The people and politics driving global health.
Get the POLITICO Global Pulse newsletter
By CARMEN PAUN
10/28/2021 10:00 AM EDT
Patients are tended to outside a hospital as a preventive measure for possible replicas after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake on August 15, 2021 in Les Cayes, Haiti. | Photo by Richard Pierrin/Getty Images
COVID IS ONE OF HAITI’S MANY PROBLEMS — In July, a cadre of men sneaked into the residence of Haiti’s president and killed him in his bedroom — an assassination that further deepened the Caribbean nation’s political instability.
In August, a 7.2-magnitude earthquake and a powerful tropical depression devastated Haiti, killing at least 4,500 people and destroying livelihoods in a country already riven by poverty.
And, on Wednesday, Haiti was at a standstill as gangs kidnapped fuel truck drivers, spurring a nationwide fuel shortage.
It’s no surprise that vaccination against Covid-19 has not taken off there.
Less than 1 percent of the country’s 11.5 million residents has received one dose of the half-million Moderna vaccines the country received this summer. So far, nearly 120,000 doses have ended up in people’s arms, said Raoul de Torcy, UNICEF’s deputy representative in Haiti. But Haitian officials ran out of time to use about 250,000 shots before an early November expiration date, so they returned them to the global vaccine equity effort COVAX, which redeployed them to Honduras. Haiti expects to receive another 100,000 doses that can be used until 2022, a Haitian official said.
An immediate life-or-death danger: But Covid is not what’s keeping Marc Augustin up at night. The medical director of the St. Luke Hospital in the capital city of Port-au-Prince is worried some patients will die: The remaining fuel reserves powering hospital generators run out at the end of the week. “If the oxygen is lacking, if there’s no fuel, … that means we’ll have casualties,” he told Global Pulse. He said 40 other hospitals throughout the country are in the same dire situation.
A national strike over the fuel shortage has shut down the country this week, forcing hospital officials to house staffers who would otherwise struggle to come to work.
In recent months, three staff members of St. Luke were kidnapped. (Two were released and one was freed by police). “Kidnapping is a daily threat to anybody in Haiti,” Augustin said.
St. Luke is one of a handful of facilities in Port-au-Prince providing care for Covid patients, and it can only treat 30 patients at a time because of the lack of oxygen supply. That comes amid a new Covid surge that may be linked to the Mu variant discovered in September in the country.
Still, de Torcy is optimistic the vaccination campaign can continue. For one, the number of vaccination centers is growing, he said, and the ultra-cold fridges storing vaccines are solar-powered.
WELCOME BACK TO GLOBAL PULSE, where your host is happy she lived to see the day when animals get human rights.
Global Pulse is a team effort. Thanks to my colleagues Jacopo Barigazzi, Ryan Heath, Ashleigh Furlong and my editors Eli Reyes and Barbara Van Tine. Follow me on Twitter: @carmenpaun. Send tips and ideas to [email protected].
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa attend a press conference after the G20 Compact with Africa conference in Berlin on August 27, 2021. | Filip Singer/Getty Images
WILL THE G-20 AND COP26 GO BEYOND THE PHOTO OP? — World leaders are meeting at two summits starting Saturday in Europe to confront the world’s two existential problems: the pandemic and climate change.
Negotiations are still ongoing, but will the gatherings live up to their hype?
This is the first time G-20 members meet in person since the pandemic began. But Presidents Xi Jinping of China and Vladimir Putin of Russia won’t attend the Rome gathering, leaving an important part of the vaccine production world — and the challengers to the West’s vaccine supremacy — not represented in person.
“Equity and localized production, following through on commitments are going to be smack in the middle of the G-20 discussion,” said the German Chancellor’s chief economic adviser, Lars-Hendrik Röller, who is involved in the negotiations. A group of international health organizations and representatives from 10 countries, including China, South Africa, and the U.S., will present a report calling for swaps in deliveries between rich and poor countries, more transparency in contracts with drugmakers, less stockpiling and only rolling out boosters based on the results of clinical trials, he said.
“The companies are listening,” said Thomas Cueni, the head of the international pharma lobby IFPMA. Drugmakers have started weekly updates on the supply going to poorer countries, he told Global Pulse, adding that sufficient vaccine supplies would be available by mid-2022.
COP26: Over in Glasgow, the two-week U.N. climate conference starting Sunday gets underway amid increasing awareness of the health consequences of climate change. Heat waves, which are expected to worsen, increase the elderly’s risk of developing asthma and heart diseases. The number of months when the deadliest malaria parasite transmits increased by nearly 40 percent over the last 60 years in densely populated highland areas in poor countries, a Lancet report laid out.
But there’s almost no chance that the nearly 200 countries at the meeting will agree to bear the economic and political pain to make the radical emissions cuts needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and avoid the most devastating consequences, write POLITICO’s Karl Mathiesen and Zack Colman.
“It still feels as if health is really sort of relegated to the sidelines, both literally and figuratively,” said Daniel Kass, senior vice president for environmental health at Vital Strategies, a nonprofit organization. “We need pledges that happen over the next 10 years,” he said of national commitments to cut emissions.
