KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

U.N. SG Guterres Calls For Solidarity In COVID-19 Response In WHA Address

U.N. News: U.N. chief renews call for COVID-19 solidarity as WHO warns ‘majority’ of world still at risk
“A ‘massive’ and combined effort by all countries is needed to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said on Monday, as U.N. health agency head, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, insisted that ‘the majority of the world’s population remains susceptible to this virus.’ Addressing World Health Organization (WHO) Member States attending the foreshortened and virtual World Health Assembly in Geneva via videoconference, the U.N. chief pointed out that despite ‘some solidarity,’ there had been ‘very little unity’ in the global response to the new coronavirus so far. … ‘Either we get through this pandemic together, or we fail,’ he said…” (5/18).

Additional coverage of Guterres’ and others’ WHA speeches is available from AFP, U.N. News, and VOA.

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In Letter, USAID Acting Administrator Urges U.N. SG To Remove 'Sexual And Reproductive Health' Language From Global Humanitarian Response Plan To COVID-19

UPI: USAID accuses U.N. of using pandemic to promote abortion
“The Trump administration on Monday urged the United Nations to stop ‘promoting abortion,’ accusing it of using the coronavirus pandemic to advance access to the medical practice. In a letter to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, the U.S. Agency for International Development chastised the organization for including sexual and reproductive health services within its Global Humanitarian Response Plan to COVID-19, urging all of its references and its derivatives be removed from the document. While the Global Humanitarian Response Plan makes no direct reference to abortion, it calls for the continued supply of essential health services, including reproductive health services, amid the pandemic…” (Coote, 5/18).

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WHO Independent Oversight Committee Recommends Review, Update Of IHR To Incorporate Pandemic Lessons; NPR Examines Whether Travel Restrictions Violate IHR

Devex: WHO’s independent body recommends review to draw lessons from pandemic
“An interim report of the Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee for the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Programme has recommended that member states review and update the International Health Regulations ‘to reflect lessons from the pandemic.’ The IHR is an internationally binding treaty that outlines WHO and member states’ obligations in a public health emergency, and many of the issues the committee found in its report related to this treaty…” (Ravelo, 5/19).

NPR: World-Wide Travel Restrictions Violate International Health Regulations
“Countries around the world have imposed various travel bans to fight the pandemic. But those restrictions are contradicting international health regulations and might not be viable long-term…” (Brumfiel, 5/18).

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WHO Refuses Invitation To Taiwan To Attend WHA, Despite Support From U.S., Other Nations; Pompeo Criticizes WHO, China For Excluding Taiwan

NPR: Pompeo Blasts WHO And China For Excluding Taiwan From This Week’s Health Assembly
“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday blasted the head of the World Health Organization for bowing to Chinese pressure and not inviting Taiwan to attend the body’s annual meeting, damaging its credibility at a crucial time. The World Health Assembly started on Monday amid the worst pandemic in modern history. Taiwan has won worldwide plaudits for its deft handling of the coronavirus, despite close links to China, where the disease first emerged. … But since it is not a United Nations member, Taiwan required an invitation to attend the assembly as an observer — which was not forthcoming, despite a strong push in recent weeks with backing from the United States, Japan, New Zealand, and others…” (Ruwitch, 5/18).

Reuters: Taiwan says it did not receive WHO meeting invite, issue off the table for now
“Despite strong efforts Taiwan did not get invited to this week’s meeting of a key World Health Organization (WHO) body due to Chinese pressure, its foreign minister said on Monday, adding they had agreed to put the issue off until later this year. … Taiwan has said it wanted to share with the world its successful experience at fighting the coronavirus, having only reported 440 cases and seven deaths thanks to early detection and prevention work. But China, which considers democratically ruled Taiwan its own with no right to attend international bodies as a sovereign state, strongly objected to Taiwan taking part in the assembly unless it accepted it was part of China. This, the Taipei government refused to do…” (Blanchard et al., 5/18).

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Trump Threatens To Permanently Freeze WHO Funding; HHS Secretary Azar Says WHO COVID-19 Response 'Cost Many Lives' In WHA Video Message; WHO DG Tedros Vows To Review Agency's Work At 'Appropriate' Time

Devex: U.S. missing, China takes leader spotlight at WHA
“Chinese President Xi Jinping said China will provide $2 billion over two years to help with the COVID-19 response, just as U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to permanently freeze funding to the World Health Organization. Trump was absent from the virtual World Health Assembly meetings, where several other world leaders delivered video messages…” (Ravelo, 5/19).

