#UN; #Covid19Vaccine; #GlobalFunding
United Nations, Sep 30 (Canadian-Media): The UN Secretary-General on Wednesday called for all nations to provide further urgently needed funds – the equivalent of the total spent on cigarettes worldwide every two weeks – on behalf of global COVID-19 vaccine efforts to ensure that everyone, everywhere, gets protection from the virus.
Image credit: Twitter handle
The Access to COVID-19 Tools – the ACT-Accelerator – along with its COVAX Facility, is a groundbreaking global collaboration to accelerate development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.
Launched at the end of April 2020, the ACT-Accelerator has secured $3 billion, critical for its start up, but it needs a further $35 billion – including an “immediate infusion” of $15 billion – Secretary-General António Guterres said at a high-level event to mobilize support for the initiative.
“These resources are crucial now to avoid losing the window of opportunity for advance purchase and production, to build stocks in parallel with licensing, to boost research, and to help countries prepare to optimize the new vaccines when they arrive.”
Any delay would further widen already vast inequalities, he warned.
‘By helping others, countries help themselves’ Mr. Guterres outlined clearly that to reach that amount, donors’ paying in through official development assistance budgets, will not be sufficient.
It is time for countries to draw funding from their own response and recovery programmes. By helping others, they will help themselves – Secretary-General Guterres
“We need to think bigger. It is time for countries to draw funding from their own response and recovery programmes. By helping others, they will help themselves”, he said.
The coronavirus pandemic is costing the global economy $375 billion a month and has destroyed around 500 million jobs so far.
The Secretary-General called on developed countries – which have devoted many trillions of dollars to respond to the socio-economic impacts of the crisis in their own countries – to “invest a small fraction of that, to stop the spread of the disease everywhere.”
“I call on all countries and partners to significantly step up in the next three months to provide much needed new and additional resources and to mobilize all partners and to put everyone behind a global response to deliver. Solidarity is self-interest,” he stressed.
“Grasping that 21st-century truth is essential to end this crisis and emerge safer, smarter and stronger together,” he said, wrapping up his remarks.
‘A test of solidarity’
Amid the devastation of COVID-19, science is offering solutions, in the form of new tests, therapeutics and – hopefully – vaccines, said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the UN World Health Organization (WHO), speaking alongside the Secretary-General.
Science and solutions are, however, ineffective without solidarity, he added.
The head of WHO explained that the ACT-Accelerator has already delivered “impressive results” in the form of making available 120 million new rapid tests for low- and middle-income countries and securing courses of dexamethasone.
The financing gap for ACT-Accelerator stands at $35 billion … roughly equivalent to what the world spends on cigarettes every two weeks – WHO DG Tedros
The COVAX facility, on its part, is supporting the development of vaccines, he continued, underlining that “now is the time to realize the full power of ACT-Accelerator.”
With the $35 billion financing gap – roughly equivalent to what the world spends on cigarettes every two weeks - the WHO Director-General said that fully funded, the initiative will help control the pandemic, restore confidence and stimulate the growth of the recovery.
“Frankly, this is not a financial challenge, it is a test of solidarity. This is a moment to say no to nationalism, and yes to our shared humanity,” he declared, adding “ultimately ACT is not delivering merely vaccines, diagnostics or therapeutics, it is delivering something far more important – hope.”
Eliminate COVID-19 everywhere Philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, also addressing the summit, said that a vaccine against COVID-19 will help save millions of lives as well as support the development of a plan to eliminate the disease globally.
To achieve global elimination, he outlined three necessities: capacity to produce billions of vaccines, funding to pay for them, and systems to deliver them everywhere.
“A vaccine can make COVID-19 a preventable disease, and no one should die from a preventable disease simply because the country they live in can’t afford the vaccine,” he added, urging action to ensure low- and lower-middle income countries can also access sufficient doses to protect their populations.
“The only way to eliminate the threat of this disease somewhere, is to eliminate it everywhere,” said Mr. Gates.
New agreement with pharma Mr. Gates announced that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, earlier on Wednesday, had signed a new agreement with 16 pharmaceutical companies.
“In this agreement the companies commit to, among other things, scaling up manufacturing at an unprecedented speed, and making sure that approved vaccines reach broad destruction as early as possible”, he said.
The next necessity to eliminate COVID-19, is the funding to pay for those vaccines.
Mr. Gates said that the pharmaceutical industry has committed to make the products as affordable as possible, through donations, tiered pricing and foregoing profits, and underlined the need for public funding, to procure vaccines for all.
