Advocacy Updates ~ February 28, 2022

Administration News

Sec. Blinken hosts COVID-19 Global Action Meeting

On February 14, Secretary of State Antony Blinken convened a virtual COVID-19 Global Action Meeting with leaders from regional and international organizations to launch a Global Action Plan to end the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for the future. Building on the goals outlined at President Biden’s Global COVID-19 Summit, the plan lays out six lines of effort, including: get shots in arms; improve supply chain resilience; address information gaps; support health care workers; ensure non-vaccine interventions; and strengthen the global health security architecture. During his remarks, Sec. Blinken called for ensuring sustainable financing for pandemic preparedness and response, including the establishment of a new fund housed at the World Bank focused on “providing for the capacity that we need to prevent, to detect, to respond to future threats.” Sec. Blinken noted that the U.S. would continue to stay engaged in all six lines of effort and will play a lead coordinating role on bolstering supply chain resilience and strengthening global health security. This meeting lays the groundwork for the next Global COVID-19 Summit that President Biden will host in late Spring. GHC remains engaged in discussions around the planning of the summit and continues to advocate for strong CSO participation.

Robert Califf confirmed to lead FDA

On February 14, the Senate narrowly confirmed Robert Califf to lead the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on a 50-46 vote. Califf previously served in the role under the Obama administration but faced opposition from both sides of the aisle due to ties to the pharmaceutical industry, as well as decisions made when he previously held the role such as his handling of the opioid crisis and expansion of medication abortion.

New GAO report on oversight of health emergencies relief funds

The latest report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) provides updates and recommendations on the federal government’s pandemic response, with the view of improving the integrity and effectiveness of these efforts. The report highlights key recommendations to federal agencies and designates the Department of Health and Human Services leadership and coordination of a range of public health emergencies as high risk, based on the identification of persistent deficiencies in their response efforts, in order for it to receive sustained attention from the executive branch and Congress.

White House announces new OSTP leadership

Following the resignation of Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Director Eric Lander due to violations of the Biden administration’s Safe and Respectful Workplace Policy, President Biden announced that Dr. Alondra Nelson and Dr. Francis Collins, former Director of the National Institutes of Health, will take over Lander’s duties at OSTP until permanent leadership is nominated and confirmed. Dr. Nelson, who serves as the current Deputy Director for Science, will perform the duties of OSTP Director, while Dr. Collins will perform the duties of Science Advisor to the President and Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. 

PMI releases 2022 Malaria Operational Plans

The U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) has released its FY22 Malaria Operational Plans, which detail implementation plans for each country developed in collaboration with the respective national and international partners.

Congressional News

Stopgap measure passed to avert government shutdown; global health community continues urgent calls for COVID-19 supplemental funding

On February 18, President Biden signed into law a stopgap measure (H.R. 6617) to fund the government at fiscal year (FY) 2021 enacted levels through March 11, giving appropriators more time to negotiate a 12-bill omnibus for FY22. GHCl and the broader community continue to call on President Biden to request that Congress appropriate at least $17 billion in supplemental funding for global COVID-19 response efforts in the FY22 appropriations omnibus. However, recent reports state the administration has only made a verbal ask to Congress of $5 billion for the global COVID-19 response.

International News

Global Fund investment case released

On February 23, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria released its Seventh Replenishment Investment Case, Fight For What Counts. The Investment Case calls for at least $18 billion as the minimum funding required to get the world back on track toward ending HIV, TB, and malaria, as well as to build resilient and sustainable systems for health and strengthen pandemic preparedness, making the world more equitable and safer from future threats. At least $18 billion would save 20 million lives, cut the death rate from HIV, TB and malaria by 64 percent, and strengthen systems for health to build a healthier, more equitable world.

G20 finance ministers release communique

The G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors convened on February 17-18, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic being the main agenda of the meeting. The group reaffirmed their commitment to address the impacts of the pandemic, with a focus on communities and countries that have been most affected, and also reiterated their commitment to tackle other global challenges such as climate change, environmental protection, and the need for global financial sustainability and resilience.

In remarks at the G20 meeting, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called for the ongoing coordinated support of national governments, multilateral institutions, and bilateral partners to ensure that every country has equitable access to COVID-19 resources, and urged the Multilateral Leaders Task Force to utilize their data collected on vaccination gaps to deliver a report to Health and Finance ministers outlining the work done in this area so far. The group also emphasized the need to ensure global preparedness for future pandemics, and has advocated for the creation of a forum to foster strong health and finance collaborations, and the development of a Financial Intermediary Fund as an additional source to complement and support the role of the WHO.

Working group on strengthening WHO preparedness and response to health emergencies (WGPR) continues its work

The 7th meeting of the Working group on strengthening WHO preparedness and response to health emergencies (WGPR) took place from February 21-23. The meeting focused on discussion of the preliminary findings of the “Survey on implementation of COVID-19 recommendations” and next steps for the IHR reform and INB to support pandemic treaty negotiations. 

First meeting on new pandemic accords convenes

The first meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) took place on February 24. As agreed upon at the World Health Assembly Special Session late last year, the INB is tasked with negotiating a WHO convention, agreement, or other international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response. The first meeting focused largely on the INB’s working methods and timelines, and will continue to identify and develop the substantive elements in the intersessional period and future meetings. Dr. Tedros’ opening remarks from the meeting can be found here.

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