Advocacy Updates ~ November 29, 2021

Administration News

Sec. Blinken hosts COVID-19 Foreign Ministerial

On Wednesday, November 10, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken hosted a meeting of foreign ministers to discuss the pandemic and follow-up from the U.S.-hosted COVID-19 Summit that took place on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. During the meeting, Sec. Blinken launched the Global COVID-19 Access Tracker, announced a deal with Johnson & Johnson around vaccines, and continued to press world leaders to act with urgency to take the needed steps to end the pandemic. In advance of the meeting, Sec. Blinken met with a small group of NGO leaders, including GHC’s President & CEO Elisha Dunn-Georgiou. GHC will continue to engage with the administration on leadership and accountability around the global COVID-19 response. GHC is also tracking developments around another Leaders Summit that will be convened by President Biden in the first quarter of 2022, as well as a meeting of Development Ministers that U.S.Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power will host.

USAID announces high-priority countries for WASH assistance

On November 17, USAID announced its annual list of high-priority countries for safe and resilient water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). For fiscal year 2022, USAID designated 21 high-priority countries to be the focus of U.S. investment in WASH, in line with the Water for the World Act of 2014. 

USAID releases Acting on the Call report

On November 12, USAID released its annual Acting on the Call report, which details the agency’s work in preventing maternal and child deaths in 25 of the world’s most vulnerable countries. This year’s report highlights how U.S. leadership has been critical to continuing lifesaving health services to women, children, and families throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. to host Global Fund replenishment in 2022

On Wednesday, November 10, Sec. Blinken announced that the U.S. would host the 7th Replenishment of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) in 2022. Next year marks the 20th anniversary of GFATM, of which the U.S. is a founding member and its largest donor.

CDC Announces New Director of the Center for Preparedness and Response

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has named Henry Walke, MD as director of the Center for Preparedness and Response effective November 7. Prior to this role, he served as incident manager for the CDC’s COVID-19 response and had previously served as director for the Division of Preparedness and Emerging Infections and CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases. 

USAID celebrates its 60th anniversary 

November 3 marked the 60th anniversary of USAID. At a ceremony celebrating the occasion the following day, Administrator Samantha Power announced a new vision for global development outlining three priorities to make international development more inclusive. Other announcements included the creation of a flexible fund for private sector engagement; the launch of WorkWithUsaid.org which outlines how to pursue USAID partnerships; and the goal to reach 25 percent of all funding going to local partners over the next four years and 50 percent by the end of the decade. With respect to COVID-19, Administrator Power reiterated the administration’s commitment to global vaccine equity and strengthening health systems. Administrator Power also committed the agency to “develop the global, regional and country-level capabilities needed to meet future pandemic threats” by doubling the number of countries the agency supports and establishing a new emergency unit focused on infectious disease outbreaks.

Isobel Coleman confirmed for post at USAID

On November 3, the Senate voted to confirm Isobel Coleman as USAID’s Deputy Administrator for Policy and Programming. Amb. Coleman will be responsible for guiding the overall direction of the agency for the development and implementation of policy, as well as signaling the agency’s official shift to a two-Deputy Administrator structure. She has an illustrious background and is expected to help create innovative solutions to international development and policy challenges. 

GAO releases analysis of COVAX equity initiative

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has performed a review of COVAX, the global COVID-19 vaccine equity initiative. While it was found to have exceeded fundraising targets, it has fallen short of its goal of 2 billion vaccines in arms in 2021 due to challenges such as supply and distribution limitations. This goal has now been shifted to 2022. Future GAO reviews on COVAX will focus on country readiness and the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines abroad.

New Foreignassistance.gov website launched

The new Foreignassistance.gov website launched on November 9. This site makes U.S. foreign assistance data available to the public. For additional questions about ForeignAssistance.gov, please see a list of Frequently Asked Questions and Glossary, or reach out at FAdata@usaid.gov.

Congressional News

Appropriations for global vaccine manufacturing included in Biden $1.75 trillion social spending and tax plan

President Biden’s proposed landmark social spending and tax plan, the Build Back Better Act, includes $1.3 billion to support public health and preparedness research, development, and countermeasure capacity, including the expansion of global and domestic vaccine production capacity. GHC issued a statement welcoming the inclusion of these funds while noting further investment is urgently needed to end the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare the world for future pandemics. Congress has yet to hold a vote on the Build Back Better Act with some members holding out for a score from the Congressional Budget Office.

Recent congressional hearings

On Thursday, November 18 the House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on International Development, International Organizations, and Global Corporate Social Impact will convened a hearing entitled, “Personnel is Policy: UN Elections and US Leadership in International Organizations.” The hearing featured Amb. Erica Barks-Ruggles, Senior Bureau Official, Bureau of International Organization Affairs, U.S. Department of State (testimony here).

On Wednesday, November 17 the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies convened a hearing entitled, “U.S. Role in Global COVID-19 Vaccine Equity.” The hearing featured three witnesses: 

  • Dr. Gary Disbrow, Director, Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, Department of Health and Human Services (testimony here);
  • Dr. David A. Kessler, Chief Science Officer, COVID-19 Response (testimony here); and 
  • Loyce Pace, Director, Office of Global Affairs, Department of Health and Human Services (testimony here).

On Wednesday, October 27 the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations hearing entitled, “United States Global COVID-19 Response: Actions Taken & Future Needs.” The hearing featured three witnesses: 

  • Sarah Charles, Assistant to the Administrator, Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, USAID (testimony here);
  • Jeremy Konyndyk, Executive Director of the USAID COVID-19 Task Force and Senior Advisor to the Administrator, USAID (testimony here); 
  • Gayle Smith, Coordinator for Global COVID-19 Response and Health Security, U.S. Department of State (testimony here); and
  • Lesley Ziman, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, U.S. Department of State (testimony here).