“This is where the ACT-Accelerator comes in,” said Mr. Gates, applauding the United Kingdom for donating enough money to purchase hundreds of millions of doses of vaccines for poor countries. “I want to encourage other countries to do the same”, he said.
“Finally even when we have the manufacturing capacity and the funding lined up, we will need to strengthen health systems to achieve the broad coverage to deliver the vaccine, and monitor for outbreaks”, he said, adding that lessons learnt from polio eradication efforts can be used for that purpose.
With the right diagnostics, health workers can also sound the alarm if a future disease jumps from animal to humans, said Mr. Gates, adding: “In other words, we can also be building the systems that will help reduce the damage of the next pandemic.”
#CIF; #SpeakerSeriesOnAyurveda; #Virtual; #CAPA; #VSHF
Toronto, Sep 30 (Canadian-Media): Sponsored and presented jointly by Canada India Foundation (CIF), Canadian Ayurvedic Practitioners Association (CAPA) & Vedic Spiritual Heritage Foundation (VSHF), Ayurveda Speaker Series would cover preventive health and common diseases virtually on Zoom platform starting October 4, 2020, and will repeat every fortnight, CIF reported.
Yoga: Image credit: Internet wallpaper
Congratulating CIF, CAPA & VSHF for this great initiative of connecting the best Indian ayurvedic doctors with the audiences in the West, India’s Consul General in Toronto, Apoorva Srivastava, said, “This Ayurvedic system of medicine is over 5000 years old and today it is more relevant than ever before as we are navigating through the pandemic phase like COVID-19. I hope this series of lectures will generate more awareness among the people regarding the great system of Ayurveda and make it more acceptable to people here.”
The CIF-CAPA-VSHF sponsored Ayurveda Speakers Series has already aroused curiosity and interest among the diaspora as well as concerned health professionals in Canada.
“Propagating the benefits of yoga and Ayurveda has always been one of our core goals. Recently, yoga has caught the eye of the world like never before, we need a similar push to allow Ayurveda to take its rightful place among the alternate medicine systems,” said CIF Chair Satish Thakkar, and added,
Coming in the midst of the world history's most critical time, as countries and communities struggle to overcome the Covid19 pandemic, shutting down economies and struggling with healthcare budgets,“Ayurveda is about wellness and adopts a holistic approach to the human health. We need the wisdom of Ayurveda to make preventive healthcare right and center of our healthcare system. We hope this initiative will prepare the grounds for the eventual acceptance of Ayurveda as a regulated profession in Canada.”
Image credit: Website
The primary aim of our Association, remarked Vaidya Harish Verma, President, Canadian Ayurvedic Practitioners Association, is to make Ayurveda Traditional System of Health Care available for everybody in Canada and added, “Ayurveda has been recognized as a traditional holistic medicine system by the World Health Organization (WHO), which is widely practiced in India and Sri Lanka as a government-recognized & regulated Traditional System of Medicine. ...Statutory regulations are required for ‘Ayurvedic Practitioners’ in Ontario to safeguard the public from incompetent practitioners."
Image credit: Facebook Page
Image credit: Facebook page
Each of 25 of the most respected practitioners, featured in the CIF Ayurveda Series, from India and the rest of the world, will present a common health issue and detail how Ayurveda treats and manages them.
“Those of us who have grown up in India may be aware of Ayurveda...In the past few decades, several initiatives have been undertaken to bring ayurvedic discoveries into line with modern science. We hope that the speakers will bring this up during their presentations to fill in the gaps for the benefit of the audience,” said Ritesh Malik, National Convenor, CIF.
Some of the topics that will be discussed are Ayurvedic management of Covid19 complications; Ayurvedic management of anxiety and depression; Immunity-enhancing effects of Rasayana drugs mentioned in the ayurvedic literature; Ayurvedic management of diabetes Type 1 and 2; and the Role of ayurvedic detox procedures.
Dr. M.S. Baghel would deliver the inaugural address on the topic of healthy eating according to ayurvedic principles. The panelists would be Michael Tibollo, Ontario’s Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addiction; Dr. Sudhanshu Trivedi, Member of Indian parliament and health activist; and Consul General of India, Toronto, Apoorva Srivastava.
A national, not-for-profit, nonpartisan, non-governmental organization, CIF was established to foster bilateral relations between Canada and India, create opportunities for qualified Indo-Canadians in the public sphere; create a better understanding of the new India among Canadians & protect Canada’s interests in India; annually recognize & honour a prominent global Indian achiever who has championed the transformation of India into a global economy and enhanced India’s presence and prestige on the world stage; organize sectoral forums that enable a better understanding of the expanding economic relations between Canada and India; and position the need for a strategic partnership between Canada and India as critical to Canada’s future.
