KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

White House Names Ambassador Deborah Birx As Additional COVID-19 Leader; Congress Moves Quickly To Agree On Emergency Spending

Financial Times: Mike Pence’s role as U.S. coronavirus overseer draws backlash
“Far from allaying concerns about his administration’s readiness for coronavirus, Donald Trump’s appointment of Mike Pence to lead Washington’s response to the global outbreak has drawn swift backlash from health experts and Democratic lawmakers. A day after tapping his vice president for the role amid growing concerns about the disease’s global spread, Mr. Trump was facing another punishing sell-off on Wall Street that plunged stock market indices into correction territory — a sign that investors had further soured on the White House’s ability to contain the health crisis…” (Politi/Weaver, 2/27).

The Hill: Lawmakers race to pass emergency coronavirus funding
“Lawmakers are moving quickly to try to pass emergency coronavirus funding before a mid-March break, with negotiators eyeing finalizing an agreement by early next week. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) are negotiating an emergency spending package…” (Carney, 2/27).

The Hill: Pence bolsters coronavirus team following criticism
“The Trump administration on Thursday sought to bolster its coronavirus response team in the face of criticism of Vice President Mike Pence’s qualifications to lead the effort. The White House spent Thursday adding officials to its coronavirus task force to report to Pence amid sustained skepticism over its preparedness for a possible outbreak. ..” (Weixel/Samuels, 2/28).

POLITICO: After fumbled messaging, Trump gets a coronavirus czar by another name
“…The new role will put Ambassador Debbie Birx, who has served since 2014 as the U.S. government’s leader for combating HIV/AIDS globally, at the center of what now appears to be three leaders of the government response. Trump revealed in a news conference Wednesday evening that Pence would head up the administration’s management of the coronavirus, overseeing a task force nominally led by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. Birx will report to Pence but serve on the task force that Azar chairs…” (Cancryn et al., 2/27).

TIME: The Trump Administration’s Many Vacancies Could Complicate its Coronavirus Response
“…In addition to bringing Dr. Birx into the White House, Pence also beefed up his team by adding Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams, and Trump’s top economic adviser Larry Kudlow. But many top positions across the government that could play a role in coordinating the government’s efforts to prepare for coronavirus remain empty. Birx’s appointment was necessary in part because Trump had eliminated a National Security Council office dedicated to managing pandemics in May 2018…” (Bergengruen/Bennett, 2/27).

Washington Post: Trump says he can bring in coronavirus experts quickly. The experts say it is not that simple.
“The White House official charged with leading the U.S. response to deadly pandemics left nearly two years ago as his global health security team was disbanded. Federal funding for preventing and mitigating the spread of infectious disease has been repeatedly threatened since President Trump’s election. Despite the mounting threat of a coronavirus outbreak in the United States, Trump said he has no regrets about those actions and that expertise and resources can be quickly ramped up to meet the current needs…” (Reinhard et al., 2/27).

Additional coverage of the Trump administration’s COVID-19 outbreak response is available from AP, CNN, Endpoints, Forbes, The Hill (2), NPR, New York Times, Reuters (2), Roll Call, and Washington Post (2).

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WHO Urges Every Country To Prepare For COVID-19 As Disease Continues To Spread; Outbreak Could Impact Development, Humanitarian Efforts, Experts Warn

AP: World harshens its virus response as epidemic worsens by day
“Saudi Arabia cut travel to Islam’s holiest sites, South Korea toughened penalties for those breaking quarantines, and airports across Latin America looked for signs of sick passengers as a new virus troubled places around the globe. With the number of sick and dead rising, the crisis gave way to political and diplomatic rows, concern that bordered on panic in some quarters, and a sense that no part of the world was immune…” (Sedensky et al., 2/28).

