#UN; #Covid19; #maskwearing; #physicalDistancing
United Nations, Aug 4 (Canadian-Media): There is “no silver bullet” to combat COVID-19, the head of the UN health agency told journalists on Monday, adding, “and there might never be”.
A woman wears a face mask while working in Gujarat, India.
Image credit: © UNICEF/Vinay Panjwani
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Emergency Committee on COVID-19 met Friday to review the current coronavirus pandemic at what chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, called “a sobering moment”.
At a regular press briefing on Monday in Geneva, he recalled that when the Committee met three months ago, WHO had received reports of three million COVID-19 cases and more than 200,000 deaths.
“Since then”, he updated, “the number of cases has increased more than five-fold to 17.5 million, and the number of deaths has more than tripled, to 680,000”.
In addition to the direct toll of the virus, the Committee noted the impact disrupted services is having on a range of other diseases, which are compounding reduced immunization coverage, cancer screening and care, and mental health services.
And on top of the health impact, COVID-19 is causing social, economic and political damage, according to the WHO official.
The Committee suggested a range of proposals for countries to bring the virus under control, including enhanced political commitment and leadership for national strategies and localized response activities driven by science, data, and experience.
They also acknowledged that Member States have “tough choices” to make to turn the epidemic around.
While recognizing that “it’s not easy”, the WHO chief maintained that “when leaders step up and work intensely with their populations”, the disease can be “brought under control”.
“It’s never too late to turn this pandemic around”, Mr. Tedros upheld, adding that “if we act together today”, we can save lives and livelihoods.
The Committee recommended that countries engage in the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, participate in relevant clinical trials, and prepare for safe and effective therapeutics and vaccine introduction, the WHO Director-General told reporters.
He also informed them that some vaccines are currently in phase three clinical trials, sharing his hope of having “a number of effective vaccines”.
“For now”, Mr. Tedros explained, “stopping outbreaks comes down to the basics of public health and disease control”, including testing, isolating and treating patients, along with tracing and quarantining their contacts.
Meanwhile, individuals must keep physical distance, wearing a mask, clean their hands regularly and cough safely away from others.
It’s never too late to turn this pandemic around -- WHO chief
“The message to people and Governments is clear: do it all”, he stated, “and when it’s under control, keep going!”
This week, WHO is also launching a so-called “mask challenge”, by encouraging people to send in photos of themselves wearing a protective mask.
In addition to being a key tool to stop the virus, masks have come to represent solidarity.
“If you’re a health worker, a frontline worker, wherever you are – show us your solidarity in following national guidelines and safely wearing a mask – whether caring for patients or loved ones, riding on public transport to work, or picking up essential supplies” Mr. Tedros urged.
Breastfeeding during COVIDIn closing, the UN official reminded that this is breastfeeding awareness week.
He reiterated WHO’s recommendation that mothers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should be encouraged, the same as all other mothers, to initiate or continue to breastfeed, saying that the “many, many benefits of breastfeeding for newborn babies and children substantially outweigh the potential risks for COVID-19 infection”.
UN, Aug 4 (Canadian-Media): The risk of COVID-19 infection from breastfeeding is negligible and has never been documented, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday, in a call for greater support for the practice.
A woman breastfeeds her newborn at a hospital in Belgrade, Serbia. Photo: UNICEF/NYHQ2011-1166/Holt. Image credit: @UNICEF
The appeal, during World Breastfeeding Week, comes as WHO warned that not using mother’s milk is linked to 820,000 child deaths a year, at a cost to the global economy of $300 billion.
WHO has been very clear in its recommendations to say absolutely breastfeeding should continue,” said Dr. Laurence Grummer-Strawn, head of the World Health Organization’s Food and Nutrition Action in Health Systems unit. “We have never documented, anywhere around the world, any (COVID-19) transmission through breastmilk.”
Exclusive breastfeeding for six months has many benefits for the infant and mother which far outweigh any risk from the new coronavirus pandemic, according to WHO.
These advantages include the fact that breastmilk – including milk which is expressed - provides lifesaving antibodies that protect babies against many childhood illnesses.
This is only one of the reasons why new mothers should initiate “skin-to-skin contact” and “room-in” with their babies quickly, as “the risks of transmission of the COVID-19 virus from a COVID-positive mother to her baby seem to be extremely low”, added Dr. Grummer-Strawn.
