KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

Number Of Confirmed COVID-19 Cases Passes 40M Worldwide; U.S., Europe Face Growing Case Numbers, Prevention Fatigue

AP: World struggles as confirmed COVID-19 cases pass 40 million
“The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases across the planet has surpassed 40 million, but experts say that is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the true impact of the pandemic that has upended life and work around the world. The milestone was hit Monday morning, according to Johns Hopkins University, which collates reports from around the world…” (Cheng, 10/19).

New York Times: As the Coronavirus Surges, a New Culprit Emerges: Pandemic Fatigue
“When the coronavirus began sweeping around the globe this spring, people from Seattle to Rome to London canceled weddings and vacations, cut off visits with grandparents and hunkered down in their homes for what they thought would be a brief but essential period of isolation. But summer did not extinguish the virus. And with fall has come another dangerous, uncontrolled surge of infections that in parts of the world is the worst of the pandemic so far. … The virus has taken different paths through these countries as leaders have tried to tamp down the spread with a range of restrictions. Shared, though, is a public weariness and a growing tendency to risk the dangers of the coronavirus, out of desire or necessity…” (Bosman et al., 10/17).

USA TODAY: U.S. and Italy — current and former COVID-19 centers — are worlds apart in pandemic approach (Lyman, 10/17).

Washington Post: Coronavirus surge tests U.S. and European resolve (Tharoor, 10/19).

Washington Post: Covid-19’s first wave largely missed southern Italy. The second wave is hitting it hard (Harlan/Pitrelli, 10/17).

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Media Outlets Examine U.S. Government Actions On Coronavirus, Including Trump's Stump Speech Promises, Birx's Role On White House Task Force

The Hill: Whatever happened to Deborah Birx?
“Deborah Birx is nowhere to be found at the White House these days. Though she retains the title of coordinator of the White House coronavirus response, Birx has not attended any of President Trump’s press briefings on the pandemic since he started them anew in late July, nor was she at a recent event to tout the administration’s advances in testing. … Olivia Troye, a former coronavirus task force adviser who worked with Birx and is now a Trump critic, said White House officials grew irritated by Birx’s detailed and data-heavy presentations in the early summer that showed emerging hot spots and difficulties getting the virus under control. … The frustration preceded a push to get Birx out on the road to meet with state and local leaders, multiple officials familiar with the discussions said…” (Samuels, 10/18).

STAT: For Trump, Covid-19 therapeutics are the new vaccines
“…In Florida, [Trump] told seniors they’d soon have access, for free, to the antibody therapy he’d received during his own bout with the virus two weeks before. It’s a significant shift. Trump campaigned for months on the dubious pledge that a vaccine would be available ‘before a very special date,’ an open nod to Election Day. But as it’s become clear drug companies won’t help Trump deliver on a key campaign promise by Nov. 3, he’s largely dropped the aggressive vaccine rhetoric. Instead, he’s begun to campaign on equally lofty boasts of a Covid-19 cure-all — even though the treatments remain unproven and unavailable to the general public…” (Facher, 10/19).

UPI: Fauci sees similarities between HIV, COVID-19 in public health response
“The HIV epidemic in the 1980s and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic are very different but the two share ‘some similarities’ related to public health response, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was a researcher at the government agency during the early stages of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and he recalls the ‘messaging difficulty’ he and his colleagues faced then…” (Dunleavy, 10/16).

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Late November Earliest U.S. Filing For Coronavirus Vaccine Approval, Pfizer Announces; Cold Chain Storage Poses Challenge In Distributing Any Potential Vaccine

AP: Vaccine storage demands could leave 3B people in virus cold
“From factory to syringe, the world’s most promising coronavirus vaccine candidates need nonstop sterile refrigeration to work. But despite great strides in equipping developing countries to maintain the vaccine ‘cold chain,’ nearly 3 billion of the world’s 7.8 billion people live in places with insufficient temperature-controlled storage for an immunization campaign to bring COVID-19 under control. The result: Poor people around the world are likely to be the last to emerge from the pandemic…” (Hinnant/Mednick, 10/19).

