Advocacy Updates ~ May 28, 2021
Biden Administration releases FY22 budget request
Today, the Biden Administration released its Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 budget proposal, which contains approximately $63.7 billion for the international affairs budget. Global Health Council has been working with lawmakers in anticipation of today’s release and, as expected, President Biden’s budget includes $10 billion for global health programs. This budget provides a modest increase to global health accounts, but GHC recognizes that there is far more to be done to meet our goals and address growing global health needs. For more information, read our full statement.
Biden announces U.S. will share an additional 20 million COVID-19 vaccine doses
On May 17, President Biden announced that the U.S. will share an additional 20 million COVID-19 vaccine doses by the end of June, bringing the total number of doses shared by the U.S. to 80 million. This announcement follows President Biden’s announcement in April that the U.S. would send 60 million AstraZeneca doses overseas to help struggling countries vaccinate their populations. The additional 20 million doses will also include vaccines produced by Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. Jeff Zients, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator, will lead this effort in coordination with the Department of State and National Security Council. During the announcement, the President also committed to continue its dose sharing efforts, to work with COVAX to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines, and to work with pharmaceutical companies and other nations to “vastly increase” the global vaccine supply. President Biden also announced the U.S. is coordinating a multilateral effort to end the pandemic with plans to announce progress at the G7 Summit in June.
White House calls for further investigation into the origins of COVID-19
On May 26, President Biden instructed the U.S. intelligence community to continue its efforts in investigating the origins of COVID-19. This announcement follows a report from the intelligence community which “coalesced around two likely scenarios,” but reached no definitive conclusion: that the coronavirus “emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident.”
Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act reintroduced in Congress
On May 26, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Rep. Katherine Clarke (D-MA-5) reintroduced the Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act in the 117th Congress. The Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act would require the Department of State to include the status of reproductive rights as part of the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for nearly 200 countries. The bill has been updated to: include gender-neutral language, require additional reporting to understand how policies affect marginalized communities, require the State Department to report on forms of reproductive coercion, and acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on reproductive healthcare. GHC has endorsed the reintroduction of this bill. If your organization is interested in endorsing this legislation, please fill out this form.
Senate passes two amendments to the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act
Following questions of the origins of COVID-19, the Senate passed two amendments to the United States Innovation and Competition Act, a bill largely focused on U.S. investment in technology to counter China’s economic rise. One amendment, introduced by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), would prohibit taxpayer dollars from funding the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the institution at the center of the theory that the coronavirus may have leaked from a laboratory. The other amendment, introduced by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), would prohibit the National Institutes of Health or any U.S. government agency from funding “gain-of-function” research in China or cultivating dangerous pathogens to fight future outbreaks.
Senate Appropriations L/HHS Subcommittee hearing: FY22 CDC budget
On Wednesday, May 19, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director, and Dr. Anne Schuchat Principal Deputy Director, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) participated in a hearing on the agency’s fiscal year (FY) 2022 budget request. CDC’s FY22 discretionary budget request of $8.7 billion dollars is an increase of 1.6 billion dollars over FY21 and would be the largest increase to CDC in nearly 20 years. The increases focus on four areas: building public health infrastructure, reducing health disparities, using public health approaches to reduce violence, and defeating diseases and epidemics.
Senate Appropriations SFOPS Subcommittee hearing: FY22 USAID budget request
On Wednesday, May 26, Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Samantha Power participated in a hearing on the agency’s fiscal year (FY) 2022 budget request. The USAID discretionary budget request includes a $6.8 billion increase from FY21, largely in response to the increased acuity of issues raised during the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year. Key priorities reviewed during the hearing included: vaccine distribution through COVAX and other international partners; efforts to combat corruption, misinformation, and illiberal forces around the world; and the increasing acknowledgment of the role that development and diplomacy play in promoting democratic values and American influence on the global stage. Notably, there is strong continued bipartisan support for USAID initiatives and the international development community at large.
74th World Health Assembly kicks off
The 74th World Health Assembly, the World Health Organization (WHO)’s decision-making body, began on Monday, May 24, and will run through Tuesday, June 1. GHC’s official delegation is a diverse delegation of more than 100 members from 11 countries, including 7 low- and middle-income countries. The GHC delegation submitted statements on a variety of agenda items, including:
- Global action on patient safety
- Antimicrobial resistance
- Immunization Agenda 2030
- Political declaration of the third high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases
- Expanding access to effective treatments for cancer and rare orphan diseases, including medicines, vaccines, medical devices, diagnostics, assistive products, cell- and gene-therapies and other health technologies; and improving the transparency of markets for medicines, vaccines, and other health products
- Integrated people-centered eye care, including preventable vision impairment and blindness
- Global strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation, and intellectual property
- Substandard and falsified medical products
- Standardization of medical devices nomenclature
- Health in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
- Health workforce
- Committing to implementation of the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s, and Adolescents’ Health
- WHO’s work in health emergencies and strengthening preparedness for health emergencies
- Mental health preparedness for and response to the COVID-19 pandemic
- Social determinants of health
- WHO global plan of action to strengthen the role of the health system within a national multisectoral response to address interpersonal violence, in particular against women and girls, and against children
- WHO Transformation
- WHO Reform
We encourage you to engage in #WHA74 proceedings using GHC’s social media toolkit. Other helpful resources include a calendar of unofficial side events, a link to all official WHA74 documents, and a link to the livestream to watch the proceedings or catch up on sessions you’ve missed. GHC members interested in receiving GHC’s daily WHA updates, can reach out to Kiki Kalkstein (firstname.lastname@example.org) to be added to our WHA74 distribution list.