Having tested the breastmilk of “many” mothers around the world in a variety of studies, the WHO official explained that although a few samples had contained the virus, “when they followed up to see whether the virus was actually viable and could be infective, they could not find any actual infective virus”.
Underscoring the WHO’s longstanding support for using mother’s milk over substitutes, Dr. Grummer-Strawn also warned that the pandemic had weakened essential breastfeeding support usually provided to families with newborns.
COVID ‘undermining essential support’
“The interruption of services has been tremendous around the world providing the kind of support mothers normally would get with breastfeeding,” Dr. Grummer-Strawn told journalists.
“Oftentimes, the health services that would provide maternal child health have been diverted to take care of the COVID response; sometimes families do not feel comfortable in going into the health services, because they’re afraid that they might get COVID and so they don’t come for the routine kinds of support.”
According to the WHO, “about 820,000 children’s lives are lost every year because of a lack of breastfeeding”, Dr. Grummer-Strawn continued, in reference to deaths among under-fives.
“Economically, there are losses of about $300 billion a year in economic productivity, lost because of a lack of breastfeeding,” he added.
Numerous good things come from breastfeeding – for the child and their mother in developing and industrialized countries – WHO has long maintained.
It has insisted that “it is not safer to give infant formula milk”, together with UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN).
Benefits for baby and mother The three organizations have united in their call to Governments to protect and promote women’s access to skilled breastfeeding counselling, for World Breastfeeding Week 2020 (1-7 August).
“Breastfeeding provides benefits during the time of breastfeeding, and those that are most recognised are protection against diarrhoea, which is one of the top causes of mortality in low-income countries, protection against respiratory infections, against obesity – childhood obesity later on – as children get older, protection against leukaemia,” said Dr. Grummer-Strawn.
Breastfeeding also protects the mother against breast cancer, ovarian cancer, Type 2 diabetes later on, the WHO official said, “so there are benefits for both the mother and the baby, and when we added these up it comes out to about 820,000 lives around the world, even in high-income countries”.
In addition to the pandemic, breastfeeding is under pressure from what WHO and UNICEF have described as harmful promotion of breast-milk substitutes.
Countries could do more to protect parents from misleading information, the UN agencies believe. “We continue to be very concerned about the practices of the formula industries, both the big multinational corporations as well as in many countries there are local manufacturers of breastmilk substitutes that are trying to get mothers to get on to their products,” said Dr. Grummer-Strawn. “They use a number of tricks, sometimes it’s not as blatant advertising as it once was, because they know that they can get caught.”
According to WHO, of 194 countries analysed, 136 have legal measures related to the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and subsequent resolutions adopted by the World Health Assembly (known as the Code).
Tricks of the trade
However, only 79 countries prohibit the promotion of breast-milk substitutes in health facilities, and only 51 have provisions that prohibit the distribution of free or low-cost supplies within the health care system, WHO said in a report published in May.
Only 19 countries have prohibited the sponsorship of scientific and health professional association meetings by manufacturers of breast-milk substitutes, which include infant formula, follow-up formula, and growing up milks marketed for use by infants and children up to 36-months old, the UN health agency study found.
WHO and UNICEF recommend that babies be fed nothing but breast milk for their first six months, after which they should continue breastfeeding – as well as eating other nutritious and safe foods – until at least two years old.
“The aggressive marketing of breast-milk substitutes, especially through health professionals that parents trust for nutrition and health advice, is a major barrier to improving newborn and child health worldwide,” said Dr. Francesco Branca, Director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition and Food Safety. “Health care systems must act to boost parent’s confidence in breastfeeding without industry influence so that children don’t miss out on its lifesaving benefits.”
Thailand’s COVID-19 response an example of resilience and solidarity: a UN Resident Coordinator’s Blog
#UN; #Thailand; #SocialResponsibility;
Thailand/UN, Aug 4 (Canadian-Media): In January, Thailand became the second country to confirm a COVID-19 case but, since then, the country has shown remarkable resilience and, as of late July, there had not been any recorded cases of domestic transmission for nearly two months. Gita Sabharwal, the UN Resident Coordinator in Thailand, explains that this success is thanks to a combination of government action, social responsibility and community solidarity.
The UN Resident Coordinator in Thailand, Gita Sabharwal (3rd from right) talks to migrants in Tak province regarding the impact of COVID-19. Image credit: IOM Thailand/Jidapa Khoonsinsub
iThailand’s overall response, and ability to curb infections, has led the World Health Organization (WHO) to identify Thailand, alongside New Zealand, as a success story in dealing with the pandemic. Of course, that success entirely depends on continued vigilance, a whole-of-society approach, and ramped up testing to prevent a second wave as borders open and full economic activities are resumed.