#UN; #InfluenzaVaccine; #UNHealthAgency; #Elderly; #HealthWorkers
UN, Sep 25 (Canadian-Media): Amid a potential global shortage in influenza vaccines and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the UN health agency has advised countries to protect the elderly and health workers first, UN reports said.
Indonesian health worker analyzing blood samples for influenza. Image credit: UN/file photo
The updated recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO), come as the northern hemisphere braces for the seasonal bug, which claims hundreds of thousands of lives from respiratory-related causes every year.
“There has in fact been an increased demand and we’re hearing now that countries that are trying to get influenza vaccine cannot get it”, said Dr Ann Moen, Chief, Influenza Preparedness and Response at the WHO.
The aim of the announcement by the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) is to prevent national health care systems from becoming overwhelmed - and to prevent “confusion” when treating people for respiratory diseases that can be difficult to tell apart, Dr Moen told journalists in Geneva.
“Based on a set of considerations, including alleviating the added burden on health care systems and vulnerable populations and managing potentially limited supplies of influenza vaccines, SAGE has recommended…among the five risk groups (that) health workers and older adults are the highest priority groups for influenza vaccination during COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.
Previously, SAGE identified five vulnerable groups: pregnant women - the highest priority - children, older adults, those with underlying medical conditions and health workers, in no particular order.
If possible, all these groups should continue to be vaccinated as “the best way to reduce disease”, Dr Moen said, adding that the measure been in place for 50 years with no known adverse side-effects.
Cure for a killer
Although the influenza jab would not protect people from coronavirus - a new disease for which there is so far no cure - “it keeps you out of hospital”, she continued.
The WHO official noted that seasonal influenza affects individuals in every country and results “in up to one billion cases, three to five million severe cases, and on average 290,000 to 650,000 deaths, respiratory-related deaths annually”.
Indications that there might be a potential influenza vaccine shortage date back to April, when countries placed orders with pharmaceutical manufacturers, conscious of the increased burden that the COVID-19 pandemic might place on their health care systems.
Annually, around 500 million doses of vaccine are produced.
Responding quickly to increased demand for inoculations can be relatively slow, Dr Moen explained, as the most common way to produce it involves large numbers of chicken eggs.
“We have heard that from our industry associations (that) they have been able to increase some of the orders for some of the countries and they’ve made additional vaccine that they’ve been handing out, but overall it does seem to be there’s a higher demand than there is numbers of vaccines.”
Infections at ‘historic lows’
The development comes amid remarkably low infection rates of influenza in the southern hemisphere, which have been attributed to COVID-19 protection measures, including travel restrictions.
“There really just is not a lot of flu” in the global south, Dr Moen said, citing Australia, New Zealand, South America and South Africa.
Testing usually indicated a 10 to 30 per cent influenza infection rate among the population, she continued, but this year, just one per cent of tests have turned up positive.
“This really is historic lows in terms of flu circulation,” she added. “And we feel confident this is not due to lack of testing or lack of surveillance.”
Despite the lack of an apparent threat, countries in the global north should remain vigilant, amid rising infection rates across many countries and regions, Dr Moen insisted.
She added: “We are seeing some sporadic outbreaks in some areas of the world and so we really fully believe that as society opens back up, we’ll probably start to see flue circulate again back to more normal proportions.”
#Canada; #UN; #Covid19; #JustinTrudeau
Canada/UN, Sep 26 (Canadian-Media): The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed that the world must change, as multilateral systems established decades ago are not working as they should, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada told the UN General Assembly on Friday.
United Nations. Image credit: Twitter handle
“The world is in crisis, and not just because of the last few months. Not just because of COVID-19. But because of the last few decades. And because of us”, he said in a pre-recorded speech for the gathering.
Mr. Trudeau recalled that following war and economic collapse, previous generations established the UN, and international finance organizations in the mid-20th century, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, thus laying the foundations for a rules-based international order and shared global prosperity.
Failing the world’s people “Today, all those institutions no longer serve us well enough on what they were designed for – defending multilateralism and international law, protecting human rights and open markets”, he said.
“That is what the crisis of COVID-19 has shown, beyond a shadow of a doubt. That things have to change. And not just on the world stage – but at home, too.”
Mr. Trudeau said governments do not do enough for their vulnerable citizens, such as the elderly and the homeless. They also are not going far enough to eliminate systemic injustice, be it racism, homophobia or sexism.
“In the difficulties of our citizens, we can see reflected the failure of the institutions of our world”, he said, switching to French.