G20 hosts Global Health Summit ahead of World Health Assembly
On May 21, the G20 hosted its Global Health Summit chaired by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi in person in Rome. Along with new pledges to share doses and fund the ACT Accelerator and the COVAX facility, the event also produced the Rome Declaration, which sets out principles “for current and future action for global health.” Civil society organizations, such as the C20, have expressed their concern that the principles are neither bold nor ambitious enough to urgently address the COVID-19 pandemic and adequately address pandemic preparedness. At the summit, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris emphasized the need to get people vaccinated in every country as quickly as possible and committed to the U.S. to keep donating excess supply of vaccines as they are received. Vice President Harris also urged G20 leaders to establish a new and sustainable global health security financing mechanism, underscored that the health security metrics and milestones on which countries are measured must be improved, and noted the need to first “strengthen our foundation” before engaging in discussions for a pandemic treaty.
IPPPR health systems resilience report
The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPPR) published a supplementary paper examining the resilience of health systems in 28 countries in managing the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on a review of multiple domains grounded in the WHO’s health systems framework across a variety of countries, four resilience elements were identified: 1) activation of comprehensive responses, 2) adaptableness in health system capacity, 3) preservation of health system functions, and 4) reduction in vulnerability for systems and citizens. Excellence in these domains is achieved through a government-wide approach.
COVAX delivers 65 millionth dose, falling short of its goal
The COVAX Facility will deliver its 65 millionth dose in the coming days, over 100 million short of its goal. This deficit, disproportionately affecting low- and middle-income countries, means that situations like the tragic wave sweeping through India are being reflected in countries across the global south. With lockdowns restricting vaccine production in India, this number is expected to grow. While vaccine nationalism has contributed to the unequal distribution of vaccines around the world, the surplus held by G7 nations and ‘Team Europe’ means an obvious solution is available: over 150 million vaccines could be redistributed if they shared just 20% of their supply over the next few months. A collective commitment by Member States to share available vaccines, as well as sustainably continue to supply the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC), is a critical and time-sensitive step in the global race to vaccinate. In advance of the AMC Summit taking place on June 2, and echoing calls from Dr. Tedros during this week’s WHA, CEPI, WHO, Gavi, and UNICEF release their call to action to equip COVAX to deliver 2 billion doses in 2021.
WHO releases results report for 2020-2021
Ahead of the 74th World Health Assembly, WHO released its midterm results report: The World Needs WHO Now More than Ever, cataloging the organization’s impact over the last year. The 2020 Midterm Review shows the ways in which WHO has risen to the occasion in light of the numerous global challenges presented by COVID-19. COVID-19 has highlighted the need for an international health body to lead and coordinate pandemic response now and in the future, in line with WHO’s mandate and capacity. Early detection and rapid mobilization, which are of critical importance, require better monitoring and communication between WHO and Member States.
WHO releases World Health Statistics 2021
Each year, WHO releases the World Health Statistics report, which compiles data on health and health-related indicators for its Member States. The 2021 edition presents data from 2000-2019 just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The report acknowledges that the COVID-19 pandemic has hindered progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and WHO’s Triple Billion targets, as well as highlighted long-standing inequality in access to healthcare. Notably, improvements have been made regarding access to essential services though inequalities persist, and the cost of medical care has continued to rise.
WHO and Switzerland launch Global BioHub for pathogen storage, sharing, and analysis
WHO has announced its intention to establish the first WHO BioHub Facility in partnership with the Swiss Confederation as part of the WHO BioHub System. The goal of this system is to facilitate the rapid flow of information pertaining to viruses and other biological threats on a global level, allowing Member States to share these sensitive materials under pre-agreed conditions. WHO is also running a pilot phase during the current pandemic to broaden the BioHub System as a potential means to develop and allocate medical by-products. The plan is to utilize these results to then address additional pathogens in 2022.
WHO releases COVID-19 Research and Innovation Achievements Report
WHO has released a detailed report on its research and scientific achievements in the wake of COVID-19 as a background to the May 13-14 Global Research and Innovation Forum. The report is organized into nine thematic areas and presents WHO-led research and innovation achievements against the goal and knowledge gaps outlined in the Coordinated Global Research and Innovation Roadmap, which was established early in the COVID-19 pandemic by a group of scientific experts.
New international expert panel to address the emergence and spread of zoonotic disease
International organizations have come together to create a One Health High-Level Expert Panel to better understand diseases with the potential to trigger pandemics. The panel will operate under the One Health Approach, recognizing the links between humans, animals, and the environment and the need for specialists in multiple sectors to address possible health threats and other disruptions. The panel will also consider the human effects on the environment and wildlife.
‘Global pandemic radar’ announced by the UK, with WHO leadership
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has announced a plan for a “Global Pandemic Radar” to identify and track COVID-19 variants and other emerging diseases. This work will be led by WHO, in collaboration with the UK and other partners, to establish an advanced international pathogen surveillance network to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and prevent future pandemics. This network should enable more immediate vaccines, treatments, and testing in the face of future health threats, as COVID-19 highlights the need for a more expansive and modernized public health system that can keep up with a deeply interconnected world.