KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

WHO Calls For Caution Over Spread Of COVID-19, More International Funding; Experts Say China's Shifting Case Definitions Causing Confusion

Bloomberg: World Health Organization Calls for Nations to Boost Funding in Coronavirus Fight
“The head of the World Health Organization called for nations around the globe to boost funding to fight the coronavirus while the outbreak is still mostly confined to China, and the airline industry forecast the first annual decline in global passenger demand in more than decade. Tom Mackenzie reports on ‘Bloomberg Markets’…” (Mackenzie, 2/20).

CNBC: Coronavirus cases outside China remain low, but WHO chief warns ‘that may not stay the same for long’
“World health officials said Thursday that the new coronavirus has not yet spread widely around the world, but emphasized that the virus could break out globally at any time. ‘The number of cases in the rest of the world is very small compared to what we have in China, but that may not stay the same for long,’ World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters at the organization’s headquarters in Geneva on Thursday…” (Feuer, 2/20).

Reuters: Coronavirus on G20 agenda as China reports uptick in cases
“…As international authorities tried to stop the outbreak in China from becoming a global pandemic, finance leaders from the Group of 20 major economies meeting in Saudi Arabia over the weekend were set to discuss risks to the global economy…” (Li et al., 2/20).

STAT: Experts say confusion over coronavirus case count in China is muddying picture of spread
“Infectious diseases experts are losing confidence in the accuracy of China’s count of cases of the novel coronavirus, pointing toward health officials’ shifting definition of cases over time. Confusion over how China is counting cases of infections is making it harder to know how coronavirus is spreading, even as China is officially reporting that the numbers of new cases reported in recent days have fallen sharply. Many suspect the decline may be attributed in part to shifting case definitions…” (Branswell, 2/20).

Additional coverage of the WHO press conference and concerns over COVID-19 case counts is available from Fox News, The Hill (2), NBC, New York Times (2), NPR, Reuters (2), Scientific American, VOA, Washington Post, and Washington Times.

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46 Members Of Congress Ask President Trump To Ensure Future Coronavirus Vaccines, Treatments Affordable, Accessible

The Hill: House Democrats ask Trump to ensure affordability of future coronavirus vaccine
“Dozens of House Democrats wrote to President Trump Thursday to ask that he ensure any future coronavirus vaccines and treatments be ‘accessible, available and affordable.’ The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will help fund efforts by Janssen — a drug company owned by Johnson & Johnson — to create a coronavirus vaccine and treatment. HHS is also partnering with French drugmaker Sanofi to produce a potential coronavirus vaccine…” (Hellmann, 2/20).

STAT: Lawmakers to Trump: Don’t give ‘monopolies’ to companies that develop coronavirus treatments with taxpayer funds
“…In a letter sent Thursday, 46 members of Congress urged the Department of Health and Human Service not to issue an exclusive license to any drug maker that develops a coronavirus treatment over concerns that ‘providing monopoly rights could result in an expensive medicine that is inaccessible, wasting public resources and putting public health at risk in the U.S. and around the globe.’ Instead, they urged the Trump administration to issue limited licenses requiring companies to make any treatment available at an affordable price, although the lawmakers did not offer an approach for how that might be established. They also insisted that HHS intervene if a drug maker prices a treatment for Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, at an ‘excessive’ price, which was not defined…” (Silverman, 2/20).

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Preliminary Trial Results For Possible COVID-19 Treatments Expected In 3 Weeks, WHO Says, Notes Vaccine Research Being Fast-Tracked

CNBC: Early trial results for potential coronavirus treatments expected in 3 weeks, WHO says
“Preliminary results from two clinical trials testing potential treatments for the COVID-19 coronavirus are expected in three weeks, the World Health Organization said Thursday. … In the meantime, scientists are also working quickly to produce a vaccine candidate to be ready for human clinical trials. U.S. health officials are fast-tracking work on a coronavirus vaccine, hoping to start an early-stage trial within the next two and a half months, the Trump administration said earlier this month…” (Lovelace, 2/20).

Additional coverage of research into COVID-19 treatments and vaccines, as well as how the outbreak is impacting research scientists’ work in China, is available from Forbes, The Guardian, NPR, and Science.