Gridlock blocking action Although COVID-19 has pushed many countries to the brink, and generated a humanitarian crisis, Mr. Trudeau warned of the greater threat of climate change.
He called for “a new way of thinking” on climate, inequality and health.
“Too often, concerted action is blocked – the needs of our citizens are denied – as a result of gridlock at decision-making bodies”, he charged.
“And why? Because there are few consequences for countries that ignore international rules. For regimes that think might makes right. Few consequences for places where opposition figures are being poisoned while cyber tools and disinformation are being used to destabilize democracies.
“Few consequences when innocent citizens are arbitrarily detained and fundamental freedoms are repressed. When a plane of civilians is shot from the sky. When women’s rights are not treated as human rights. When no one has any rights at all.”
Rise to the challenge Prime Minister Trudeau urged countries to use the present moment to shift course and work together to achieve a better future for all people.
“We must understand our opportunities and our responsibilities to take real action, together. To protect each other, to support each other”, he said.
“If we meet this moment, if we rise to this challenge, I know that, like our grandparents did 70 years ago, we will lay the foundations of a better world.”
#AstraZeneca; #Oxford; #COVID19vaccine
Oxford (England), Sep 10 (Canadian-Media): The Phase 3 clinical trial for a COVID-19 vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca was put on hold due to a potentially unexplained illness in one of its trials in the U.K, a statement on AstraZeneca Oxford said.
AstraZeneca. Image credit: Twitter handle
AstraZeneca is a global, science-led biopharmaceutical company that focuses on the discovery, development and commercialisation of prescription medicines, primarily for the treatment of diseases in three therapy areas - Oncology, Cardiovascular, Renal & Metabolism, and Respiratory & Immunology.
The following statement was issued Sep 9 on AstraZeneca Oxford SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, AZD1222, COVID-19 vaccine trials temporary pause:
"As part of the ongoing randomised, controlled clinical trials of the AstraZeneca Oxford coronavirus vaccine, AZD1222, a standard review process has been triggered, leading to the voluntary pause of vaccination across all trials to allow an independent committee to review the safety data of a single event of an unexplained illness that occurred in the UK Phase III trial.
"This is a routine action which has to happen whenever there is a potentially unexplained illness in one of the trials, while it is investigated, ensuring we maintain the integrity of the trials.
In large clinical trials, illnesses will happen by chance and must be independently reviewed. AstraZeneca is working to expedite the review of the single event to minimise any potential impact on the trial timeline. We are committed to the safety of our participants and the highest standards of conduct in our trials.
Pascal Soriot, Chief Executive Officer, said: “At AstraZeneca we put science, safety and the interests of society at the heart of our work. This temporary pause is living proof that we follow those principles while a single event at one of our trial sites is assessed by a committee of independent experts. We will be guided by this committee as to when the trials could restart, so that we can continue our work at the earliest opportunity to provide this vaccine broadly, equitably and at no profit during this pandemic.”
Based in Cambridge, UK, AstraZeneca operates in over 100 countries and its innovative medicines are used by millions of patients worldwide.
AstraZeneca said Wednesday that the patient had neurological symptoms associated with a spinal inflammatory disorder called transverse myelitis, pending a final diagnosis, Reuters reported.
It was concluded by an independent review panel the illness was not related to the vaccine.
Dr. Samir Gupta, associate professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, said that "it's not a routine thing to stop a massive trial mid-course like this."
Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease specialist at Trillium Health Partners in Toronto, told CBC News Network that if the patient does have transverse myelitis, he or she will likely be tested for different types of infections to see if a cause can be determined.
"I've seen many of these cases myself, and we often come up with viral causes," he said.
Dr. Andrew Morris, an infectious disease specialist at Sinai Health, the University Health Network and the University of Toronto said he was concerned there wouldn't be access to the vaccine, which is in advanced stages of development, reported CBC News.
Morris said three billion doses have been reserved by governments around the world and by the COVAX Facility, which aims to provide access to 172 countries, including many in the developing world and added that many countries are pinning their hopes on this vaccine.
Morris also expressed his concern that the media coverage will discourage people from enrolling in vaccine studies.
#UN; #WHO; #AIDS; #GlobalGealth; #Covid19
UN, Sep 9 (Canadian-Media): Decades of global experience in tackling AIDS can help countries respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new UN report published on Wednesday has revealed.
Red Ribbon, symbol of global campaign to combat HIV-AIDS.