The solution: If this conference doesn’t deliver significant progress, the world should rise in anger because governments are most averse to social unrest, he said.
The amount of money needed by September 2022 to provide the world’s poorest countries with Covid treatments, tests, and vaccines, as well as oxygen and personal protective equipment, through the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, the global pandemic response system.
STEP INSIDE THE WEST WING: What’s really happening in West Wing offices? Find out who’s up, who’s down, and who really has the president’s ear in our West Wing Playbook newsletter, the insider’s guide to the Biden White House and Cabinet. For buzzy nuggets and details that you won’t find anywhere else, subscribe today.
Health care workers take a brief moment of silence to remember colleagues who have succumbed to Covid-19 on March 10, 2021 in Kampala, Uganda. | Luke Dray/Getty Images
STAY TUNED FOR A NEW WHITE HOUSE INITIATIVE — The White House is working on an initiative to help health work forces in poor countries, and we should know more about it by year’s end, an advocate who’s been in touch with the administration tells Global Pulse.
“What they told us is that they settled on four thematic areas,” said David Bryden, director of the Frontline Health Workers Coalition. The four areas, he said, are:
— Protecting the health workforce, from providing personal protective equipment to shielding them from violence and harassment.
— Empowering health care workers and health ministries with data and data management systems.
— Linking workforce development to broader economic development issues in targeted countries.
— Ensuring equity and inclusion, which probably would include gender-related concerns.
The effort is significant because poor countries have been struggling with a lack of health care workers since before the pandemic.
The White House declined to give any details about the initiative, noting it might make information available after President Joe Biden’s trip to Europe.
U.S. GLOBAL COVID EFFORT DRYING UP — Most of the $11 billion allocated to the global Covid response this spring was spent as the Delta variant surged, U.S. officials told Congress Wednesday.
“We’re going to face a shortfall in funds sometime in the not-too-distant future,” Gayle Smith, the State Department coordinator for global Covid-19 response and health security, told the House Appropriations subcommittee on state, foreign relations and related programs.
The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan included the $11 billion to fight Covid worldwide. And only $250 million will remain in 2022, which “will be the most intensive operational period as we try to roll out vaccines across the entirety of the world and get low-income countries to 70 percent coverage,” said USAID’s Jeremy Konyndyk.
That’s why the U.S. has called on other countries to do more, Smith said. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will convene foreign ministers in November “to mobilize the political and other capital we need from them,” and the U.K. is also expected to host a G-7 meeting on vaccines in December, she said.
BECOME A GLOBAL INSIDER: The world is more connected than ever. It has never been more essential to identify, unpack and analyze important news, trends and decisions shaping our future — and we’ve got you covered! Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Global Insider author Ryan Heath navigates the global news maze and connects you to power players and events changing our world. Don’t miss out on this influential global community. Subscribe now.
MOLNUPIRAVIR DEAL OPENING ACCESS FOR POOR COUNTRIES — Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics will allow a U.N-backed group that helps poorer countries gain rights to produce cheaper versions of critical drugs by issuing sublicenses for molnupiravir. The drug is the first pill to show promise against Covid for people with mild and moderate disease. A generic company can ask for a license from the Medicines Patent Pool. Once a company gets it and after regulatory approval, it can sell the drug in 105 countries, mostly in Africa and Asia.
This is the first deal of its type for a Covid treatment.
But the medical nonprofit Doctors Without Borders complains that it excludes middle-income countries like Brazil and China, which have the capacity to produce antiviral medicines.
U.S. YIELDS TO AFRICA ON MODERNA VACCINES — Under pressure from the U.S. government to do more to vaccinate people in poor countries, Moderna said Tuesday it would provide the African Union with up to 110 million Covid vaccine doses through next year. The deal was partly facilitated by the White House, which deferred delivery of 33 million Moderna doses so the African Union could get them.
A first: This is the first time a rich country agreed to swap its place in the delivery line so poorer countries could have quicker access to Covid vaccines, which the World Health Organization and others have asked about for months. The move came after Presidents Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya asked Biden to help African nations get to the front of the queue, said African Union coronavirus envoy Strive Masiyiwa. “This is a time-swap arrangement whereby the United States government basically stood aside for the next quarter so that we could access vaccines and purchase them ourselves,” Masiyiwa said.
Sharing the recipe: The White House has been under pressure to share Moderna’s vaccine process, given the U.S. government’s investment and involvement in developing the technology for the shot. But the Biden administration concluded it lacks the authority to do it, two senior administration officials told The Washington Post.
Meanwhile, South African researchers are trying to figure out the recipe from publicly available sources to try to produce the vaccine themselves.
Bloomberg: WHO endorses Chinese HPV vaccine to ease global shortage.
Thomson Reuters Foundation: Congo’s women stepped up to fight Ebola. Now they want equality.
Foreign Affairs: The U.S should partner with the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to vaccinate the continent against Covid, Brown University School of Public Health’s Ashish Jha and Andrew Iliff write.
Reuters: Namibia will suspend rollout of the Sputnik V Covid vaccine after South Africa’s drugs regulator flagged concerns about its safety for people at risk for HIV.
© 2021 POLITICO LLC