Kim Sledge and the World We Want partner with WHO Foundation to re-record unity anthem “We Are Family” in response to COVID-19 and to focus on global public health needs
#Geneva, #WHO; #WorldWeWant; #WeAreFamily; #Covid19; #Solidarity
Geneva/WHO, Oct 20 (Canadian-Media): Special edition cover of the classic song “We Are Family’ will be accompanied by a worldwide viral video starring celebrities, frontline health heroes, leaders and members of the public singing together in a show of solidarity and support for addressing present and future global public health needs, including COVID-19.
WHO. Image credit: Twitter handle
Launching today, the #WeAreFamily video campaign will invite people worldwide to star in the music video, recording videos of themselves with their close family and friends singing the song and then sharing this on their social media channels.
Part of the proceeds from the new song, being released 9 Nov, will be donated to the WHO Foundation to support the response to COVID-19 and promotion and protection of health for people around the world.
A special edition cover of Sister Sledge’s timeless hit We Are Family will be released in a new and inspiring call for global solidarity to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and to generate proceeds to address the most pressing global health challenges of our time. The initiative is being launched by The World We Want, the global social impact enterprise, and Kim Sledge, part of the legendary multi-Gold and Platinum recording music group, in benefit of the WHO Foundation, and supported by the World Health Organization (WHO).
This new initiative, being launched ahead of United Nations Day on 24 October, will also be accompanied by a unique video and social media campaign, and sound a bold and hopeful call for solidarity, unity, and collaboration to promote and protect the health and wellbeing for every person on the planet.
A call for solidarity
The inspiration to release a special edition of the classic track came in March 2020 as communities around the world were left reeling from the impact of COVID-19.
Kim Sledge said: “From the doctors and nurses on the front lines, to the paramedics and police, from the midwives and scientists to the carers for the vulnerable, the We Are Family initiative will salute each and every one with a feeling of unity, strength and solidarity in response to the unprecedented challenges the world faces as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.”
“There are many people who motivated me to embark on this new initiative in support of making We Are Family come to life, and who are very dedicated to finding ways to conquer this crisis. They include my close family friend Lou Weisbach, my Mercy Seat Ministry brothers and sisters, and all of the global health workers, scientists, the essential labourers, care givers and emergency personnel around the world who have been working day and night during the pandemic in support of others,” added Kim, a vocalist, philanthropist, novelist, songwriter, producer and Minister.
Using music’s universal power in bringing the world together, the #WeAreFamily campaign is focused on raising awareness on, and much needed resources for, addressing global public health needs, from emergency preparedness, outbreak response, and stronger health systems to promoting mental health and preventing non-communicable diseases.
Natasha Mudhar, founder of The World We Want and the driving force behind the #WeAreFamily campaign, said: “We Are Family is one of the most instantly recognizable anthems in the world. The song carries such an inspiring message of unity and solidarity. We are certain that the We Are Family song and video initiative is being launched at the right time. It is a rallying cry for togetherness, for the strength of our global family. We are all together during these times.”
Special edition version song to support health efforts
The special edition of the classic We Are Family song will be released online for download on 9 November 2020 in conjunction with the opening of the World Health Assembly, at which Kim Sledge is also scheduled to perform the song alongside choral singers from New York to Tonga. A portion of the song’s proceeds will be donated to the WHO Foundation to support the delivery of life-saving health services.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization, said: “We Are Family is more than a song. It is a call to action for collaboration and kindness, and a reminder of the strength of family and the importance of coming together to help others in times of need.”
Dr Tedros added: “Now more than ever, communities and individuals all over the world need to heed this message and come together, as a global family, to support each other through this COVID-19 challenge, and to remember that our health and wellbeing is our most precious gift. I am grateful to Kim Sledge and the World We Want for sharing this masterpiece and message of hope with us all. It is only through national unity and global solidarity that we will overcome COVID-19 and ensure people all over the world attain the highest level of health and well-being."
Join the We Are Family video campaign
In support of the song’s release, a call is being launched today (19 October) for people worldwide to submit videos of themselves singing We Are Family for inclusion in a unique and inspiring compilation video for release on 7 December 2020. This video will honour the incredible work of the frontline workforces risking their lives around to save ours, and all those around the world who have been affected by the pandemic.