The economic impact of the pandemic has been serious, with predictions of an 8.1 per cent contraction of the economy in 2020. According to a recent survey, 65 per cent of people in Thailand report that their incomes are totally or very inadequate under pandemic conditions, with almost the same percentage saying that their finances had been adversely affected.
Vulnerable communities bear the brunt
Having started in my position just one week before the lockdown, my view of Thailand has been very COVID-centric. We have all personally felt the effects of the pandemic in many different ways and a large number of UN staff in Thailand have been apart from their families for months due to travel restrictions – my own family reunification was postponed for the first half of the year, and I hope to see my husband next month for the first time since the outbreak. At the same time, we are profoundly aware that vulnerable communities are bearing the brunt of this crisis, making our advocacy and work with partners all the more important.
As the Resident Coordinator, my focus has been on working closely with the UN Country Team to develop the UN’s comprehensive response strategy to the pandemic and positioning it to be cutting edge, forward leaning, and offering thought leadership to sustain development gains and build back better.
Our understanding of the impact of the crisis and its implications on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) continues to unfold as we speak. It is only now that we are more fully understanding the implications of COVID-19 on agriculture and farm households, and the more long-term social impact.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres set the tone for UN’s approach with his Shared Responsibility, Global Solidarity plan to counter the severe socio-economic impacts of COVID-19, while emphasising the imperative for a comprehensive whole-of-society and whole-of-government response.
Cash handouts and loans
The Royal Thai Government’s contribution to the UN’s COVID-19 Fund speaks to this shared responsibility. Similarly, the role played by the 1 million health volunteers, two-thirds of whom are women, in contact tracing across the country speaks to the whole of society approach.
The government’s stimulus packages have been comprehensive, rapid and well-sequenced, constituting 15 per cent of GDP. Almost half of respondents to a recent survey reported having received government support. Modelling estimates suggest that while government expenditure is emerging as the most effective means to support growth and employment, cash handouts followed by soft loans are the next best measures. In partnership with the National Economic and Social Development Council, the national economic planning agency of Thailand, UN Thailand will monitor the impact of these fiscal stimulus packages targeted at local economies to inform government programming.
The government will also need to closely watch the impact at the household level in the third and fourth quarters, and further refine the mix of stimulus measures with sharper targeting. In terms of vulnerabilities, the impact assessment indicates that youth could potentially lose out the most given rising unemployment and with nearly half a million young people joining the labour force at a time when jobs are difficult to secure. Similarly, women and men are impacted equally, yet differently, which will serve as a drag to the recovery process.
Increased health and social protection
UN Thailand’s strategy focuses on investing in partnerships with a clear-eyed view to build back better, while keeping the SDGs on track. The plan combines the direct health response based on the principle of leaving no one behind while investing in forward-looking policies to protect jobs and economies as well as to strengthen social capital.
Our immediate health response focuses on supporting the Government to strengthen surveillance and laboratory capacity, as well as to facilitate private and public sector engagement on vaccine research and pilot a “new normal” health service through
tele-medicine. It also ensures that vulnerable groups such as migrants and refugees have access to PPE and health services.
In order to leave no one behind, UN Thailand has prioritised social protection, including successfully advocating for augmenting old age, child, and disability grants. In dialogue with the Royal Thai Government, we are supporting real-time monitoring of gender-based violence and violence against children while strengthening prevention and response. The UN is also mapping digital infrastructure to understand geographies and communities that are underserved to bridge the digital divide and support e-learning platforms for schools.
Rebuild a more equitable society
In partnership with local communities, the UN is scaling up sustainable tourism models which protect biodiversity, linking supply chains with markets to strengthen the network of community food management, as well as working with small and medium enterprises to support green technology to jumpstart the local economy, and supporting dialogue with youth across the country to showcase innovations which have created jobs for the marginalised in response to the crisis.
All evidence suggests that the pandemic will impact the SDGs, but it doesn’t have to, as long as there is effective reprioritisation, and public and private investments are strategically maximised. A resilient recovery will demand sustained economic support, long-term thinking, and policies which include a focus on building back better to jumpstart local economies and enable a green recovery.