Reuters: Pfizer says earliest U.S. filing for COVID-19 vaccine would be late November
“Pfizer Inc. said on Friday it could file in late November for U.S. authorization of the COVID-19 vaccine it is developing, suggesting that a vaccine could potentially be available in the United States by the end of the year. That timeline makes it unlikely, however, that a vaccine will be available before the U.S. election, as President Donald Trump has promised. Pfizer, which is developing the vaccine with German partner BioNTech, said that it may confirm if the vaccine is effective as soon as this month but that it also needs safety data from a 44,000-person clinical trial that will not be available until next month…” (Mishra et al., 10/16).

Additional coverage of potential coronavirus vaccines and the logistics of distribution is available from Bloomberg, Democracy Now!, Financial Times, Forbes, Reuters, STAT, and Wall Street Journal.

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WHO Addresses Pushback On Solidarity Trial Interim Results; Some Experts Say Remdesivir Still Potentially Effective In Early Infection

NBC News: Massive WHO remdesivir study suggests no Covid-19 benefit. Doctors aren’t so sure.
“A huge, global study of potential medications to treat Covid-19 suggests remdesivir — one of the few available drugs for the virus — may offer no real benefit to the sickest patients. But doctors on the front lines of treating severe cases advise caution when interpreting the findings. … Outside experts also said it’s no surprise that the drug didn’t appear to benefit the sickest patients. Remdesivir is an antiviral medication. Like Tamiflu for influenza, antivirals generally are more effective when given early in the course of illness…” (Edwards, 10/16).

U.S. News & World Report: WHO Addresses Gilead’s Pushback on Remdesivir Trial
“The World Health Organization on Friday addressed criticism from drugmaker Gilead over the group’s interim finding that the antiviral remdesivir has ‘little or no effect in preventing death from COVID-19 or reducing time in hospital.’ WHO’s interim trial results, which it said would be published soon in a peer-reviewed journal, sparked pushback from Gilead, which said in a statement that the data appears inconsistent with evidence from other studies of the drug. … WHO’s guideline development group will examine the data and possibly update their policy on the use of remdesivir in a couple weeks…” (Smith-Schoenwalder, 10/16).

Additional coverage of the trial and reaction is available from Bloomberg, Reuters, and U.N. News.

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Financial Times Special Report Examines Various Aspects Of Coronavirus Pandemic, Features Opinion Piece By WHO DG Tedros

Financial Times: FT Health: Communicable Diseases
In this special report, the Financial Times “looks at how scientists and policymakers are rising to the challenge of a pandemic — from new drugs and diagnostics, to efforts to secure poor countries’ access to treatments. Plus: the WHO chief’s view of the crisis…” (Multiple authors, 10/18).

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World Food Programme Head Calls For Donations From Billionaires To Help Stave Off Global Hunger; U.N. SG Calls For More Efforts To Ensure Healthy Diets For All In World Food Day Message

AP: Nobel winner urges billionaires to save millions from famine
“The head of the World Food Program, this year’s winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, again urged billionaires to donate just a few billion to save millions of lives, saying Friday the number of people ‘marching toward starvation’ has jumped from 135 million to 270 million since the COVID-19 pandemic…” (Lederer, 10/16).

Xinhua: U.N. chief calls for efforts to ensure sustainable, healthy diets for all
“United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said on Friday that efforts must be made to ensure sustainable and healthy diets for all, and to minimize food waste. ‘We need to ensure sustainable and healthy diets for all, and to minimize food waste,’ the U.N. chief said in a message for the World Food Day, which falls on Oct. 16…” (10/17).