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Media Outlets Examine Various Aspects Of COVID-19 Outbreak, Response

AP: Stress, rumors, even violence: Virus fear goes viral (Klug, 2/21).

Devex: As global cases climb, Latin America readies for coronavirus response (Welsh, 2/21).

New York Times: ‘No More Hugging, No More Kissing.’ At Home in Hong Kong With 2 Frontline Doctors (May, 2/20).

New York Times: Why the Coronavirus Seems to Hit Men Harder Than Women (Rabin, 2/20).

Reuters: Virus shows plight of China’s overstretched doctors (Harney, 2/21).

Reuters: China lab says conspiracy theories hurting efforts to curb virus (Stanway, 2/20).

Science: First deaths of cruise ship passengers fuel debate over Japan’s handling of quarantine (Normile, 2/20).

STAT: Once widely criticized, the Wuhan quarantine bought the world time to prepare for Covid-19 (Begley, 2/21).

Washington Post: Coronavirus-infected Americans flown home against CDC’s advice (Sun et al., 2/20).

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Thailand's Constitutional Court Says Laws Criminalizing Abortion Unconstitutional, Orders Reform

Reuters: Thai court says anti-abortion laws unconstitutional
“Thailand’s Constitutional Court has ruled that existing laws criminalizing abortion are unconstitutional and ordered them to be amended, paving the way for clearer regulation for reproductive rights…” (Setboonsarng, 2/20).

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'Worst Case' Humanitarian Scenario In Idlib, Former U.S. Ambassador To Syria Warns, Calls For U.S., NATO To Urge Ceasefire

The Hill: Former U.S. ambassador to Syria: Idlib is ‘worst case scenario’
“A top diplomat in the Obama administration is calling on the U.S. and NATO to push for a cease-fire between Turkey and Russia in Syria, saying the battles in the Idlib province are resulting in an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. ‘Idlib is the worst case scenario we have worried about in Syria since 2011,’ said Robert Ford, who served as U.S. ambassador to Syria from 2010 to 2014, during a briefing Thursday on Capitol Hill…” (Kelly, 2/20).

Additional coverage of the humanitarian crisis in Idlib is available from New Humanitarian and PRI.

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New Partnership To Use Weather Data To Inform Mosquito-Borne Disease Response, Prevention

Devex: Exclusive: New partnership leverages weather data to tackle mosquito-borne diseases
“…[A] diverse group of partners is coming together to explore how weather data and analytics can help defeat mosquito-borne diseases. With the rise of extreme weather events, there is increased urgency and opportunity for weather data to inform disease program policy and planning, said Martin Edlund, CEO at Malaria No More, who announced the partnership at Devex’s Prescription for Progress event in San Francisco on Thursday. Forecasting Healthy Futures will produce heat maps and dashboards to inform efforts to predict, control, and eliminate mosquito-borne diseases…” (Cheney, 2/20).

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More News In Global Health

The BMJ: Children’s health and wellbeing must be prioritized by governments, experts urge (Mahase, 2/20).

Devex: What is ‘mutual prosperity’ and what does it mean for U.K. aid? (Worley, 2/21).

The Lancet: Locust swarms in east Africa could be ‘a catastrophe’ (Devi, 2/22).

Reuters: Time running out to end Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis: Lima Group bloc (Ljunggren, 2/20).

STAT: Aided by machine learning, scientists find a novel antibiotic able to kill superbugs in mice (Ross, 2/20).

STAT: Gilead loses another challenge to a pair of U.S. patents for an HIV prevention pill (Silverman, 2/20).

U.N. News: Simple urine test could improve early detection of bladder cancer — WHO study (2/20).

U.N. News: ‘Deliberate starvation’ tactics used in South Sudan could be a war crime (2/20).

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Editorials and Opinions

Editorial, Opinion Pieces Discuss COVID-19 Outbreak, Response

The Lancet: COVID-19: fighting panic with information
Editorial Board

“…The international COVID-19 response has been focused on avoiding a pandemic, of which many experts suggest we could be in the early stages. … The ease through which inaccuracies and conspiracies can be repeated and perpetuated via social media and conventional outlets puts public health at a constant disadvantage. It is the rapid dissemination of trustworthy information—transparent identification of cases, data sharing, unhampered communication, and peer-reviewed research—which is needed most during this period of uncertainty. There may be no way to prevent a COVID-19 pandemic in this globalized time, but verified information is the most effective prevention against the disease of panic” (2/22).

