Advocacy Updates ~ October 12, 2021

October 12, 2021

Administration News

President’s Malaria Initiative launches new strategy

On October 6, the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) launched its strategy for 2021-2026 End Malaria Faster. The strategy will contribute to the global goals of saving more than four million lives and preventing over one billion cases of malaria by 2025 by focusing on five areas: 1) reaching the unreached, 2) strengthening community health systems, 3) keeping malaria services resilient, 4) investing locally, and 5) innovating and leading.

Dr. Francis Collins to step down as NIH Director

On October 5, Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), announced that he would step down at the end of the year. Dr. Collins is the 16th and longest-serving NIH Director with his tenure spanning more than twelve years and three presidential administrations. During his tenure, Dr. Collins established bipartisan support for NIH research, growing the budget by 38 percent during his leadership. Though he is stepping down as NIH Director, Dr. Collins will continue to lead his research laboratory at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI).

Dr. John Nkengasong nominated to lead PEPFAR

On September 27, the Biden administration released their intent to nominate Dr. John Nkengasong, currently the director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), as Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator of United States Government Activities to Combat HIV/AIDS Globally at the Department of State. In this role, Dr. Nkengasong will lead the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Dr. Nkengasong is a U.S. citizen and, if confirmed, will be the first person of African origin to hold the position.

President Biden hosts Quad Leaders’ Summit

On September 24, President Biden hosted the first Quad Leaders’ Summit to put together ambitious initiatives to increase global cooperation on modern problems including COVID-19 response and climate change. Quad countries have pledged to donate over 1.2 billion vaccines globally, in addition to COVAX doses, and have committed to “Build Back Better Health Security” to ensure better pandemic preparedness. The Quad also intends to gather expertise with the Quad Infrastructure Coordination Group and lead on “High-standards infrastructure.”

USAID announces appointees for climate change coordinator and COVID-19 task force

On September 20, USAID welcomed new Biden-Harris appointees including: Gillian Caldwell, Climate Change Coordinator and Deputy Assistant Administrator, Bureau of Development, Democracy and Innovation and Eric Postel, Senior Advisor to the Administrator focused on Private Sector Engagement, including for the COVID-19 Task Force.

State and USAID seek public comment on U.S. Global Water Strategy

The Department of State (DoS) and USAID have announced a public meeting (November 17) and request for public comment (by October 29) on the United States Global Water Strategy 2017-2022. This will include all aspects of the strategy including challenges, strengths, weaknesses, results, and ongoing priorities. Comments from the public are encouraged to comprehensively inform the development for revised plans in 2022 and onwards.

USAID New Country Roadmaps Released

USAID has released its “flagship analytical tool for assessing country progress” to evaluate how a country’s policy, informal actions, infrastructure, and other factors support progress towards sustainable development. Each roadmap metric helps clarify relative strengths and weaknesses when looked at individually, but when put together create a high-level “snapshot” of a country’s progress and needs. 

KFF releases US COVID-19 vaccine donations tracker

The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) has released a tracker for U.S. international COVID-19 donations. This tracker will show the overall picture of donated doses, as well as a breakdown of the doses by recipient country, income level, region, vaccine product, delivery mechanism, and delivery month. To date, the U.S. has pledged to donate at least 1.1 billion doses by the end of 2022.

Congressional News

Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act introduced in the Senate

On October 7, Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and John Boozman (R-AK) introduced the Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act, which authorizes USAID to scale up prevention and treatment efforts and coordinate partners to address global malnutrition. Global Health Council has endorsed this legislation. Please find the full bill text here

SFRC holds nomination hearing for Dr. Atul Gawande 

On July 13, Dr. Atul Gawande was nominated to the position of Assistant Administrator of the Bureau for Global Health at USAID. On September 29, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) held a hearing on Dr. Gawande’s nomination. During the hearing. Dr. Gawande acknowledged three simultaneous colossal needs he will address in this role: “controlling the COVID-19 pandemic, preparing for the next pandemic, and strengthening global health systems to regain the massive ground lost in advancing life expectancy.” Dr. Gawande also noted his strong support for improving pandemic preparedness and global health security response capabilities.

International News

WHO launches strategy to achieve global vaccination targets by mid-2022

On October 7, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched the Strategy to Achieve Global COVID-19 Vaccination by mid-2022 to help the world meet its vaccination targets of 40% of the population of all countries by the end of this year and 70% by mid-2022. In his remarks, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros noted that to achieve the targets “it will take a level of political commitment, action and cooperation, beyond what we have seen to date.” To achieve high vaccine coverage that is equitable, the strategy calls on countries to swap vaccine delivery schedules with COVAX and African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT), fulfill and accelerate dose sharing commitments, and calls on countries to establish new commitments. The strategy also calls on civil society to advocate for COVID-19 vaccine equity and to hold manufacturers, governments, and multilateral actors accountable for how to meet these global targets.

WHO endorses world’s first malaria vaccine

On October 6, WHO recommended the world’s first malaria vaccine, RTS,S, for children primarily in sub-Saharan Africa where P. falciparum malaria transmission is high. Malaria kills more than 260,000 children under the age of five annually in sub-Saharan Africa with WHO reporting progress against the disease stalling in recent years. This recommendation is based on the results of a pilot program in Kenya, Ghana, and Malawi that has reached more than 800,000 children since 2019. “Using this vaccine on top of existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year,” said Dr. Tedros. Next steps include funding decisions for broader rollout of the vaccine and decision-making by countries on whether to adopt the vaccine as part of national malaria control strategies.

WHO releases new targets to prevent maternal deaths

On October 5, WHO and UNFPA launched five new targets to help countries prevent maternal deaths and get the world back on track to meeting Sustainable Development Goal 3.1 for reducing maternal deaths by 2025. These five targets include:

  1. 90% pregnant women to attend four or more antenatal care visits (towards increasing to eight visits by 2030);
  2. 90% births to be attended by skilled health personnel;
  3. 80% women who have just given birth to access postnatal care within two days of delivery;
  4. 60% of the population to have access to emergency obstetric care within two hours of travel time;
  5. 65% of women to be able to make informed and empowered decisions regarding sexual relations, contraceptive use, and their reproductive health.

Though maternal mortality has declined more than a third from 2000 to 2017, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruptions to essential health services exacerbated risks, particularly for vulnerable families.  

WHO launches COP26 special report on climate change and health

In the lead up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, the WHO launched the Special Report on Climate Change and Health, which outlines ten key recommendations for policymakers and governments to address climate change from a health perspective. Developed by a large panel of experts, each recommendation is accompanied by a set of case studies and resources to provide decision-makers with a framework to facilitate implementation.

WHO releases updated EML, prioritizing access

On October 1, WHO released the new edition of its Model List of Essential Medicines (EML) and Essential Medicines for Children. The list identifies the medicines that provide the greatest benefit that should be made affordable and accessible to all. The updated list includes new formulations of medicines for common bacterial infections, hepatitis C, HIV, and tuberculosis to meet better dosing and administration needs.

Routine immunization, COVAX strategy discussed at Gavi Board Meeting 

The Board of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance convened on September 28 to discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on routine immunization and how COVAX can best support countries efforts to control the pandemic. José Manuel Barroso, Chair of the Gavi Board, noted that in 2022, Gavi will “seek to extend its core work on routine immunisation, including reaching millions of zero-dose children, but also play a lead role in COVAX, the largest and most complex roll out of vaccines in history.”