CNBC: WHO warns failure to prepare for coronavirus now ‘could be a fatal mistake’
“World Health Organization officials warned on Thursday that member nations need to prepare for COVID-19’s arrival after seven countries in the last day reported their first cases. ‘Every country must be ready for its first case,’ Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of WHO, said during a press briefing at the agency’s headquarters in Geneva. ‘No country should assume it won’t get cases. That could be a fatal mistake. This virus does not respect borders’…” (Lovelace, 2/27).

Devex: Conferences canceled: Coronavirus’ impact on development efforts
“As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb, so too does the number of international conferences and events opting to relocate, postpone, or even hang up the lanyards altogether. Development professionals say that while safety is the top priority, the cancellations could impact work being done in the sector…” (Root, 2/28).

New Humanitarian: How the coronavirus outbreak could hit refugees and migrants
“A surge in coronavirus cases outside China has raised concerns the outbreak could be particularly devastating for vulnerable refugee and migrant populations in countries hobbled by conflict…” (Reidy, 2/27).

Reuters: Coronavirus outbreak ‘getting bigger’ after Nigeria case: WHO
“Coronavirus outbreak is ‘getting bigger,’ the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday after Nigeria confirmed sub-Saharan Africa’s first case, reiterating its warning that the virus could reach most ‘if not all countries’…” (Nebehay, 2/28).

Additional coverage of the coronavirus’s global spread is available from The Atlantic, Bloomberg, CNBC, The Hill, The Lancet, New York Times (2) (3), NPR, Reuters, Salon, STAT (2), U.N. News, and Xinhua.

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COVID-19 Outbreak Impacting Global Economic Markets; Experts Criticize World Bank Pandemic Bonds

CNN: Novel coronavirus sparks massive U.S. stock market losses as cases spread worldwide
“Stock markets in the U.S. have posted some of their worst ever losses as the novel coronavirus sparked mass sell-offs. … Markets in Asia and elsewhere have also suffered, as fears of a global pandemic have continued to grow. First cases of the virus were confirmed in New Zealand, Belarus, and Lithuania on Friday, as outbreaks in South Korea, Italy, and Iran continued to worsen…” (Griffiths, 2/28).

The Guardian: World Bank’s $500m pandemic scheme accused of ‘waiting for people to die’
“A flagship $500m World Bank scheme to help the poorest countries deal with a health emergency is ‘too little too late’ for the coronavirus outbreak, say health experts. … Funds can only be released after a certain amount of time and in accordance with complex criteria including outbreak size, growth rate, deadlines, and death tolls. … The bonds, funded by donor nations Japan and Germany, deliver interest payments to investors until the conditions for an infectious disease outbreak are triggered. The value of the bonds has halved as the coronavirus outbreak has spread, raising fears investors could face losses…” (McVeigh, 2/28).

Additional coverage of the impacts of the outbreak on global markets is available from Daily Beast, Financial Times, MarketWatch, New York Times, Reuters, and Vox.

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News Outlets Discuss Presidential Candidates' Criticisms Of Trump Administration's Coronavirus Response

AP: White House hopefuls target Trump on coronavirus response
“Democratic White House hopefuls are seizing on President Donald Trump’s delayed response to the coronavirus outbreak, calling it the latest evidence of his incompetence and warning that the crisis may only deepen as a result. But some experts and Democrats warn that the candidates risk exacerbating a public health crisis if they go too far in politicizing the virus that causes the COVID-19 illness…” (Jaffe, 2/28).

Additional coverage of presidential candidates’ discussions of COVID-19 is available from New York Times and Rolling Stone.

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U.S. Workers Did Not Receive Training, Protective Gear In Assisting Coronavirus Evacuees, HHS Whistleblower Says

Washington Post: U.S. workers without protective gear assisted coronavirus evacuees, HHS whistleblower says
“Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services sent more than a dozen workers to receive the first Americans evacuated from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, without proper training for infection control or appropriate protective gear, according to a whistleblower complaint. The workers did not show symptoms of infection and were not tested for the virus, according to lawyers for the whistleblower, a senior HHS official based in Washington who oversees workers at the Administration for Children and Families, a unit within HHS. … The complaint was filed Wednesday with the Office of the Special Counsel, an independent federal watchdog agency. The whistleblower’s lawyers provided a copy of a redacted 24-page complaint to The Washington Post. A spokesman for the Office of the Special Counsel confirmed that it has received the complaint and assigned the case…” (Sun et al., 2/27).

