warnings over hospital care (Walters/Singh, 12/8).

The Hill: Bill Gates: Up to 6 COVID-19 vaccines could be available in next few months (Jenkins, 12/8).

IPS: La Niña Weather Phenomenon Could Endanger Colombia’s Food Security (Arroyo, 12/9).

Reuters: Air freight prices ‘outrageous’ as COVID-19 shots rolled out, says WHO expert (Nebehay/Frost, 12/8).

U.N. News: U.N. emergency relief fund, ‘an investment in humanity’ declares Guterres (12/8).

U.N. News: Ethiopia: U.N. concern mounts over shortages, child welfare, in ongoing Tigray crisis (12/8).

Wall Street Journal: China Floats Covid-19 Theories That Point to Foreign Origins, Frozen Food (Hua/Qi, 12/8).

Washington Post: In the midst of India’s pandemic, some 500 people suddenly fall ill and it has nothing to do with the coronavirus (Masih/Kartheek, 12/9).

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Editorials and Opinions

Editorials, Opinion Pieces Address Various Aspects Of COVID-19 Pandemic, Including Vaccine Accessibility, Regulation, Trust; Global Health Security; Economic Challenges

Devex: Opinion: Africa-led solutions to expedite access to COVID-19 vaccines
Nagesh Borse, technical director of the Global Health Technical Program at USP, and Mwemezi Ngemera, pharmacist, public health specialist, and Africa regional lead at USP (12/9).

Foreign Affairs: Latin America’s Lost Decades
Luis Alberto Moreno, president of the Inter-American Development Bank from 2005 to 2020 and Colombia’s ambassador to the United States from 1998 to 2005 (January/February 2021).

Foreign Affairs: To Stop a Pandemic
Jennifer Nuzzo, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations (January/February 2021).

Nature: COVID vaccines: the world’s medical regulators need access to open data
Editorial Board (12/8).

Project Syndicate: The Pandemic Public-Debt Dilemma
Michael Spence, Nobel laureate in economics, Philip H. Knight professor and dean, emeritus, at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, and Danny Leipziger, professor at George Washington University’s School of Business (12/8).

Washington Post: The record turnaround for covid-19 vaccines has years of extraordinary science to thank
Editorial Board (12/8).

Washington Post: Two scenarios could derail trust in the vaccines. Here’s how we must prepare for them.
Leana S. Wen, Washington Post contributing columnist, emergency physician, and visiting professor at George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health (12/8).

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U.S. Must Ensure Yemenis Not Cut Off From Humanitarian Aid, Editorial Says

Bloomberg: The U.S. Shouldn’t Make Dire Situation in Yemen Worse
Editorial Board

“…The [potential designation of Yemen’s Houthi rebel movement as a foreign terrorist organization] threatens to do far more harm than good. If it goes forward, aid groups working in Houthi-controlled areas — which encompass 70% of the population as well as the capital and major ports — would have to suspend their activities or risk financial sanctions and prosecution. The move could also deter already limited commercial shipping, insurance, and trade with Yemen, hurting civilians throughout the country. Yemenis can ill afford any cutoff in aid: According to the United Nations, 1 in 6 are expected to be nearing famine by early next year, while virtually the entire country faces extreme food insecurity. … The U.N. is facing a massive funding gap in aid to Yemen; the new administration should look to restore U.S. funding that was suspended earlier this year, and press its Saudi and Gulf allies to step up their contributions as well. It is past time for the U.S. to stop backing the disastrous Saudi campaign in Yemen…” (12/8).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

Blog Posts, Release Discuss COVID-19 Treatments, Vaccines, Generic Drugs

African Arguments: The dangers of playing politics with COVID-19 cures
Sarah L. Bosha, assistant teaching professor in global health and human rights, and ethics in global health at the Eck Institute for Global Health at the University of Notre Dame and legal and research adviser for HIV and human rights at AIDS-Free World, and Adam R. Houston, PhD candidate in the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa (12/8).

Amnesty International: The fight for a fair COVID-19 vaccine explained (12/8).

Health Affairs: Generic Drug Repurposing For Public Health And National Security: COVID-19 And Beyond
Rena M. Conti, associate professor in the Department of Markets, Public Policy, and Law at Boston University Questrom School of Business and associate research director of biopharma and public policy for the Boston University Institute for Health System Innovation and Policy, and colleagues (12/8).

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Blog Posts Discuss Community-Based, Women's Efforts To Respond To COVID-19, NTDs, Reproductive Health Needs

Global Citizen: This Midwife in Zambia Says International Solidarity Is Needed to Combat COVID-19
Jacky Habib, freelance journalist (12/7).

Global Citizen: How This Woman Is Using Her Cellphone to Tackle River Blindness in Cameroon
Jacky Habib, freelance journalist (12/7).

IntraHealth International’s “VITAL”: Meet Three Ugandan Women Who Say Community-Based Family Planning Has Changed Their Lives
Irene Mirembe, knowledge management manager at IntraHealth International (12/7).

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Laws, Policies Must Catch Up To Scientific Advancement To Eradicate HIV, Report Says

Global Citizen: Countries Around the World Need to Prioritize Policy Change to Tackle HIV: Report
Khanyi Mlaba, writer and editor at Global Citizen, discusses findings from a recently released HIV Policy Lab report “that details how different countries’ HIV policies compare to the international standard.” Mlaba writes, “The HIV Policy Lab looked at four categories of policies in its comparison: clinical/treatment, testing and prevention, structural policies, and health systems. … The report explains that although there has been impressive progress in the advancement of science in the study of HIV, minimizing the spread of the virus will continue to be difficult so long as there is no policy implemented as a result of this scientific advancement. … [T]he report explains that these scientific advancements need to work in tandem with laws and policies in order for HIV to be eradicated” (12/8).

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From the U.S. Government

White House, State Department Highlight Trump's Executive Order On Access To Coronavirus Vaccines

U.S. Department of State: President Trump’s Executive Order on Ensuring Access to United States Government COVID-19 Vaccines
In a statement, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo says, “On December 8, President Trump issued the Executive Order on Ensuring Access to United States Government COVID-19 Vaccines. The Executive Order provides a mandate for the United States to facilitate international access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, reaffirming the United States’ leadership and our commitment to help the world end this pandemic…” (12/8).

White House: President Donald J. Trump’s Effort To Provide Americans With A Safe And Effective Vaccine Is Delivering Results
This fact sheet outlines steps the Trump administration has taken on developing a coronavirus vaccine and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic (12/8).

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Latest Issue Of CDC Global Health Protection Division's 'Updates From The Field' Focuses On Strengthening Public Health Systems To Respond To COVID-19

CDC: Updates from the Field: Protecting Health and Building Capacity Globally
The latest issue of the CDC Division of Global Health Protection’s Updates from the Field focuses on responding to COVID-19 through strengthened public health systems and includes articles on investing in laboratory capacity, Africa CDC’s continent-wide response, and the use of mobile phone technology for data collection (12/8).

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From KFF

KFF Provides Resources On Global, Domestic Aspects Of Pandemic

KFF: COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker — Updated as of December 9, 2020
Data on country government actions in response to COVID-19 are included in the tracker (12/9).

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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