With an estimated 15 million deaths worldwide, including nearly 1 million in the United States, the Biden administration, despite a lack of funding for domestic and international pandemic response, is trying to mobilize a global effort to end the acute phase of COVID-19. ready for -19.
The US will co-host the second global COVID-19 summit on May 12, after the first in September 2021. The virtual summit will mark a shift from a crisis management strategy towards a more sustainable approach of building resilient public health systems.
“The virus – especially after Omicron – has shown us that we have to develop our own strategy,” a senior administration official told VOA. The goal, the official said, is to reduce transmission, deaths and hospitalizations rather than eliminate the virus.
The summit will focus on “supporting locally-led solutions” toward global goals, including obtaining shots in weapons, increasing access to tests and treatments, and generating sustainable funding for future pandemic preparedness.
“We can’t have just one solution that can fit all these different situations,” Dr. Thirno Balde of the World Health Organization’s Africa Regional Office told VOA. “The reality is to try to understand it, and therefore to work with different countries, with different partners, in general to build the most appropriate solution.”
To increase international support, the US will co-host the event with Belize, President of CARICOM (Caribbean Community); Group of Seven Presidents Germany; Group of 20 President Indonesia, and Senegal, President of the African Union.
no pandemic funding
The US, however, will not bring any new pledges to the summit table. The administration’s request for $22.5 billion in additional COVID-19 response money, including $5 billion for global pandemic funding, has been stalled for weeks, largely due to Republican lawmakers who insist that the administration hold on to Title 42. until they bring it back, they will not pass it. The Trump-era order allows officials at the Mexican border to turn migrants away during a pandemic emergency.
The lack of funding jeopardizes the administration’s global pandemic response, which includes Global Vax, an international initiative launched in December to convert vaccines into immunizations in 11 African countries, and which ran out of money in September. ready to leave. It may also undermine the ability of administrations to strengthen commitments from other countries, particularly in a phenomenon designed with a “step up to speak up” approach, meaning that a country is only one may secure a speaking role if they bring a financial pledge or policy commitment to support the goals of the summit.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told VOA that the summit will highlight the need for more funding to Congress so that the US can “maintain an arsenal of vaccines for the world.” He said that even without additional funding, the US remains the largest contributor to the global fight against the pandemic.
lack of global coordination
In the first two years of the pandemic, wealthy countries stocked up on boosters and doses to protect against new variants, threatening supplies to low-income countries with low vaccination rates.
Now, with 2 billion doses of the vaccine being produced every month, the problem is not a lack of supply, but slow demand and poor delivery capacity – problems that activists argue also stem from a lack of coordination.
“If we had a coordinated global plan to end the pandemic, we would no longer be in a situation where there are too many vaccine doses but not enough money to actually distribute them to the countries ,” Tom Hart told VOA. Hart is the president of ONE Campaign, an advocacy organization that fights preventable disease.
Beyond vaccines, the summit seeks to improve access to testing and treatments, including scaling up production and diversifying local and regional manufacturing capacity. Current efforts to achieve this include technology transfer agreements and so-called TRIPS (Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) waiver proposals by South Africa and India at the WTO, calling for intellectual property exemptions on COVID-19 therapeutics and diagnostics. it was done. , While the proposal has the backing of more than 100 member states, talks have been stalled for months.
test for treatment
Meanwhile, the Biden administration recently launched a national “test to treat” program that tests people for COVID-19 and immediately treats them with the Pfizer antiviral drug Paxlovid if the results are positive. It now aims to launch similar pilot projects in other countries.
“The exact model may be different because health systems are different,” the administration official said, noting that additional barriers need to be overcome, including the supply of the generic drugs nirmatrelavir and ritonavir, which make up Paxclovid — a Drugs that are prohibitively expensive for low to middle income countries.
Dr Krishna Udayakumar, founding director of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center, told VOA that it would be up to Pfizer, Merck and other companies that already have antivirals in the market to work with countries and existing multilateral systems so that these “tests”. “Can do. “Treat” pilot project so that when money and supplies increase, countries can grow faster.
In March, the United Nations-backed organization Medicines Patent Pool signed agreements with 35 manufacturers in 12 countries to produce nirmaltravir and ritonavir, but these are unlikely to hit the market until 2023. Udayakumar said the US was working to create one. The affordable generic version of Paxlovid becomes available within several months.
The Global COVID-19 Summit aims to help close the gap of about $15 billion in funding to the world in need, according to the WHO. While those pledges will be made, advocates are pessimistic.
“It’s not clear whether it’s being coordinated, one country or one region will have more than it needs and another region will go without it,” Hart said. “That’s the problem with no coordination and no global planning.”