The Lancet: COVID-19: what is next for public health?
David Heymann of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Nahoko Shindo of the WHO, on behalf of the WHO Scientific and Technical Advisory Group for Infectious Hazards

Project Syndicate: China’s Great Leap into Epidemic
Aryeh Neier, president emeritus of the Open Society Foundations and a founder of Human Rights Watch

USA TODAY: On coronavirus, America and China must demonstrate global leadership and join together
John R. Allen, president of the Brookings Institution

Washington Post: There’s a glimpse of victory against coronavirus
Michael Gerson, columnist at the Washington Post

Washington Post: The U.S. is actually doing a great job fighting the coronavirus threat
Leana S. Wen, emergency physician and a visiting professor at George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health

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Continued U.S. Support For Gavi, Global Leadership Will Help Save Children's Lives, Pastors Write In Opinion Piece

The Hill: Vaccines save children’s lives and we need to fund them
Ashley Randall, pastor of the Garden City United Methodist Church in Savannah, Georgia, and David Allgire, executive pastor of campuses at Compassion Christian Church in Southern Georgia

“…This year, Gavi needs countries around the world to recommit to funding their efforts. The organization is seeking to raise at least $7.4 billion from international donors and the private sector so it can save up to 8 million lives while vaccinating 300 million children. … We are thankful that the budget President Trump proposed this month included full funding for Gavi. Now Congress has the opportunity to demonstrate the power of U.S. leadership and compassion in the fight against preventable disease by allowing initiatives, like Gavi, to expand their current strategy and help millions of children access life-saving vaccines. … We have a duty to ensure that children and families can lead healthy lives. By continuing America’s full commitment to Gavi, we will” (2/20).

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Protecting Women From Violence, Providing Access To Care Vital To Achieving Development Goals, Opinion Piece Says

Project Syndicate: Violence Against Women Is Blocking Development
Tlaleng Mofokeng, member of the Commission for Gender Equality in South Africa and author

“…The World Health Organization estimates that, globally, more than one in three (35%) women will experience physical or sexual intimate-partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. Few see their attackers punished, and many cannot access sexual and reproductive health care after the fact, even in countries that have ratified international instruments guaranteeing the right to such care. … Modern development strategies often recognize the pivotal importance of enabling women to fulfill their potential and contribute effectively to their economies. Yet they fail to recognize the need for concerted action to protect women from violence, and uphold the rights of victims. They are thus grossly inadequate. Women deserve to be safe in their homes, at school or work, in hospitals, and on the streets. Only when they are not struggling to survive can they — and their communities — truly thrive” (2/21).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

Mass TB Screening In Prison Cost-Effective, Can Save Lives, Study Shows

IDSA’s “Science Speaks”: Mass TB screening with point-of-care test is cost-effective, Brazil prison study shows
Antigone Barton, senior editor and writer of “Science Speaks,” discusses a study published this week in Clinical Infectious Diseases, which “shows how reliably detecting disease, [specifically tuberculosis,] through mass screening with an accurate point of care diagnostic tool, could save both money and lives” in a prison setting” (2/20).

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Nationwide Polio Vaccination Campaign Aims To Reach More Than 55M Children In Nigeria

WHO Regional Office for Africa: Polio — Nigeria leaves no stone unturned, targets over 55 million children in house-to-house nationwide campaign
This release discusses the National Immunization Plus Days (NIPDs) in Nigeria, during which more than 55 million children were targeted to receive a polio vaccination “in their houses, markets, schools, churches, mosques, and playgrounds” (2/20).

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Ebola Incidence Remains Low In DRC Outbreak, With 1 Case Reported This Week, According To WHO Update

WHO: Ebola virus disease — Democratic Republic of the Congo
“During the past week, the incidence of new Ebola virus disease (EVD) cases has remained low (Figure 1). From 12 to 18 February, one new confirmed case was reported. The case was reported in Beni Health Zone, North Kivu Province and had an epidemiological link to a confirmed case reported on 5 February…” (2/20).

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