Health experts urge Biden to turn the tide on global pandemic response


Leaders in the letter said they wanted a global pandemic action plan to match the national plan the administration rolled out last week.

This administration’s plan set out an international strategy. The White House plans to focus on expanding the global supply of resources to fight the pandemic, including personal protective equipment, oxygen and Covid testing and treatment. The plan also presents the United States as a leader in coordinating scientific research to treat Covid and stop future illnesses, but said achieving those goals would require additional funding from Congress.

A White House spokesperson also pointed out that the administration launched Global VAX, a USAID program to help with last-mile delivery of vaccines — of which the United States has shipped 475 million donated doses and pledged more than a billion in total.

But some of those who signed the letter said they were communicating with the administration about its plans, but felt that there was not enough action taken as a result of those meetings.

“We’ve kind of been begging the Biden White House for over a year now to get on with this project,” said Gregg Gonsalves, a public health professor at Yale University who led the effort with Yamey. , in an interview. “We’re not giving up, and this is the latest iteration of it.”

The experts, from universities and organizations around the world, wrote that U.S. vaccine development has been largely successful, bringing protection to the public in record time. But getting shot with weapons in low- and middle-income countries was a “failure”, they wrote, noting that the vaccination rate in low-income countries is just 14%.

“The true toll of this failure will never be known, but at this point it almost surely includes tens of millions of preventable cases and hundreds of thousands of Covid deaths,” the letter said.

The letter comes as public health advocacy groups increasingly call on the administration and HHS to take a more active role in vaccine manufacturing, in part to ensure global vaccinations, POLITICO reported earlier this week — an action the White House said HHS was considering.

It also comes at a time when the WHO is expanding its mRNA Technology Sharing Center, which aims to give countries the technology and training to make their own mRNA vaccines, including those that fight Covid-19.

The private sector has also shown interest in manufacturing vaccines in low- and middle-income countries. BioNTech recently announced mobile vaccine factories that could be shipped around the world, and Moderna announced plans to open a factory in Kenya – while saying it would share its technology with outside researchers and not enforce its patents in certain low- and middle-income countries. countries.

These measures, both public and private, are part of a series of actions aimed at addressing the pandemic in low- and middle-income countries, while also working to build infrastructure to prevent future pandemics.

Yamey, however, fears that Covid will follow the path of diseases like HIV or tuberculosis: becoming well controlled in wealthier countries but continuing to wreak havoc in poorer ones.

Gonsalves and Yamey said the administration could bolster vaccine manufacturing and campaigns in developing countries — and it could also prevent future variants that could reinfect the rest of the world.

“If we ‘want to get back to normal,’ it won’t happen without vaccinating the world,” Gonsalves said. “It’s like having a no-pee section in a swimming pool.”

Erin Banco contributed to this report.


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