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U.N. Aims To Raise $1B For Humanitarian Crises In Sahel At Ministerial Meeting

AP: U.N. hopes meeting will raise $1 billion for key Sahel nations
“The U.N. humanitarian chief is hoping a major ministerial meeting Tuesday will not only raise $1 billion for the three countries at the epicenter of a humanitarian crisis in Africa’s Sahel region but also spur leaders to address the underlying causes, including increasing conflict and insecurity, weak governance, and a lack of development. Undersecretary-General Mark Lowcock said in an interview with the Associated Press that the troubling situation in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger is a symptom ‘of failure to deal with all of those causes of problems’ as well as rapid population growth and climate change…” (Lederer, 10/19).

U.N. News: Violence, COVID-19, contribute to rising humanitarian needs in the Sahel
“…The Central Sahel is one of the world’s poorest regions and the overall humanitarian situation there has deteriorated sharply over the past two years. The U.N. humanitarian affairs office, OCHA, said more than 13 million people require assistance, and as the UNICEF figures show, more than half are children. The number of people facing acute hunger levels has tripled over the past year, reaching 7.4 million, while the 1.5 million people now internally displaced represent a twenty-fold increase in two years. Meanwhile, lockdowns and other measures to prevent COVID-19 have pushed an additional six million people into extreme poverty. Women and girls are especially vulnerable, and gender-based violence is also on the rise…” (10/16).

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More COVID-19 & Global Health News

AP: Iran announces its virus death toll passes 30,000 (Vahdat/Gambrell, 10/17).

CIDRAP News: Global study shows deadly convergence of chronic disease, COVID-19 (Van Beusekom, 10/16).

Devex: Q&A: Supporting health workers through the pandemic (Castell, 10/16).

Devex: Q&A: Clinton Foundation on how to ‘sustain the work’ during the pandemic (Lieberman, 10/19).

NPR: How To Reduce Human Suffering: 3 Lessons From A Seminal Public Health Study (Aizenman, 10/16).

Thomson Reuters Foundation: Refugee women in Africa say domestic violence rose during pandemic (Bhalla, 10/15).

Vox: A new study shows malaria’s often neglected toll on a vulnerable population: Pregnant women (Piper, 10/17).

Washington Post: Why the coronavirus is killing more men than women (Guarino, 10/17).

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Editorials and Opinions

Opinion Pieces Discuss 'Herd Immunity' As Strategy To End COVID-19

The Guardian: How do pandemics end? In different ways, but it’s never quick and never neat
Mark Honigsbaum, lecturer at City University of London and author (10/18).

STAT: We cannot rely on magical thinking: Herd immunity is not a plan
Gigi Kwik Gronvall, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, and Rachel West, postdoctoral scholar with the Center for Health Security and the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health (10/16).

Washington Post: A half-million more people could die if America pursues a ‘herd immunity’ plan
Tom Frieden, president and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives (10/18).

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Degradation Of CDC's Trustworthiness Could Impact U.S. Ability To Address Public Health Emergencies For Generations, Opinion Piece Says

The Hill: Loss for everyone as CDC’s standing erodes
Leslie Roberts, professor at the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health

“In recent weeks it has come to light that the White House blocked an effort by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to require the use of face masks on public and commercial transportation and initiated, against the wishes of CDC scientists, a March 2020 CDC order to close the U.S. border to asylum seekers — both moves widely and publicly condemned by public health experts. These are just the latest revelations that demonstrate how the administration has hobbled the CDC’s work during the COVID-19 crisis and diminished its scientific standing. On issues related to COVID-19, reports document that the White House has edited CDC publications and altered advisories on testing contacts, on school opening strategies, and on the danger of singing in churches. … The recent degradations of the CDC’s trustworthiness could compromise our ability to cope with emergencies for generations to come. Scientific integrity can only exist when politicians and political candidates are publicly committed to scientific independence: regarding airplane safety, on drug approval procedures, and especially for public health guidelines…” (10/17).