Additional coverage of the whistleblower complaint is available from CNN, New York Times, POLITICO, and USA TODAY.

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U.S. International DFC CEO Adam Boehler Discusses Expectations, Priorities For Development Impact In Devex Interview

Devex: DFC chief Adam Boehler says development impact will trump deal size
“Among U.S. global development leaders, Adam Boehler, the first CEO of the U.S. International Development Finance Corp., is in a unique position — the Trump administration wants to give his agency more money, not less. As the new DFC ramps up its operations, Boehler is working to meet the expectations of U.S. lawmakers, White House officials, and development advocates who pushed for the creation of a stronger development finance institution. He is also reassuring his peer agencies and partners that he wants development impact to be front and center when his team decides where to direct their new supply of resources and investment tools…” (Igoe, 2/28).

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U.S. Agrees To Sanctions Waiver To Allow For Humanitarian Aid Transactions With Iran's Central Bank

Reuters: U.S. grants sanctions waiver to ease humanitarian aid to Iran
“The United States on Thursday granted a license to allow for certain humanitarian trade transactions with Iran’s sanctioned central bank, a move it said was in step with the formalization of a Swiss humanitarian aid channel. The newly created channel, which the U.S. Treasury Department said became fully operational on Thursday as it granted the license, would allow for companies to send food, medicine, and other critical supplies to Iran…” (Ahmann, 2/27).

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Washington Post Examines Impact Of New Trump Administration Protocols On Asylum Seekers Living With HIV

Washington Post: She told the U.S. immigration agent she was HIV-positive and requested asylum. She was sent back to Mexico, without medication.
“…Until last January, the U.S. government allowed applicants for asylum to stay in the United States, where they could access urgent medical care while their cases were reviewed. But under the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) — known as Remain in Mexico — even some critically ill asylum seekers have been turned back at the border to wait outside the United States for their hearings. … U.S. Customs and Border Protection has said exemptions will be made for asylum seekers with severe medical conditions. But the experience of asylum seekers with HIV/AIDS shows just how unevenly enforced — and how dangerous — the new asylum infrastructure is for migrants with life-threatening diseases. They’re often rebuffed by immigration agents upon presenting their medical papers…” (Sieff et al., 2/28).

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House Global Health Caucus Co-Chairs Introduce Resolution Affirming U.S. Support For Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance

Homeland Preparedness News: Resolution to support Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations introduced in House
“The co-chairs of the House Global Health Caucus introduced a resolution in support of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI). … The resolution (H.Res.861) affirms U.S. support for GAVI’s work. … The resolution is endorsed by several organizations, including PATH, Save The Children, RESULTS, U.N. Foundation Shot@Life campaign, ONE Campaign, and World Vision…” (Kovaleski, 2/27).

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U.N. SG Guterres Calls On Global Community To Achieve Women's Equality

AP: U.N. chief: Growing inequality for women should shame world
“U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres warned Thursday that inequality for women is growing and it ‘should shame us all in the 21st century because it is not only unacceptable, it is stupid’…” (Lederer, 2/28).

U.N. News: Make this the century of women’s equality: U.N. chief
“…For the U.N. chief, gender inequality and discrimination against women and girls remains an overwhelming injustice across the globe. ‘From the ridiculing of women as hysterical or hormonal, to the routine judgement of women based on their looks; from the myths and taboos that surround women’s natural bodily functions, to mansplaining and victim-blaming — misogyny is everywhere,’ he said…” (2/27).