Image credit: Public Health Alliance/Ukraine
The study by UNAIDS, the UN agency working to stamp out HIV and AIDS, outlines how the world can leverage and build resilient health systems that address both pandemics.
“Our decades-long fight against HIV offers essential lessons. By heeding those lessons and working together, we can ensure that national health responses deliver on the promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the health and well-being of all”, said UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
Seize the moment The report is entitled COVID-19 and HIV: 1 moment, 2 epidemics, 3 opportunities—how to seize the moment to learn, leverage and build a new way forward for everyone’s health and rights.
It reveals how key lessons learned in combating HIV can support accelerated action against COVID-19 without jeopardizing ongoing response to HIV and other health emergencies, thus providing a “unique opportunity” to reimagine systems for health, according to UNAIDS chief Winnie Byanyima.
“All eyes are on health, health systems and health care, with countries wanting to be better equipped to deal not only with COVID-19 but also to create healthier, more resilient societies,” she said.
“We can seize this opportunity by learning from HIV and from COVID-19 to make important changes to develop rights-based, equitable, people-centred systems for health.”
Leveraging innovative delivery It highlights examples of how infrastructure for HIV response is being leveraged during the pandemic, including through innovative and community-led service delivery.
For example, some 280,000 new health-care workers trained by the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, are currently serving as first responders to COVID-19 in several low- and middle-income countries.
Additionally, 17 HIV treatment reference centres in Morocco, are being used in the first line of response for treating disease caused by the virus.
The report was released at the start of the two-day Virtual Fast-Track Cities 2020 conference on urban HIV and COVID-19 responses, which concludes on Thursday.
As countries continue to grapple with the new coronavirus, UNAIDS stressed that they must take steps to limit any interruption to HIV-related services. At the same time, supply chains providing essential commodities and technologies for HIV and other global health priorities must also be able to function.
“COVID-19 has caused significant loss of life in many communities, but notably in those where inequities make people more vulnerable to ill health. Leveraging of the HIV infrastructure and workforce has helped to mitigate what might have been a far worse situation”, said José M. Zuniga, President/Chief Executive Officer of the International Association of Providers of AIDS Care, co-organizers of the conference.
“However, with current HIV spending substantially off-track, the world urgently needs to increase investments in the responses to both HIV and COVID-19 and not siphon off one to respond to the other.”
#UN; #Sepsis; #GlobalHealth; #WHO
UN, Sep 9 (Canadian-Media): Efforts to tackle sepsis, which can damage multiple organs and result in death, are hampered by “serious gaps in knowledge”, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, according to a report launch on Wednesday by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Await Said looks at her newborn grandson Ayah, who suffers from jaundice and sepsis and weighs only 1.3 kilograms, as he lies in an incubator at the Juba Teaching Hospital, Juba, South Sudan, in January 2018. Image credit: © UNICEF/UN0159228/Naftalin
Citing “recent studies”, WHO revealed that sepsis kills 11 million people each year, many of them children, and disables millions of others.
“The world must urgently step up efforts to improve data about sepsis so all countries can detect and treat this terrible condition in time,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
Improved data needed
Against the backdrop that most studies had been conducted in the hospitals and intensive care units of high-income countries – with little evidence from the rest of the world – WHO underscored the “urgent need” for better data.
Furthermore, different definitions of sepsis, diagnostic criteria and hospital discharge coding, compound the difficultly in developing a clear understanding of the true global burden of this life-threatening infection.
“This means strengthening health information systems and ensuring access to rapid diagnostic tools, and quality care including safe and affordable medicines and vaccine”, the top WHO official spelled out.
What is sepsis?
Sepsis occurs in response to an infection. When it is not recognized early and managed promptly, it can lead to septic shock, multiple organ failure and death, according to the UN health agency.
And patients who are critically ill with severe COVID-19 and other infectious diseases are at higher risk of developing and dying from it.
WHO pointed out that only half of sepsis survivors will completely recover, the rest will either die within one year or be burdened by long-term disabilities.
The deadly infection disproportionately affects vulnerable populations, including newborns, pregnant women and people living without means, where WHO says approximately 85 per cent of sepsis cases and sepsis-related deaths occur.
Moreover, children account for almost half of the 49 million cases each year, most of which could have been prevented through early diagnosis and appropriate clinical management.
Obstetric infections, including complications following abortion or infections following caesarean section, are the third most common cause of maternal mortality, the UN report revealed.
Global estimates show that for every 1,000 women giving birth, 11 women experience infection-related, severe organ dysfunction or death.
Sepsis frequently results from infections acquired in healthcare settings.