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USAID Could Benefit From Reorganization To Better Address Transnational Issues, Opinion Piece Says

The Hill: U.S. policy must adjust to transnational issues
Jonathan Addleton, rector of Forman Christian College in Lahore, Pakistan, and Alonzo Fulgham, executive vice president at VIATEQ

“…[S]ome of the biggest issues of our time are transnational, impervious to national boundaries and increasingly irrelevant to them. Examples include migration, social media, trade, urbanization, terrorism, pandemics, and environmental issues ranging from water to clean air to global warming. The diminishing importance of national boundaries combined with the flourishing of non-state actors … underscores the need to respond to some of the biggest concerns of our time in a different and more direct way. … USAID is one institution that would surely benefit from recognizing more explicitly the power of a transnational approach, perhaps reorganizing itself along largely functional, rather than geographic, lines. While USAID — and the State Department, for that matter — have long-established global bureaus, the institutional center of gravity of both organizations remains where it always has been, firmly pointed in a bilateral direction. Given the growing existential threats posed by global issues such as health and the environment, an effective reorganization of USAID might well start with the premise that the long-held bilateral country paradigm finally needs to be turned on its head, guided by a recognition that transnational approaches increasingly should stand at the center of its global mission” (10/18).

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Opinion Pieces Discuss Right To Food, Eliminating Trans Fat From World's Food Supply, Global Food Insecurity On World Food Day

Devex: Opinion: The future of food must include a commitment to human rights
Michael Fakhri, U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food and associate professor at the University of Oregon School of Law (10/16).

Devex: Opinion: Why we need to eliminate artificial trans fat from the world’s food supply to save lives
Tom Frieden, president and CEO at Resolve to Save Lives (10/16).

The Telegraph: The threat of hunger and malnutrition as a result of Covid-19 is greater than the virus itself
David Mundell, Conservative MP and vice chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Nutrition for Growth (10/16).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

Blog Posts, Releases Address Issues Related To COVID-19 Pandemic, Including Impact On Global Poverty, HIV Treatment; Efforts To Improve Vaccine Accessibility

ONE: 5 ways COVID-19 is exacerbating global poverty
Arielle Witter, social and editorial coordinator at the ONE Campaign (10/16).

UNAIDS: COVID-19’s impact on HIV treatment less severe than feared (10/19).

UNAIDS: President of Nigeria unites behind the call for a People’s Vaccine for COVID-19 (10/16).

UNICEF: UNICEF to stockpile over half a billion syringes by year end, as part of efforts to prepare for eventual COVID-19 vaccinations (10/19).

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FAO DG Discusses Priority Areas For Strengthening Agrifood Systems Amid COVID-19 During G20 Agriculture, Water Ministers Meeting

FAO: FAO to continue to support G20 to address the pandemic and strengthen agri-food systems
“The FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu [Saturday] participated in the G20’s Agriculture and Water Ministers meeting, hosted virtually by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and presented several priority areas in which FAO can support G20 countries and the international community to strengthen agrifood systems and recover from the impacts of COVID-19…” (9/12).

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From the U.S. Government

HHS Secretary Azar Issues Statement On FDA Approval Of Ebola Treatment

HHS: HHS Secretary Azar Statement on First FDA Approval of Ebola Therapeutic
In a statement, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said, “The approval of the first-ever therapeutic for Ebola is a momentous global health achievement that would have never occurred without American leadership. The United States was proud to provide direct support for this treatment, through an expanded access protocol and a clinical trial conducted in a highly dangerous and insecure region of the DRC. The Trump Administration made ending the 2018 Ebola outbreak one of its top global health priorities for the last two years, and these efforts have now left the U.S. and our African partners better prepared for the fight against the new outbreak in western DRC and for future health threats…” (10/14).

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From KFF

KFF Provides Resources On Global, Domestic Aspects Of COVID-19 Pandemic

KFF: COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker — Updated as of October 19, 2020
Data on country government actions in response to COVID-19 are included in the tracker (10/19).

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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