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WHO-Supported Pilot Program Of Malaria Vaccine In Africa Represents 'Serious Breach' Of Ethical Standards, Canadian Bioethicist Says

The BMJ: WHO’s malaria vaccine study represents a ‘serious breach of international ethical standards’
“A large scale malaria vaccine study led by the World Health Organization has been criticized by a leading bioethicist for committing a ‘serious breach’ of international ethical standards. The cluster randomized study in Africa is already under way in Malawi, Ghana, and Kenya, where 720,000 children will receive the RTS,S vaccine, known as Mosquirix, over the next two years. … Charles Weijer, a bioethicist at Western University in Canada, told The BMJ that the failure to obtain informed consent from parents whose children are taking part in the study violates the Ottawa Statement, a consensus statement on the ethics of cluster randomized trials, of which Weijer is the lead author, and the Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences’ International Ethical Guidelines. … WHO contends that the study is a ‘pilot introduction’ and not a ‘research activity’…” (Doshi, 2/26).

Additional coverage of the bioethicist’s criticisms is available from CTVNews.ca and IFL Science.

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More News In Global Health

ABC National Radio: Bill Gates aims to reduce health inequity and child malnutrition (Williams, 2/29).

AFP: World Bank to attack poverty in conflict zones (2/27).

Becker’s Hospital Review: NIH launches $1M challenge for digital treatments of sickle cell, malaria & anemia (Park, 2/17).

New Humanitarian: How Mexico and Central America’s femicide epidemic drives and complicates the migrant crisis (Westbrook, 2/27).

NPR: Scotland Poised To Become 1st Country To Make Period Products Free (Wamsley, 2/27).

Reuters Health: Raising awareness may help prevent rabies deaths (Joseph, 2/27).

U.N. News: Cross-border aid delivery in northwest Syria ‘absolutely essential,’ Security Council hears (2/27).

Vox: AI just found a new type of antibiotics. It may save your life one day (Samuel, 2/27).

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Editorials and Opinions

Editorials, Opinion Pieces Discuss COVID-19 Outbreak, Response

Washington Post: The Trump administration’s mixed messages are sowing coronavirus confusion
Editorial Board

“Steering the country through a pandemic demands a clear and consistent message from leaders. President Trump is right to want a calm and serious atmosphere in discussing it. But he and his administration have delivered mixed messages that only add to public confusion. They need to get their act together. … Individuals approach a danger such as the coronavirus with both reason and emotion. Both are understandable and even essential. But the mission for Mr. Trump and those working for him is to feed the reason, not the dread. That requires calmness but also candor” (2/27).

Financial Times: The global struggle to contain coronavirus
Editorial Board

“…Though some have questioned the accuracy of the Chinese figures [on coronavirus], independent epidemiologists accept that the country has cut its infection rate substantially. It has done so through an extremely aggressive, even brutal, program of what public health professionals call social distancing. … Such stringent quarantine measures, including locking down cities for long periods, are unlikely to be acceptable in less authoritarian countries. But if Covid-19 soon becomes a pandemic, as most experts expect, everywhere in the world will have to consider what social distancing measures to adopt. … Eventually, if a pandemic spreads to a substantial proportion of the population, social distancing becomes irrelevant. For now, maximum rational containment efforts are the best way to try to avoid reaching that point” (2/28).

Bloomberg: Why the WHO Won’t Call the Coronavirus a Pandemic
Therese Raphael, editorial writer for Bloomberg Opinion (2/27).

The Guardian: Millions of uninsured Americans like me are a coronavirus timebomb
Carl Gibson, journalist (2/28).

The Lancet: Looming threat of COVID-19 infection in Africa: act collectively, and fast
John N. Nkengasong and Wessam Mankoula, both with the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (2/27).

New York Times: How Bad Will the Coronavirus Outbreak Get?
Spencer Bokat-Lindell, writer for the New York Times opinion section (2/27).

New York Times: To Protect Global Health, Work With China
Xie Feng, China’s foreign affairs commissioner in Hong Kong (2/28).