The report finds that almost half of sepsis patients in intensive care units acquired the infection in the hospital while noting that an estimated 27 per cent of those with sepsis in hospitals and 42 per cent in intensive care units, will die.
The world must urgently step up efforts to improve data about sepsis -- WHO chief
WHO identified antimicrobial resistance as a major challenge in treating sepsis as it complicates the ability to combat infections, especially in healthcare facilities.
Changing the odds
The UN health agency elaborated on interventions to prevent as many as 84 per cent of newborn sepsis-related deaths, which include improved sanitation, water quality and infection prevention methods – such as hand hygiene – but stressed that these be coupled with early diagnosis, appropriate clinical management and access to safe and affordable medicines and vaccines.
At the same time, WHO called on the global community to improve high-quality data collection; scale-up global advocacy, and funding research; develop rapid, affordable diagnostic tools; and educate health workers and communities to infection risks and the need to promptly seek care.
#UN; #UNGA; #Covid19Pandemic; #UNSDGs; #SDGs; #Bodiversity; #Gender
UN, Sep 6 (Canadian-Media): The 75th UN General Assembly (UNGA) session, begins on 15 September and this year, due to the ongoing global pandemic, it will be unlike any other in the organization’s three quarters of a century of existence.
A cleaning crew member operates a mopping vehicle inside the General Assembly Hall. Image credit: N Photo/Manuel Elias
This month, there will be no bumping into presidents or the occasional global celebrity in hectic and sometimes crushed corridors at UN Headquarters in New York.
There will be no marveling at seemingly endless presidential motorcades on First Avenue and no “standing-room only” moments in the gilded General Assembly Hall, as the Organization’s busiest time of the year is reimagined in the time of COVID-19.
Most leaders will not be appearing in person and meetings are going virtual, but that’s not to say that the wheels of global diplomacy and sustainable development will not be turning at the usual speed.
Here are five things to look out for at UNGA 75.
1) Presidents and Heads of State calling in speeches
The centrepiece of any new General Assembly (often shortened to GA) session, is undoubtedly the General Debate, which starts on 22 September, a week after the official opening.
It’s a globally unique occasion at which presidents and heads of state (or sometimes their deputies or foreign ministers) take to the dais, and address a world audience on an issue of their choosing. This year, because of the pandemic, world leaders will be staying away and have been invited to send in pre-recorded videos of their speeches which will be broadcast “as live”.
Speeches are expected to be introduced by a New York-based representative of each state, who will be physically present.
However, any world leader has the right to turn up in person, to deliver his or her keynote address, an opportunity that at least one president seeking re-election this year, is reported to be mulling over.
Read more here about the first virtual GA.
2) Celebrating 75 years
The United Nations was established in 1945 and has been marking its 75th anniversary with what the UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called an extended “people’s debate” which “promises to be the largest and furthest-reaching global conversation ever on building the future we want.”
An event at UN headquarters on 21 September to celebrate the milestone (which will also take place online and remotely) will aim to “generate renewed support for multilateralism”; an issue many believe has become ever more urgent as the world faces up to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s expected that the Secretary-General will address, in person, the High-Level event to mark the 75th anniversary in the GA Hall.
Read more here about the role of youth leaders in fashioning a UN fit for their future.
3) ‘Transforming the world’ through Sustainable Development
The Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs - the 17 internationally agreed targets to reduce poverty and maintain peace, whilst protecting the planet - have remained at the top of the UN’s agenda during 2020, with many arguing, including the UN Deputy Secretary-General, that the pandemic has only underlined more forcefully why they are so important.
At the 75th GA session, the SDGs will be put under the spotlight in what is being described as a “first of its kind 30-minute global broadcast”, created by writer and director, and SDG advocate, Richard Curtis, which will take audiences across the world “on a dynamic exploration of the times we live in, the multiple tipping points our planet faces, and the interventions that could transform our world” up to 2030, when, it’s hoped, the SDG targets will be met.
Meanwhile, the SDG Action Zone, which, in past years, has provided a focal point and meeting place at UN Headquarters to promote the global sustainable development agenda, is moving online with appearances from “inspirational leaders” promised on the bill. And the UN will also be partnering with the Al Jazeera English flagship social media show, The Stream, in a series of discussions around the SDGs.
4) Facing up to ‘unprecedented loss’ of global biodiversity
Earth’s biodiversity, its rich variety of life, is declining at what the UN has warned “an unprecedented rate.” Over one million species are at risk of extinction, two billion hectares of land are currently degraded and 66 per cent of oceans, 50 per cent of coral reefs and 85 per cent of wetlands have been significantly and negatively altered by human activity.
