The World Health Organization will this week receive a raft of pledges of support for its plan for COVID-19 vaccines for all.
But the agency has already had to scale back its ambition.
The United States, Japan, Britain and the European Union have struck their own deals to secure millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses for their citizens, ignoring the U.N. body’s warnings that “vaccine nationalism” will squeeze supplies.
If other countries that can afford it pursue a similar approach, the WHO’s strategy for fighting the coronavirus pandemic globally and equitably risks coming undone, experts warn.
“If that were to happen, it’s fairly clear that there would be insufficient volumes of vaccine available for any other countries, particularly in the first six to nine months,” said Alex Harris, head of global policy at the Wellcome Trust health charity.
Countries wishing to be part of the WHO initiative, dubbed COVAX, must submit expressions of interest by Monday.
More than 170 countries, including Canada, Norway, South Korea and Britain, have submitted non-binding expressions of interest to participate in the scheme, which the WHO has touted as the only global initiative to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are available worldwide to rich and poor countries alike.
It has signed up nine COVID-19 vaccine candidates and set out plans to obtain and deliver 2 billion doses by the end of 2021 across countries that sign up.
But it has struggled to get wealthier countries on board in full beyond pledges of funding and warm words about donating surplus vaccines.
Last week, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus criticised nations that hoard vaccines, warning the strategy will worsen the pandemic. In a last-ditch call for support ahead of Monday’s deadline, he wrote letters to members urging their participation.
The EU Commission is “fully committed” to the success of COVAX while it enters into parallel talks with vaccine manufacturers for supplies for the bloc, a spokeswoman told Reuters.
Britain said it was supporting COVAX to ensure equal access to vaccines, including funding, while doing its own bilateral supply deals.
White House did not immediately comment on the situation. The United States did not participate in the launch of the programme in April or a fundraising event in May.
The EU’s aggressive dealmaking for vaccine supplies and tepid statements about COVAX have in particular undermined the initiative, which is co-led by the WHO, the GAVI vaccines alliance and the CEPI Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.
The European Commission is likely to pledge cash for COVAX but it is also securing its own supply deals for member states, deeming COVAX too slow and expensive.
Brussels has told countries they can help fund COVAX, but can’t seek to buy vaccines via both schemes, a Commission spokesman said. Forced to choose, some countries have pulled out of COVAX entirely.
The Czech Republic and Portugal were listed as early backers, but government support appears to have cooled after joining the EU vaccine procurement program.
Prague has opted for the EU program instead.
Portugal has asked for an initial delivery of 6.9 million doses of vaccine when the EU program becomes available, the government has said.
Asked if it would take part in COVAX, a spokesman for the country’s drug regulator INFARMED said it would coordinate its participation in the program with other European nations.
Other WHO members, which are already major donors to existing global vaccine programs unrelated to COVID-19, are still on the fence too.
Brazil, with the world’s second worst coronavirus outbreak outside the United States, has not yet decided whether to participate, a health ministry spokeswoman said.
In Japan, deputy Health Minister Hisashi Inatsu said he would like to enter discussions about participating, but the government has not said if it will submit an official expression of interest by Monday.
Like many wealthy nations, Japan has ordered its own supply of shots, with almost 250 millions of doses of potential vaccines booked from AstraZeneca, Pfizer and BioNTech.
Officials say both COVAX and government deals can run in parallel, but that’s a radical departure from the original plan outlined in the spring.
In acting alone, countries will create “a few winners and many losers”, Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI, warned.
It also means poorer or less powerful countries may go to the back of the queue for vaccines that could help them control the pandemic.
“The risk is that access to COVID-19 vaccines will be defined by purchasing power and the ability to sign advance purchase deals rather than the medical needs or the shifting epidemiological situations,” said Dimitri Eynikel, EU representative on medicines and vaccines for Doctors Without Borders.
The initiative is all the more significant for the WHO as scrutiny grows on its handling of the pandemic. The results of the first round will highlight the challenge of tackling a global crisis with competing individual interests.
One senior European government official explained the dilemma facing wealthy nations: how to support a vaccine for developing countries when there may not be enough for your own population. Diverting resources abroad “is difficult to sell at home”, he said.
© Thomson Reuters 2020.