Financial Times: U.S. considers backing away from WHO move on Covid-19 drug patents
“The U.S. is preparing to publicly disassociate itself from language in a World Health Organization resolution that will back the right of poor countries to ignore patents in order to gain access to a Covid-19 vaccine or treatment. Many governments, particularly in Africa, fear they will be squeezed out by richer countries unless they can force companies that discover anti-Covid-19 therapies to share their intellectual property with manufacturers able to produce them cheaply at scale. African ambassadors in Geneva, where the WHO is based, said U.S. diplomats had sought to persuade them to support a dilution of language in the resolution, a proposal they had rejected…” (Pilling et al., 5/18).

POLITICO: Trump: U.S. funding freeze to WHO could be permanent
“President Donald Trump threatened to permanently end funding to the World Health Organization and reconsider the country’s membership in the global health body in a Monday letter criticizing the organization for its coronavirus response. … The letter claimed the WHO ‘ignored credible reports of the virus’ and accused the organization of acting in an obsequious manner toward the People’s Republic of China, including ignoring Taiwanese health assessments and caving to pressure from Chinese President Xi Jinping…” (Choi, 5/19).

Reuters: U.S. calls China’s $2 billion WHO pledge a ‘token,’ says it must pay more
“The United States on Monday said China must pay more than the $2 billion it committed to the World Health Organization, calling the pledge a token to distract from what the Trump administration claims was Beijing’s failure to properly alert the world to the coronavirus outbreak…” (Holland/Heavey, 5/18).

Reuters: WHO chief to review its pandemic handling, vows transparency
“The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday that he would initiate an independent evaluation of its handling of the coronavirus pandemic at the ‘earliest appropriate moment’ and vowed transparency and accountability…” (Farge/Nebehay, 5/18).

STAT: In combative remarks, Azar tells WHO that its Covid-19 response ‘cost many lives’
“Health secretary Alex Azar on Monday publicly blasted the World Health Organization, telling its director general that the agency’s ‘failure’ to adequately warn the broader world about the forthcoming Covid-19 pandemic ‘cost many lives.’ In a prepared video delivered to the World Health Assembly, the WHO’s governing body, Azar said the U.S. government would support a full review of the organization’s Covid-19 response, calling the status quo ‘intolerable.’ ‘We must be frank about one of the primary reasons this outbreak spun out of control,’ Azar said. ‘There was a failure by this organization to obtain the information that the world needed, and that failure cost many lives’…” (Facher, 5/18).

Wall Street Journal: Trump Threatens to Permanently Cut Funding to World Health Organization
“…The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment seeking information on the changes Mr. Trump would like to see the WHO make. The president had suspended contributions to the group in April pending an internal review of the WHO’s response to the pandemic. The four-page letter details the results of that review. Noting that his administration has already discussed possible reforms with WHO officials, Mr. Trump gave the group 30 days to make ‘major substantive improvements’ or he would cut funding and reconsider U.S. membership…” (Restuccia et al., 5/19).

Washington Post: China’s Xi backs WHO-led review of covid-19 outbreak
“Chinese leader Xi Jinping called on the world Monday to rally behind the World Health Organization and support developing countries as he opened a WHO annual assembly after weeks of acrimony between China and the United States over a proposal to investigate the origins of covid-19. Xi’s speech, delivered via video at the invitation of WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, signaled a growing sense of confidence on China’s part…” (Shih et al., 5/18).

Additional coverage of the WHO World Health Assembly and tensions among the U.S, China, and WHO is available from Axios, CNBC, Foreign Policy, The Hill, New York Times, POLITICO (2), Reuters (2), and Washington Post.

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HHS Secretary Azar Calls Navarro's Criticism Of CDC 'Inaccurate And Inappropriate'

POLITICO: Azar calls White House adviser’s CDC criticism ‘inaccurate and inappropriate’
“Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar [Monday] rebuked a senior White House aide who blamed the CDC for early coronavirus testing problems, calling those comments ‘inaccurate and inappropriate.’ Azar’s criticism of the remarks came a day after Peter Navarro, President Donald Trump’s trade adviser, said the CDC ‘really let down the country’ and set back efforts to combat the virus by bungling the rollout of the first diagnostic test. Navarro’s attack on the CDC was seen as a sign of the White House’s mounting frustration with the health agency, which has been unusually sidelined during the pandemic…” (Goldberg, 5/18).

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Trump Administration Signs $354M, 4-Year Contract With New Company To Make Ingredients For COVID-19 Medicines Usually Made Overseas

New York Times: Trump to Tap New Company to Make Covid-19 Drugs in the U.S.
“The Trump administration will announce on Tuesday that it has signed a $354 million four-year contract with a new company in Richmond, Va., to manufacture generic medicines and pharmaceutical ingredients that are needed to treat Covid-19 but are now made overseas, mostly in India and China. The contract, awarded to Phlow Corp. by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, meshes President Trump’s ‘America First’ economic promises with concerns that coronavirus treatments be manufactured in the United States. It may be extended for a total of $812 million over 10 years, making it one of the largest awards in the authority’s history…” (Stolberg/Thomas, 5/18).