New York Times: When a Pandemic Meets a Personality Cult
Paul Krugman, opinion columnist at the New York Times (2/27).

Project Syndicate: A COVID-19 Emergency Response Plan
Larry Hatheway, co-founder of Jackson Hole Economics (2/27).

Project Syndicate: A Pandemic of Deglobalization?
Harold James, professor at Princeton University and senior fellow at the Center for International Governance Innovation (2/28).

Project Syndicate: Coronavirus and the Global Economy
Simon Johnson, professor at MIT Sloan and informal adviser to U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign (2/27).

Washington Post: How Trump can avoid being his own worst enemy on coronavirus
David Ignatius, columnist at the Washington Post (2/27).

Washington Post: Letters to the Editor: Confronting the coronavirus
Janet B. Kreizman, chief executive of the American Association for Clinical Chemistry (2/27).

Washington Post: How Trump’s response to coronavirus matches up with what experts say government should do
Amber Phillips, reporter for The Fix at the Washington Post (2/26).

Washington Post: With coronavirus, Trump’s lies and his reassurances backfire
Catherine Rampell, opinion columnist at the Washington Post (2/27).

Washington Post: China can’t fight coronavirus and the truth at the same time
Josh Rogin, columnist for the Global Opinions section at the Washington Post (2/27).

Washington Post: Trump just pushed one of his worst conspiracy theories yet
Greg Sargent, writer for the Washington Post’s Plum Line blog (2/27).

Washington Post: Coronavirus epidemic reveals a world in political crisis
Ishaan Tharoor, reporter at the Washington Post (2/28).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

CFR Research Associate Discusses WHO's Relationship With China, WHO's Response To China's Coronavirus Efforts

Council on Foreign Relations: The WHO and China: Dereliction of Duty
Michael Collins, research associate for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, discusses the relationship between the World Health Organization and China, highlighting the WHO’s response to China’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak. Collins writes, “The WHO’s weak response to China’s mishandling of the COVID-19 outbreak has laundered China’s image at the expense of the WHO’s credibility. The rate of infection in China appears to be declining, but the risk of a global pandemic is increasing. The time is ripe for clear leadership from the WHO based on science not politics” (2/27).

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Friends Of Global Fight Releases Statement On Appointment Of Ambassador Deborah Birx As White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator

Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria: Statement on the appointment of Ambassador Deborah L. Birx as White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator
In a statement on the appointment of Ambassador Deborah L. Birx as the White House coronavirus response coordinator, Chris Collins, president of Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, writes, “Ambassador Deborah L. Birx is an outstanding choice to serve as the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator. In her 30 years of experience working on HIV/AIDS, including in her current positions of U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and U.S. Special Representative For Global Health Diplomacy, she understands better than anyone that epidemics don’t exist in isolation. I know Ambassador Birx will bring her strategic, outcome-oriented approach to tackling this critical public health issue in the United States” (2/27).

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New Issue Of NIH Fogarty International Center's 'Global Health Matters' Newsletter Available Online

NIH Fogarty International Center: FIC Global Health Matters
The most recent issue of the Fogarty International Center’s newsletter contains various articles addressing global health topics, including the NIH’s efforts to mobilize research to address the coronavirus, Fogarty International’s funding boost in FY2020, and an opinion piece on how building trust in vaccines is essential for global health (January/February 2020).

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From the U.S. Government

VP Pence Announces Appointment Of Ambassador Deborah Birx As White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator

White House: Vice President Pence Announces Ambassador Debbie Birx to Serve as the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator
On Thursday, “Vice President Mike Pence announced the following individual to a key position on his team to combat the spread of the Coronavirus: Ambassador Debbie Birx, to serve as the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator. Ambassador Birx is a world-renowned global health official and physician. She will be detailed to the Office of the Vice President and will report to Vice President Mike Pence. She will also join the Task Force led by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. She will be supported by the National Security Council staff…” (2/27).

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