Polling suggests that more than one-third of people in Thailand have donated cash, food or supplies during the pandemic, with most donations under 5,000 baht (about 160 US dollars). To me, this speaks of the social capital of the country and in many ways the glue that holds society together. There is also anecdotal evidence that in more marginalised regions, such as the northeast and deep south, the scale of donations has been higher.
We have seen in Thailand and around the world that times of crisis bring out the best of people. COVID-19 presents unprecedented challenges, but also opportunities to build back better. UN Thailand remains committed to working collaboratively to recover from the pandemic and to rebuild for a more equitable, just and resilient society.
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Geneva/UN, Aug 1 (Canadian-Media): Expressing “appreciation for WHO and partners’ COVID-19 pandemic response efforts”, the emergency committee convened by the UN health agency’s chief, made it clear that there is not yet an end in sight to the public health crisis that has so far infected more than 17 million and killed over 650,000 people.
A healthcare worker checks the temperature of a patient at a hospital in Nonthaburi Province, Thailand. Image credit: UN Women/Pathumporn Thongking
The committee convened by Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, under the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR), held its fourth meeting on 31 July.
Sustained effort needed
In its statement following the meeting, published on Saturday, it highlighted the “anticipated lengthy duration” of the pandemic, noting “the importance of sustained community, national, regional, and global response efforts.”
After a full discussion and review of the evidence, the Committee “unanimously agreed” the outbreak still constitutes a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC). Tedros accepted the advice of the Committee.
The Director-General declared a PHEIC - WHO’s highest level of alarm - on 30 January, at a time when there were fewer than 100 cases in total, and no deaths outside China.
‘Once-in-a-century health crisis’
“The pandemic is a once-in-a-century health crisis, the effects of which will be felt for decades to come", Tedros told the Committee in his opening remarks on Friday.
"Many countries that believed they were past the worst are now grappling with new outbreaks. Some that were less affected in the earliest weeks are now seeing escalating numbers of cases and deaths. And some that had large outbreaks have brought them under control."
The Committee made a range of recommendations to both WHO and Member States.
It advised the agency to continue to mobilize global and regional multilateral organizations and partners for COVID-19 preparedness and response and to support Member States in maintaining health services, while also accelerating the research and eventual access to diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines.
It advised countries to support these research efforts, including through funding, and to join in efforts to allow equitable allocation of diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines by engaging in the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, an unprecedented global collaboration between countries, philanthropists and business.
The committee also advised countries to strengthen public health policies to identify cases, and improve speedy contact tracing, “including in low-resource, vulnerable, or high-risk settings and to maintain essential health services with sufficient funding, supplies, and human resources.”
Countries were also advised the committee to implement proportionate measures and advice on travel, based on risk assessments, and to review these measures regularly.
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Geneva, UN (Canadian-Media): COVID-19 cases worldwide have surpassed 15 million, and nearly 620,000 deaths. On Thursday, the World Health Organization (WHO) urged people everywhere to play a part in preventing further spread of the disease, warning that there will be no return to “the old normal”.
The Lo Valledor main wholesale market in Chile continues to provide the public during the COVID-19 pandemic with all the protective measures for them and the community. Image credit: © FAO/Max Valencia
Most cases, or 10 million, were in just 10 countries, with the United States, Brazil and India accounting for nearly half. On Thursday afternoon, the US passed the milestone of four million infections.
“We’re asking everyone to treat the decisions about where they go, what they do, and who they meet with, as life-and-death decisions – because they are”, said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, speaking from Geneva.
“It may not be your life, but your choices could be the difference between life and death for someone you love, or for a complete stranger.”
Adjust to the ‘new normal’
COVID-19 has disrupted the lives of billions across the globe, and Tedros said it is understandable that people want to get on with their lives.
“But we will not be going back to the ‘old normal’. The pandemic has already changed the way we live our lives. Part of adjusting to the ‘new normal’ is finding ways to live our lives safely”, he advised.
In recent weeks, outbreaks associated with nightclubs and other places where people gather have been reported, even in locations where virus transmission has been suppressed.
“We must remember that most people are still susceptible to this virus. As long as it’s circulating, everyone is at risk”, said Tedros, adding, “just because cases might be at a low level where you live, that doesn’t make it safe to let down your guard.”
Tedros underlined that anyone, regardless of age or where they live, can help lead efforts to beat the pandemic and build back better.