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Moderna's Experimental SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine Shows Promising Results In Small Study

New York Times: Moderna Coronavirus Vaccine Trial Shows Promising Early Results
“…The preliminary findings, in the first eight people who each received two doses of the experimental vaccine, must now be repeated in far larger tests in hundreds and then thousands of people, to find out if the vaccine can work in the real world. Moderna’s technology, involving genetic material from the virus called mRNA, is relatively new and has yet to produce any approved vaccine. The promising early news sent Moderna’s stock soaring by more than 25 percent on Monday afternoon and helped drive Wall Street to its best day in six weeks. Stocks were also lifted by statements from the Federal Reserve chair, Jerome H. Powell, that the central bank would continue to support the economy and markets…” (Grady, 5/18).

Additional coverage of the experimental coronavirus vaccine results is available from STAT, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post.

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African Nations Lack Sufficient Coronavirus Diagnostic Kits; India, Bangladesh Prepare For Cyclone Amid Social Distancing; Hospitals Overwhelmed In Brazil, Impacting Health Workers; Pandemic Could Worsen Mental Health Crisis In U.S.


New Humanitarian: African countries struggle to find the coronavirus test kits they need (Zhu, 5/18).

Reuters: Sudan extends lockdown in Khartoum state by two weeks: SUNA (Abdelaziz/Hassan, 5/18).

Reuters: Zimbabweans go hungry as coronavirus compounds climate woes (Dzirutwe, 5/18).

Reuters: Africa backs WHO, needs help with debt relief, supplies: Ramaphosa (Nebehay, 5/18).

Washington Post: Why Cape Town has 10 percent of Africa’s confirmed coronavirus cases (Wroughton/Bearak, 5/19).

Xinhua: Over 250,000 children in Libya at risk of vaccine-preventable diseases: UNICEF, WHO (5/19).


AP: India and Bangladesh brace for strong cyclone (Ghosal et al., 5/19).

Washington Post: Bars and barre return, but date night isn’t the same: A glimpse into the new normal (Mahtani, 5/15).

Washington Post: India and Bangladesh prepare for monster cyclone as pandemic rages (Slater, 5/19).


POLITICO: How Russia’s Coronavirus Crisis Got So Bad (Berdy, 5/19).

POLITICO: Vaccine skeptics threaten Europe’s bid to beat coronavirus (Paun et al., 5/18).

Reuters: U.K. COVID-19 death toll nears 43,000 as scrutiny over strategy grows (Bruce, 5/19).


BBC: Coronavirus: Hospitals in Brazil’s São Paulo ‘near collapse’ (5/18).

IPS: Coronavirus Leads to Nosedive in Remittances in Latin America (Márquez, 5/18).

New Humanitarian: COVID-19 brings fear and discrimination to Venezuelans in Ecuador (Rojo, 5/18).

Wall Street Journal: Brazil’s Nurses Are Dying as Covid-19 Overwhelms Hospitals (Magalhaes et al., 5/19).


New Humanitarian: In Pakistan, missed immunizations drive new disease fears (Mukhtar, 5/18).

Reuters: Yemen could face ‘catastrophic’ food situation as pandemic worsens: FAO (El Dahan, 5/18).

Reuters: Coronavirus ‘not a pandemic in Pakistan’ says top court, ordering curbs lifted (Shahzad/Bukhari, 5/18).


AP: Pandemic threatens to deepen crisis in mental health care (Manchillo/Choi, 5/19).

Reuters: Exclusive: CDC plans sweeping COVID-19 antibody study in 25 metropolitan areas (Brown, 5/18).

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German Chancellor Merkel, French President Macron To Support $546B Aid Package To Help E.U. Nations Recover From COVID-19 Pandemic

Bloomberg: Merkel Offers Breakthrough Deal to Shield E.U. From Virus Fallout
“German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron agreed to support a 500 billion-euro ($546 billion) aid package to help the European Union recover from the coronavirus pandemic in a major step toward tighter integration. Following a videoconference between the two leaders, Merkel said that Germany would accept a fund within the framework of the E.U. budget, financed by additional borrowing, that would make grants to member states that have been hardest hit by the virus. Crucially, she said the bonds issued by the European Commission would be repaid from the E.U. budget, the lion’s share of which is covered by Germany. Italian bonds jumped…” (Delfs et al., 5/18).

Additional coverage of the deal is available from AFP and The Hill.

