Countries at the World Health Assembly failed to come up with a plan to address the most immediate concern globally: access to COVID-19 vaccines. Ahead of the summit of the G-7 group of nations starting next week, the leaders of the World Health Organization, World Trade Organization, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund are now calling for a “new level of international support” to “vaccinate the world.”
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This would require $50 billion, but what can funding do when supplies are lacking and country conditions are hindering the effective deployment of doses?
• The leaders advocated getting “more shots in arms,” and said doses must be donated immediately to lower-income countries. Vince Chadwick asked how confident WHO is that doses, even once delivered, can be administered in time — so as not to replicate recent failures to use allocated vaccines in Malawi, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The agency’s response? It is providing support to countries to ensure their national vaccine deployments include data-driven planning to minimize waste.
• In Bangladesh, Rohingya refugees are now included in a revised version of the government’s national deployment and vaccination plan. The problem is it’s unclear when additional doses to cover refugees will arrive from the international COVAX initiative, Nazmul Ahasan finds.
• Across 34 African countries, only about 2 million doses have been administered to health care workers so far, Natalie Donback reports.
• In Somalia, vaccines are outlawed in conflict areas, leaving little or no hope that COVID-19 vaccines will reach people there, Paul Adepoju finds.
• The Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment Summit secured $2.4 billion Wednesday, and five countries pledged to share additional doses. So far, 132 million doses have been shared with COVAX — but that’s still short of the supply shortfall of 190 million doses expected by the end of June.
• U.S. President Joseph Biden is expected to announce in the next two weeks details on how the U.S. plans to distribute its pledged 80 million vaccine doses, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
From telemedicine to delivering vaccines via drones, the COVID-19 pandemic has seen a wave of health innovations — but will they reach the people who need them most? Steve Davis, interim director for the China country office at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, outlines three ways to ensure they will.
‘HIV is still here’
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The United Nations High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS is an opportunity to reinvigorate the HIV/AIDS response, as well as to remind political leaders that “HIV is still here” and that HIV prevention is “always better and cheaper than cure,” Adeeba Kamarulzaman, president at the International AIDS Society, tells Jenny in an interview.
“There’s been unprecedented political attention to public health with COVID-19. The whole world is looking at public health and global health,” she says, “and so it is a timely opportunity to remind member states that, hey, there's that other pandemic that we still haven't solved as well.”
It’s a wrap
The 74th WHA ended Monday. Experts and advocates welcomed a number of decisions and resolutions, but there were clear disappointments.
• “The theme of this WHA was ‘Ending this pandemic, preventing the next’ yet the WHA failed to produce any meaningful outcome on either,” said Carolyn Reynolds, a co-founder of the Pandemic Action Network.
• “[The WHA’s] biggest weakness: not agreeing [on] a strategy for vaccinating the world,” said Roopa Dhatt, a co-founder and executive director at Women in Global Health.
• Member states “have not adequately addressed some of the urgent and politically sensitive issues related to COVID-19 … such as the grave human rights abuses in the COVID-19 response or vaccine equity,” said Thomas Schwartz, executive secretary at Medicus Mundi International.
Gambia is the latest country to eliminate trachoma, a painful eye disease that can lead to blindness and remains a significant public health problem in 44 countries. While surgeries and antibiotics can help, health experts tell Rebecca Root that better hygiene practices and clean water access are key to eradication.
Read more about Devex’s WASH Works series.
What we’re reading
China reports the first human infected with the H10N3 strain of bird flu. [Washington Post]
Peru revises its COVID-19 death toll from 69,342 to more than 180,000. [BBC]
Activists used “die-ins” to draw attention to the AIDS crisis. [History]