“In recent years we’ve seen young people leading grassroots movements for climate change and racial equality. Now we need young people to start a global movement for health – for a world in which health is a human right, not a privilege”, he suggested.
10,000-plus African health workers infected
Separately, the UN health agency underscored the threat COVID-19 is posing to health workers in Africa, more than 10,000 of whom have been infected so far.
There have been more than 750,000 cases of the disease on the continent, with more than 15,000 deaths.
“The growth we are seeing in COVID-19 cases in Africa is placing an ever-greater strain on health services across the continent”, said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
“This has very real consequences for the individuals who work in them, and there is no more sobering example of this, than the rising number of health worker infections.”
A health worker in Brazzaville in the Republic of the Congo puts on clothing to protect against the coronavirus.Globally, around 10 per cent of COVID-19 cases are among health professionals, though rates differ between individual countries.
Information on health worker infections in Africa is still limited, WHO said, though preliminary data reveals they comprise more than five per cent of cases in sub-Saharan Africa alone.
Factors that increase risk among these frontline personnel include inadequate access to personal protective equipment, and weak infection prevention and control measures.
“One infection among health workers is one too many”, said Dr. Moeti. “Doctors, nurses and other health professionals are our mothers, brothers and sisters. They are helping to save lives endangered by COVID-19. We must make sure that they have the equipment, skills and information they need to keep themselves, their patients and colleagues safe.”
New COVID-19 Law Lab
WHO has announced the establishment of a COVID-19 Law Lab together with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and Georgetown University in the US.
It contains a database of national laws implemented by countries in response to the pandemic, such as state of emergency declarations and measures relating to mask-wearing, physical distancing and access to medications.
#UN; #WHO; #DRC; #Covid19; #EbolaOutbreak; #Africa
Geneva/UN/WHO, Jul 18 (Canadian-Media): The World Health Organization (WHO) and partners are concerned about the growing Ebola outbreak in the northwestern province of Equateur, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), as they face critical funding gaps amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN health agency said on Thursday
During the 2018 Ebola outbreak, primary school students had to wash their hands and have their temperature screened in Mbandaka, Equateur Province, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (file photo). Image credit: © UNICEF/Jonathan Shadid
The outbreak was declared on 1 June and there have been 56 cases, 53 of which are confirmed, surpassing the total number recorded during the province’s last Ebola outbreak, two years ago.
Scattered cases, costly response
“Responding to Ebola in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is complex, but we must not let COVID-19 distract us from tackling other pressing health threats”, said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
“The current Ebola outbreak is running into headwinds because cases are scattered across remote areas in dense rain forests. This makes for a costly response as ensuring that responders and supplies reach affected populations is extremely challenging.”
This latest outbreak is the 11th for the DRC, which last month celebrated the end of Ebola in the restive eastern part of the country, following a nearly two-year battle.
The disease killed 2,280 people, making it the world’s second-deadliest Ebola outbreak.
Lessons learned inform response
WHO has mobilized $1.75 million for response in Equateur province but warned that this sum will last only a few more weeks.
The UN agency called for a scale-up in support to ensure affected communities are provided with key services, including health education, vaccination, testing, contact tracing and treatment.
The current response builds on lessons learned from the DRC’s previous Ebola outbreaks, underscoring the importance of working with local communities.
More than 12,000 people have been vaccinated in the six weeks since the outbreak began, with roughly 90 per cent of vaccinators coming from local areas.
WHO reported that vaccinations started within four days of the outbreak being declared, compared to two weeks during the 2018 outbreak.
Meanwhile, community health workers have visited more than 40,000 households, and more than 273,000 people have been provided with health and safety information.
#UN; #NelsonMandelaPrize; #UNFPA; WHO; #UNICEF; #NGOs; #ELPIDA
Geneva/UN, Jul 18 (Canadian-Media): The 2020 Nelson Mandela Prize, which is awarded every five years and recognizes those who dedicate their lives to the service of humanity, will go this year to Marianna Vardinoyannis, of Greece, and Doctor Morissana Kouyaté, of Guinea, it was announced on Friday.
Marianna V. Vardinoyannis, female laureate of the 2020 United Nations Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Prize. Image credit: UN
The President of the General Assembly, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, made the announcement, and will recognize the laureates during a virtual ceremony on 20 July, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. An in-person award ceremony will take place at a later date, at UN Headquarters in New York.
30 years fighting child cancer
Ms. Vardinoyannis is the founder and president of two foundations dedicated to children: the “Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation” and “ELPIDA Friends’ Association of Children with cancer.”