A major international summit to discuss how to reverse the accelerating deterioration of the natural environment and how it is harmfully impacting people’s lives was due to be held this year in Kunming, China, but it has now been postponed until May 2021.
In the meantime, a day of virtual meetings will be taking place under the auspices of the General Assembly on September 30. Meanwhile, look out for the 2020 Biodiversity Outlook published on 15 September.
5) Gender: 25 years after Beijing
Progress on gender equality and women’s rights has been severely impacted by COVID-19, as women and girls suffer a disproportionate social and economic fallout according to the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres.
On 1 October, this and other issues relating to gender equality and empowerment are due to be discussed at the UN in the context of the 25th anniversary of the internationally agreed Beijing Platform for Action which is widely acknowledged as the most comprehensive and forward-looking plan for advancing the rights of women and girls.
Look out for the first ever International Equal Pay Day on 18 September which focuses on aligning pay between men and women.
And one more…happy New Yorkers
Not strictly part of the General Assembly, but inextricably linked; many New Yorkers dread the opening of the new GA session every September which brings the closing of streets, presidential-motorcade-induced traffic jams on First Avenue and the surrounding Midtown area, and enervating disruptions to general life.
This year, while world leaders stay away, New Yorkers, despite the severe, ongoing challenges of the pandemic, which include billions of dollars in lost revenue from visitors and tourists, will no doubt enjoy a respite from the week or ten days when a small part of their global city is given over to presidents and heads of State.
#UN; #UNICEF; #Covid19Vaccinations; #PAHO; #COVAX; #Covid19
UN, Sep 5 (Canadian=Media): UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) will be leading procurement and supply of COVID-19 vaccinations to ensure that all countries have safe, fast and equitable access to initial doses when they are available, the agency has announced.
UNICEF staff unload vital medical supplies at a hospital in western Venezuela.
Image credit: © UNICEF/Montico
The vaccine procurement and distribution effort, involving over 170 economies, has the potential to become the world’s largest and fastest ever operation of its kind.
“This is an all-hands on deck partnership between governments, manufacturers and multilateral partners to continue the high-stakes fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director.
“In our collective pursuit of a vaccine, UNICEF is leveraging its unique strengths in vaccine supply to make sure that all countries have safe, fast and equitable access to the initial doses when they are available.”
UNICEF is the world’s largest single vaccine buyer, procuring more than 2 billion doses of various vaccines annually for routine immunization and outbreak response on behalf of nearly 100 countries.
On behalf of COVAX Facility
UNICEF, in collaboration with the Revolving Fund of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), will lead efforts to procure and supply doses of COVID-19 vaccines on behalf of the COVAX Global Vaccines Facility for 92 low- and lower middle-income countries whose vaccine purchases will be supported by the mechanism.
In addition, UNICEF will also serve as procurement coordinator to support purchases by 80 higher-income economies, which have expressed their intent to participate in the COVAX Facility and would finance the vaccines from their own budgets, the UN agency said in a news release on Friday.
UNICEF will undertake these efforts in close collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), PAHO, World Bank, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and other partners.
The COVAX Facility is open to all countries to ensure that no country is left without access to a future COVID-19 vaccine.
Market assessment and next step Some 28 manufacturers have shared their annual production plans for COVID-19 vaccines –through 2023 – with UNICEF, which in a market assessment said the drug makers are willing to collectively produce “unprecedented quantities” of vaccines over the coming 1-2 years.
However, manufacturers signalled that investments to support such large-scale production of doses would be highly dependent on, among other things, whether clinical trials are successful, advance purchase agreements are put in place, funding is confirmed, and regulatory and registration pathways are streamlined.
A key next step, UNICEF said, will be ensuring self-financing economies sign up for the COVAX Facility by 18 September, which will allow COVAX to support early, at-risk investments in increasing manufacturing capacity on a broad scale.
‘Critical partner’ for success
“UNICEF has been critical partner in Gavi’s success over the last two decades,” said Gavi’s Chief Executive Officer Seth Berkley.
Over the 20 years, Gavi has reached over 760 million children with life-saving vaccines, preventing more than 13 million deaths.
“[UNICEF] helped us reach more than half the world’s population with life-saving vaccines … This expertise and experience will be important in ensuring that COVAX – as a global effort to procure and deliver safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, on an accelerated timeframe, and at an unprecedented scale – can protect the most at-risk, wherever they may be in the world.”
Together we can work to end the acute stage of this pandemic – Dr. Berkley, Gavi CEO
“Together we can work to end the acute stage of this pandemic, including its devastating impact on individuals, communities, and economies,” added Dr. Berkley.