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Development Professionals Expect Significant, Long-Term Effects Of COVID-19 On Foreign Aid, Development, Devex Poll Shows

Devex: Development pros brace for more needs, less money post-pandemic
“Development professionals are expecting cuts to foreign aid funding during and following the coronavirus pandemic — just as it is needed most — according to an exclusive Devex poll. Devex’s weekly COVID-19 Trends Tracker questions hundreds of professionals around the world to understand how the pandemic is impacting the global development sector. Nearly all of those surveyed — 96% — said that the pandemic will have significant and long-term consequences for development…” (Smith/Chadwick, 5/19).

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Syrian Health Minister Calls For Removal Of U.S., European Union Sanctions, Says Impacting Health Services

Reuters: Syrian minister says Western sanctions hitting health services
“Syria’s health minister told the World Health Organization on Monday that ‘coercive and unfair’ Western sanctions were hitting medical services trying to cope with coronavirus in his war-torn country and called for their removal…” (Farge/Nebehay, 5/18).

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More News In Global Health

Devex: Want to help doctors and nurses? Invest in health systems (Donback, 5/18).

Devex: Q&A: Don’t forget to promote peace during pandemic, warns g7+ representative (Welsh, 5/19).

Devex: The return of ‘global public goods’ (Worley, 5/19).

Mail & Guardian: Midwives are the backbone of maternal health systems (5/18).

U.N. News: Coronavirus impact on world’s indigenous, goes well beyond health threat (5/18).

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Editorials and Opinions

Editorials, Opinion Pieces Discuss Various Aspects Of COVID-19 Pandemic, Response, Including Accelerating Therapeutic Interventions, Vaccines

The Atlantic: Is Trump Lying About the Coronavirus, or Does He Not Understand It?
Conor Friedersdorf, staff writer at the Atlantic (5/19).

IPS: Opinion: South Africa Must Respond — & Lead — on COVID-19 & SDGs
Leila Fourie, Group CEO of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, and Fani Titi, CEO of Investec, both members of the U.N. Secretary-General’s Global Investors for Sustainable Development Alliance (5/18).

JAMA: Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV)
Francis S. Collins, director of the NIH, and Paul Stoffels, vice chair of the executive committee and chief scientific officer at Johnson & Johnson (5/18).

New York Times: Letters to the Editor: Covid-19 Deaths in Moscow: The Government’s Account
Alexey Khripun, head of the Moscow Healthcare Department (5/18).

Scientific American: How to Snuff Out the Next Pandemic
David J. Ecker, scientist at Ionis Pharmaceuticals and Janus-I Science (5/18).

Scientific American: The Things We’ve Lost in the Pandemic
Ben Santer, atmospheric scientist and member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (5/19).

Washington Post: China agreed to a global WHO review. Where was Trump?
Editorial Board (5/18).

Washington Post: Did Sweden make the right call on limiting its lockdown?
Editorial Board (5/18).

Washington Post: The coronavirus pandemic is developing in the shadow of famine. The combination would be deadly
Michael Gerson, columnist at the Washington Post (5/18).

Washington Post: The Democrats’ $3 trillion coronavirus bill has zero funding for international assistance
Josh Rogin, columnist for the Global Opinions section of the Washington Post and political analyst for CNN (5/19).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

Posts Address Call For 'People's Vaccine,' Pandemic Preparedness, WHA, Other Issues Related To COVID-19

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: What the development of penicillin tells us about developing a coronavirus vaccine
Dan Drollette, deputy editor of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (5/18).

ONE: The state of global pandemic preparedness
Anne Paisley, senior editorial manager at ONE (5/18).

Oxfam: World leaders unite in call for a people’s vaccine against COVID-19 (5/14).

Science Speaks: COVID-19: Will the tens of thousands of infected health care workers be recognized at the May 18-19 World Health Assembly?
Daniel Lucey, infectious diseases physician, adjunct professor of infectious diseases at Georgetown University Medical Center, and senior scholar at the Georgetown University O’Neill Institute, and Katherine R. McAleese, resident in internal medicine and pediatrics at Medstar Georgetown University Medical Center (5/18).

UNAIDS: UNAIDS urges governments to ensure that HIV service providers from community-led organizations are recognized as essential service providers in the context of COVID-19 (5/18).

U.N. Dispatch: What is the Controversy Over Taiwan at the World Health Organization?
Mark Leon Goldberg, executive editor of U.N. Dispatch (5/18).

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From the U.S. Government

USAID Acting Administrator Urges Removal Of Sexual, Reproductive Health Language From U.N.'s COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan

USAID: Acting Administrator John Barsa Letter to U.N. Secretary General Guterres
In a letter to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, USAID Acting Administrator John Barsa urges the U.N. to remove references to sexual and reproductive health from the U.N. Global Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID-19 (5/18).

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From KFF

KFF Resources Examine Global, Domestic Issues Related To COVID-19

KFF: COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker — Updated as of May 19, 2020 (5/19).

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. KFF’s blog series “Coronavirus Policy Watch” is available here.

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