COVID-19: Etches says 'second wave' has begun but can be controlled; City readying more test centres, mayor says – Ottawa Citizen
Article content continued
Watson said he’s been told by health officials that up to 90 per cent of people in the lines have no symptoms.
Watson said Ottawa Public Health has stepped up to help, but the primary responsibility for testing is with the hospital network.
“To their credit now, and I’ve talked to all four hospital presidents, they understand the urgency and frustration and they have to get this problem fixed.”
While the city remains in an emergency situation, Watson said there’s no need for logistical assistance from the military as there are no additional sites yet to set up testing facilities.
Meanwhile, two schools in Ottawa will be visited by mobile COVID-19 testing sites this weekend, with tests made available only for staff and students with symptoms or those at the school who’ve been identified as high-risk contacts of a confirmed case and haven’t yet been tested.
One of the pop-up sites appears to be Collège catholique Franco-Ouest, a French Catholic high school in Nepean where the province has reported three cases of COVID-19 among students.
The second site, for staff and students at De La Salle High School, has been set up at Jules Morin Park and will also operate Friday through Sunday, according to an OPH notice to families. Two people associated with De La Salle, including one staff member, have tested positive for COVID-19 according to provincial data.
In a statement to this newspaper, Ontario Health explained that three mobile testing teams have been deployed to Ottawa “to targeted areas with known prevalence,” including some schools where students have tested positive for COVID-19.
“Ottawa Public Health is supporting these teams by working with the schools and families to determine who might need a test at the schools. It’s important that the public do not seek out these pop-ups as they have a limited capacity and are focused on targeting the school population.”
The location of these mobile teams “could change in the coming days and weeks depending on need; they may continue to target schools or other specific centres with known prevalence – or they may set up near an assessment centre that’s experiencing very high volumes in order to better support a broader population.”
Ontario Health will be working with local partners to “identify new places that might benefit from these teams,” the statement noted.
The third team appears to have set up Friday at the Heron Road care clinic to add additional testing capacity at this location.
One-hour British DnaNudge COVID-19 test is accurate, study finds – Reuters UK
LONDON (Reuters) – A British COVID-19 test known as DnaNudge that gives results in just over an hour and which requires no laboratory was accurate in almost all cases, an academic review in the Lancet has found.
Faster testing could allow more people to return to work or permit testing on entry to hospital, thus slowing a second spike in coronavirus infections.
The new test, based on the design of a DNA test developed by a professor at Imperial College London, received approval for clinical use by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) at the end of April after successful trials.
In a study in The Lancet Microbe, the test was found to have an average sensitivity – the ability to correctly identify those with COVID-19 – of 94.4% and a specificity – correctly identifying those without the disease – of 100%.
“These results suggest that the CovidNudge test, which can be performed at a patient’s bedside without the need to handle any sample material, has comparable accuracy to standard laboratory testing,” Professor Graham Cooke, lead author of the study from the Department of Infectious Disease at Imperial College London, said.
The Lancet paper described the test, which requires one nostril swab, as “a sensitive, specific, and rapid point of care test for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 without laboratory handling or sample pre-processing”.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told LBC radio that Britain was rolling out the tests across hospitals.
Hancock said the machines could also be deployed at other locations such as schools.
Each box can run one test at a time so could process about 16 tests per day, said a spokeswoman for the company that produces the tests.
For the text of the Lancet paper: here
Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Kate Holton and Gareth Jones
Nine deaths linked to COVID-19 at Ottawa long-term care home – CTV Edmonton
Nine residents of an Ottawa long-term care home have died due to COVID-19 in the most serious outbreak of novel coronavirus in Ottawa in months.
In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, West End Villa confirms that nine residents have passed away from complications related to COVID-19.
“As of (Friday), there have been 52 cases of COVID-19 among residents, and 26 cases among staff, including one agency employee,” said Kelly Keeler, Administrator at West End Villa.
“All employee who have testing positive are isolating at home. Three residents are being treated in hospital and four resident cases have been resolved.”
Keeler says West End Villa is working with Ottawa Public Health and will remain in “close contact” with family members.
Earlier this week, West End Villa said a second round of COVID-19 surveillance testing had been conducted to help ensure cohorting efforts are as effective as possible.
Ottawa Public Health declared a COVID-19 outbreak at West End Villa on Aug. 30.
The first novel coronavirus outbreak at West End Villa in May saw one staff member test positive for novel coronavirus.
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