Vaccines for all The COVAX Global Vaccines Facility is the vaccine pillar of the ACT-Accelerator, an initiative launched in April to speed up development of medicines to treat COVID-19 and make them available to people everywhere.
It is operated by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; CEPI, and WHO, alongside multinational and developing country vaccine manufacturers.
The Facility works to ensure as many countries as possible cooperate to pool development, procurement and allocation of any COVID-19 vaccines.
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UN, Sep 5 (Canadian-Media): The COVID-19 health crisis has caused massive disruption worldwide in diagnosing and treating people with deadly but preventable diseases, including more than one in two cancer patients, UN health experts said on Sep 4.
A blood glucose test is used to check the level of glucose (sugar) in the blood of a pregnant woman in a hospital in Santiago, Chile. Image credit: PAHO
In a call to Governments everywhere to take greater steps to tackle non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the World Health Organization (WHO) said that the pandemic has exposed the fact too little has been achieved, even though these illnesses account for seven in 10 deaths worldwide.
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the coronavirus had “preyed on people” with NCDs, and that the risk factors they face “are increasing vulnerability to COVID-19, infection, and the likelihood of worse outcomes, including in younger people.”
Clear disruption revealed
The four most common NCDs are cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases; together, they contribute to more than 40 million deaths a year, said Dr Bente Mikkelsen, Director, WHO Division of Noncommunicable Diseases.
“The most recent study shows that there is a disruption in healthcare services including NCD diagnosis and treatments in 69 per cent of cases”, she said. “In cancer, there are the highest numbers, with 55 per cent of people living with cancer (having) their health services disrupted.”
Dr Mikkelsen noted that those living with one or more NCDs were among the most likely to become severely ill and die from the new coronavirus.
Indigenous communities hit
Studies from several countries had indicated this, she said, highlighting how data on indigenous communities in Mexico, showed that diabetes was the most commonly found disease among COVID-19 fatalities.
Research also found that in Italy, of those who succumbed to COVID-19 in hospital, 67 per cent suffered from hypertension and 31 per cent had type 2 diabetes.
Worryingly, the WHO medic also noted that another study had indicated that the world is not on track to meet Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) pledges on NCDs by 2030 – namely to reduce by a third the number dying before they reach 70 years of age.
Diabetes ‘going in the wrong direction
’Only 17 countries are set to achieve these targets for women and only 15 were on course to do the same for men, Dr. Mikkelsen said, noting that premature mortality for diabetes was now “going in the wrong direction”.
Over the last 20 years, some 200 million men and women have died prematurely, according to WHO, which has a series of NCD “best buy” recommendations for all countries to implement.
The need to take action is urgent, the UN health agency believes, as in the next decade, another 150 million people will die from NCDs.
Poorest countries bear greatest burden
Developing countries will experience the heaviest burden, with the chances of dying from a NCD being three times higher in Fiji and Mongolia, than in Norway or Japan.
“People living with NCD all over the world (are) waiting for us, for WHO to support countries and for countries to really act on the commitments made,” Dr. Mikkelsen said, in a call for universal access to medicines, vaccines, diagnostics and technology to prevent, screen, and diagnose NCDs early.
“Today our primary task is to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic and also to take the learning from it and rebuild, recover and build back”, she said. “To rebuild lives and livelihoods. But we must not simply return to where we were.”
‘We can and will end the pandemic’
In his regular end of week briefing, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, adopted an optimistic tone, telling journalists that although many challenges remain, WHO was “encouraged by the progress we have made against this new virus”, over the course of the past eight months.
“With national unity and global solidarity, we can and will end the COVID-19 pandemic”.
Tedros thanked those countries and economies who have announced this week that they will be joining the COVAX effort to accelerate the development and production of a new coronavirus vaccine, ensuring its equitable distribution.
There are now 78 high and medium-performing economies which have pledged their involvement, in the “Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator”-led project, “and the number is growing”, he said.
“I urge those who have not yet joined to do so by the 18th of September”.
Vaccine unlikely, until middle of next year
In a related development, WHO spokesperson Dr. Margaret Harris, said that there were unlikely to be widespread vaccinations to provide protection against COVID-19 until the middle of next year.
Phase three testing of many candidate vaccines was still ongoing, she told journalists in Geneva, without naming any, adding that this final safety protocol would likely take a significant amount of time before any are licensed nationally and approved for use.
Until a vaccine is ready, everyone should continue to respect basic hygiene and other preventative measures, Dr. Harris continued, such as physical distancing, washing hands and wearing masks.