She has been involved in the fight against child cancer for some 30 years and, thanks to her work, thousands of children have been cured. Notably, the ELPIDA association was instrumental in setting up the first bone marrow transplant unit in Greece, in 1999, and the country’s first oncology hospital for children, in 2010.
Her foundation also supports programmes for the medical care of refugee children and other vulnerable social groups, human rights education, programmes, and the fight against human trafficking.
Ms. Vardinoyannis has been a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador since 1999.
Ending Female Genital Mutilation
As Executive Director of the Inter-African Committee on Harmful Traditional Practices (IAC), Dr. Kouyaté is a leading figure in efforts to end violence against women in Africa, including Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). He has received several international humanitarian awards for his work.
Dr. Kouyaté created IAC in 1984 in Dakar, Senegal, at a time when FGM was a highly controversial and sensitive issue for discussion. The organization aims, through education, to change attitudes towards the practice, and allow all African women and children to fully enjoy their human rights, free from the consequences of FGM, and other harmful practices.
It is a partner organization with the UN reproductive rights agency (UNFPA), the World Health Organization (WHO), and UN childrens’ agency (UNICEF).
On Friday, President of the UN General Assembly, Muhammad-Bande, warmly congratulated Mrs. Vardinoyannis and Dr. Kouyaté, and thanked the selection Committee for its hard work and dedication.
Morissanda Kouyate, male laureate of the 2020 United Nations Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Prize. Image credit: UN
The Mandela Prize was established by a UN General Assembly resolution in June 2014, to recognize the achievements of those who dedicate their lives to the service of humanity, by promoting the purposes and principles of the United Nations, while honouring Nelson Mandela’s life, and legacy of reconciliation, political transition, and social transformation.
The selection committee, chaired by the General Assembly President, receives nominations from a broad variety of sources including UN Member States, intergovernmental organizations and NGOs.
The Prize is one of the ways the UN commemorates the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela, the first democratically-elected President of South Africa, and a life-long rights activist who was instrumental in ending the racist apartheid era in the country. The 2020 Prize was awarded just ahead of Nelson Mandela International Day, held annually on 18 July.
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Boston, Jul 14 (Canadian-Media): The first experimental COVID-19 vaccine, developed by Fauci’s colleagues at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Cambridge-based Moderna Inc are scheduled to begin key final testing to see its results, media reports said.
Moderna. Image credit: Twitter handle
When this vaccine was tested in the United States (US), 45 people’s immune systems were triggered just the way scientists had hoped, researchers reported Tuesday, as the shots are scheduled to begin key final testing.
“No matter how you slice this, this is good news,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US government’s top infectious disease expert.
The experimental vaccine will start its most important step around July 27: A 30,000-person study, will mark the world's largest study of a potential COVID-19 vaccine so far, to prove if the shots really are strong enough to protect against the coronavirus.
Neutralizing antibodies, developed in the blood streams of early volunteers, block infection at levels comparable to those found in people who survived COVID-19, the research team reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.
"This is an essential building block that is needed to move forward with the trials that could actually determine whether the vaccine does protect against infection," said Dr. Lisa Jackson of the Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute in Seattle, who led the study.
The government hopes to have results around the end of the year.
Although there were no serious side effects, more than half the study participants reported flu-like reactions to the shots including fatigue, headache, chills, fever and pain at the injection site.
Some of those reactions occurred right after vaccination and resembled the symptoms of coronavirus but they were temporary and lasted about a day, researchers noted.
And Tuesday's results only included younger adults. The testing later was expanded to include dozens of older adults, the age group most at risk from COVID-19. The results are being evaluated.
Fauci said final testing will include older adults, as well as people with chronic health conditions that make them more vulnerable to the virus, including Black and Latino populations.
"We need multiple vaccines. We need vaccines for the world, not only for our own country," said Fauci, who directs NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
‘Don’t make schools a political football’: senior WHO official calls for data-based COVID-19 strategies
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Geneva/UN, Jul 13 (Canadian-Media): A senior World Health Organization (WHO) official on Monday, called for the question of school reopenings to be included as part of comprehensive, data-driven COVID-19 public health strategies, and not a politically-driven decision-making process.
Children wear masks at a pre-school in Johannesburg, South Africa, during the COVID-19 outbreak. Image credit: © UNICEF/Shiraaz Mohamed
Responding to questions from reporters at the regular WHO press briefing in Geneva, Dr. Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, said “we can’t play Whack-a-mole. We need to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time”.