Please also see Chairwoman Barbara Lee’s opening statement.

Dr. Atul Gawande nomination moves to Senate floor for a vote

On November 3, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted to advance the nomination of Dr. Atul Gawande to serve as Assistant Administrator for Global Health at USAID. Dr. Gawande’s nomination now awaits consideration by the full Senate.

Sen. King calls on Pfizer to license COVID-19 vaccine

In a recent letter to Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, Sen. Angus King, Jr. (D-ME) highlighted the need to increase the production of COVID-19 vaccines and called on Pfizer to license their COVID-19 vaccine and treatment to the United Nations-backed Medicines Patent Pool, commit to participating in WHO-back technology transfer hubs, and follow Merck’s lead in committing to a royalty-free license for upcoming COVID-19 treatments developed by Pfizer. 

Sen. Markey leads letter to Biden administration officials on meeting the world’s COVID-19 vaccination target

On October 26, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) led a letter to Jeremy Konyndyk, Executive Director of the USAID COVID-19 Task Force and Senior Advisor to the Administrator at USAID, and Gayle Smith, Coordinator for Global COVID-19 Response and Health Security the U.S. Department of State regarding how the U.S. can achieve President Biden’s goal of vaccinating 70% of the world’s population by September 2022. The letter outlines a series of questions with the aim to better understand the administration’s strategy for achieving the vaccination target.

Bipartisan letter calls on Biden-Harris administration to step up global COVID-19 vaccination

On October 22, Sen. Brian Shatz (D-HI) led a bipartisan letter signed by 14 Senators urging President Biden to do more to lead on the global COVID-19 response and increase global access to COVID-19 vaccines. The Senators called on the administration to develop a plan to meet the targets set at the U.S.-hosted Global COVID-19 Summit and encouraged the designation of a White House official to oversee the global response. The Senators also laid out a list of questions for the administration to answer on how the U.S. will increase global vaccine availability.

International News

WHA Special Session kicks off today

GHC and its delegation will attend the virtual World Health Assembly Special Session (WHASS) that kicks off today and runs through December 1. WHASS will consider the benefits of developing a WHO convention, agreement or other international instrument on pandemic preparedness and response, and take into account the report of the Working Group on Strengthening WHO Preparedness and Response to Health Emergencies (WGPR). 

The GHC Multilateral Roundtable has published a position paper with recommendations for the WGPR. This position paper was developed under the auspices of the roundtable with input from GHC members. This paper has been transmitted to the WGPR Bureau and GHC continues to advocate for the recommendations included in this paper with all relevant stakeholders. GHC also continues to collect sign-ons from any NSA in official relations with WHO or GHC member interested in endorsing the paper. If interested, please reach out to Ansley Kahn (akahn@globalhealth.org) with your organization’s logo. 

You can watch the proceedings via a live webcast on the WHO website and all WHASS documents can be found at this link.

IPPPR issues new report, assessing progress and calling for urgent action

The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPPR) released a new report, Losing Time: End this Pandemic and Secure the Future, assessing progress and calling for urgent action required to end the COVID-19 pandemic and prevent the next one. The report includes a detailed dashboard that tracks progress on the recommendations provided by the panel in its main report in May 2021.

COP26 highlights health and climate connections

At COP26, a group of 50 countries committed to develop climate-resilient and low-carbon health systems, in response to growing evidence of the impact of climate change on people’s health. Additionally, the COP26 Health Programme was established to bring stronger health focus and ambition to COP26. The key health priorities for COP26 included: 1) Building climate resilient health systems; 2) Developing low-carbon sustainable health systems; 3) Adaptation Research for Health; 4) The inclusion of health priorities in Nationally Determined Contributions; and 5) Raising the voice of health professionals as advocates for stronger ambition on climate change. From the U.S. government, USAID announced robust targets to advance President Biden’s Climate Initiative.

ACT-A releases updated strategic plan and budget

The Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) has released an updated strategic plan and budget for October 2021 through September 2022. To fully fund the ACT-A pillars, the plan calls for a total of $23.4 billion.

G20 Leaders’ Summit produces disappointing results 

The G20 Leaders’ Summit took place in the final days of October, at which G20 leaders adopted the Rome declaration, which included no concrete commitments or tangible solutions for COVID-19 vaccine equity. Countries agreed to the target to vaccinate 40 percent of the world by the end of the year and 70 percent by the middle of 2022 but offered no concrete plans on how to achieve that goal. Countries also failed to confirm actual delivery dates for earlier dose donation promises to COVAX. The G20 made no new commitments to address ACT-A’s funding needs and instead of creating a financial intermediary fund for pandemic preparedness established a Health and Finance Ministers Task Force to consider a potential financing facility.

WHO Council on the Economics of Health For All releases second brief on financing for health

On October 26, the WHO Council on the Economics of Health For All released a second brief on financing health for all, outlining three pathways to action: creating fiscal space, directing investments, and governing public and private finance. The findings were presented at the G20 Summit and framed health for all as the foundation for productive and resilient economies. The Council, established in 2020, focuses on economic development, financing, capacity and innovation, and will release briefs on each of these areas by 2023. 

GPMB launches third annual report at World Health Summit

At this year’s World Health Summit, the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB) launched its third annual report, From Worlds Apart to a World Prepared, which highlights six solutions to ensure the world is prepared for future health emergencies, including strengthening global governance, building a strong WHO, creating an agile health emergency system, establishing collective financing for preparedness, ensuring community engagement from civil society and the private sector, and strengthening independent monitoring and mutual accountability. 

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