The senior official said that the topic of school reopenings has become a “political football”, which is not fair on children: “decisions must be made on data, and an understanding of the risks. There needs to be a sustained commitment on suppressing the virus. If we can suppress it, then, schools can open safely.”
No lack of focus, despite US withdrawal
Responding to a question on the United States Government’s decision to begin formal withdrawal from the WHO, Dr. Ryan said that the UN health agency was focused on “controlling the pandemic, reducing mortality and suppressing transmission”.
WHO is also, he said, dealing with many other situations, including health crises in Syria and Yemen, and Ebola and plague outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Despite the US withdrawal, Dr. Ryan expressed his hope that the Organization would be able to continue to collaborate with US-based colleagues over the coming years.
In his press statement, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of WHO, also called for coherent, data-driven strategies that avoid the need to constantly switch from lockdown to reopening, and control the spread of the virus.
Tedros warned that there will be “no return to the ‘old normal’ for the foreseeable future”, but that it is possible for countries to suppress the pandemic, allowing people to get on with their lives, as long as governments focus on reducing mortality and transmission; empower communities to take appropriate action; and show leadership.
The WHO chief said that national responses to the virus, have fallen into four different categories. The first comprises countries that responded rapidly to the initial cases, were “alert and aware”, communicated effectively to their citizens, and avoided large outbreaks, said the WHO chief. Examples of these countries can be found in the vast Mekong region of east Asia, the Pacific, the Caribbean and Africa.
The second category of country, many of which are in Europe, initially saw major outbreaks, but managed to bring them under control, on a “data-driven, step-by-step basis, with a comprehensive public health approach, backed by a strong health workforce, and community buy-in”.
Science, solutions and solidarity
These countries are on the right track, and show that it’s never too late to bring the virus under control, said Tedros, but too many are still headed in the wrong direction, sending out mixed messages that undermines public trust.
They include countries in the third category – which initially overcame the first peak of the outbreak, but then eased up only to face new peaks – and the fourth category, currently seen in the Americas, South Asia and several African countries, which are still in the “intense transmission phase” of their outbreak.
However, even for these countries, said the UN health chief, it is never too late to take decisive action, by implementing the basics and delivering clear public health messages, accelerating the science, finding joint solutions, and working in a spirit of solidarity.
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Geneva, Juk 13 (Canadian-Media): In much of the world, “hunger remains deeply entrenched and is rising”, the UN chief said on Monday, launching this year’s major UN food security update, highlighting that over the past five years, tens of millions of people have joined the ranks of the chronically undernourished.
Women farmers harvest grains in Gisar, Tajikstan. Image credit: FAO/Nozim Kalandarov
As countries “continue to grapple with malnutrition in all its forms, including the growing burden of obesity”, Secretary-General António Guterres said that this year’s State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report “sends a sobering message”.
The authoritative global study tracking progress towards ending hunger and malnutrition, is produced jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Fund for Agriculture (IFAD), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP) and World Health Organization (WHO).
In the Foreword, the heads of the UN agencies involved cautioned that “five years after the world committed to end hunger, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition, we are still off track to achieve this objective by 2030.”
In his video message marking the launch, the UN chief spelled out that if the current trend continues, “we will not achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2 – zero hunger – by 2030”.
Pandemic ‘wake-up call’
As progress in fighting hunger stalls, the coronavirus pandemic is intensifying the vulnerabilities and inadequacies of global food systems, making things even worse.
“We cannot continue thinking of agriculture, the environment, health, poverty and hunger in isolation”, IFAD President Gilbert F. Houngbo said at the virtual launch. “World problems are interconnected, and the solutions are intertwined. The current pandemic is a wake-up call to all of us”.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that "while it is too soon to assess the full impact of #COVID19, the report estimates that 130 million more people may face chronic hunger by the end of this year",
At the same time, Mr. Guterres maintained that COVID-19 response and recovery investments must help deliver on the longer-term goal of a more inclusive, sustainable world, with resilient food systems for people and planet.
“The transformation can begin now”, he upheld.
To help “make healthy diets affordable and accessible for everyone”, Mr. Guterres announced that he would be “convening a Food Systems Summit next year”.
Against the backdrop that “many more people could slip into hunger this year”, the UN chief concluded: “We cannot let this happen”.