To submit sing-along videos to the Special Edition Cover Version of the We Are Family song, the key steps are:
#UN; #PharmaceuticalCompanies; #Covid19Vaccine; #UNICEF
UN, Oct 19 (Canadian-Media): With countries and pharmaceutical companies around the world gearing up to distribute COVID-19 vaccines following trials, the UN Children’s Fund UNICEF has begun laying the groundwork for the rapid, safe and efficient delivery by buying and pre-positioning syringes and other necessary equipment.
A health worker fills a syringe with vaccine at a Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Image credit: © UNICEF/Patrick Brown
As soon as vaccines are licensed for use, the world will need as many syringes as doses of vaccine, said UNICEF on Monday.
To begin preparations, this year, UNICEF will stockpile 520 million syringes in its warehouses, part of a larger plan to have a billion syringes ready for use through 2021, to guarantee initial supply and help ensure that syringes arrive before vaccines are distributed.
During 2021, assuming there are enough doses of COVID-19 vaccines, UNICEF expects to deliver around a billion syringes to support COVID-19 vaccination efforts on top of the 620 million syringes the agency will purchase for other vaccination programmes, against other diseases such as measles, typhoid and more.
“Vaccinating the world against COVID-19 will be one of the largest mass undertakings in human history, and we will need to move as quickly as the vaccines can be produced,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director.
“In order to move fast later, we must move fast now. By the end of the year, we will already have over half a billion syringes pre-positioned where they can be deployed quickly and cost effectively. That’s enough syringes to wrap around the world one and a half times.”
In line with the longstanding collaboration between the two partners, the global vaccine alliance Gavi, will reimburse UNICEF for the cost of syringes and safety boxes, which will then be used for the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (COVAX Facility) and for other Gavi-funded immunization programmes, if needed
‘Safety boxes’ for disposal
Besides syringes, UNICEF is also buying 5 million safety boxes so that used syringes and needles can be disposed in a safe manner by personnel at health facilities, reducing the risk of needle stick injuries and blood borne diseases.
Every safety box carries 100 syringes. Accordingly, UNICEF said it was “bundling” the syringes with safety boxes to ensure enough safety boxes are available to go along with the syringes.
Injection equipment such as syringes and safety boxes have a shelf life of five years, the agency notes. Lead-times for such equipment are also long as these items are bulky and need to be transported by sea freight. Vaccines, which are heat sensitive, are normally transported more quickly by air.
As the key procurement coordinator for Gavi, UNICEF is already the largest single vaccine buyer in the world, procuring more than 2 billion doses of vaccines annually for routine immunization and outbreak response on behalf of nearly 100 countries.
Every year, UNICEF provides vaccines for almost half of the world’s children and procures and supplies around 600-800 million syringes for regular immunization programmes.
COVID-19 vaccines will likely treble or quadruple that number, depending on the number that are ultimately produced and secured by UNICEF.
“Over two decades, Gavi has helped an additional 822 million children from the world’s most vulnerable countries access critical, life-saving vaccines”, said Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi. “This would not have been possible without our partnership with UNICEF, and it is this same collaboration that will be essential to Gavi’s work with the COVAX Facility.”
To make sure that vaccines are transported and stored at the right temperature, UNICEF, along with the World Health Organization (WHO), is also mapping out existing cold chain equipment and storage capacity – in the private as well as public sector – and preparing necessary guidance for countries to receive vaccines.
“We are doing everything we can to deliver these essential supplies efficiently, effectively and at the right temperature, as we already do so well all over the world,” Ms. Fore said.
Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, with support from Gavi and in partnership with WHO, UNICEF has been upgrading the existing cold chain equipment across health facilities in countries to ensure that vaccines remain safe and effective throughout their journey.
Fridges boost health services
Since 2017, over 40,000 cold-chain fridges, including solar fridges, have been installed across health facilities, mostly in Africa, said the agency.
And in many countries, UNICEF is promoting solar technologies to help countries maintain supply chains.
In South Sudan, the least electrified country in the world, where temperatures frequently exceed 40 degrees Celsius, more than 700 health facilities have been equipped by UNICEF with solar power fridges - around 50 per cent of all facilities nationwide.
#WHO; #ILO; #IFAD; #FAO; #COVID19Impact
Geneva/WHO, Oct 13 (Canadian-Media): The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a dramatic loss of human life worldwide and presents an unprecedented challenge to public health, food systems and the world of work. The economic and social disruption caused by the pandemic is devastating: tens of millions of people are at risk of falling into extreme poverty, while the number of undernourished people, currently estimated at nearly 690 million, could increase by up to 132 million by the end of the year.
Image credit: Official logo
Millions of enterprises face an existential threat. Nearly half of the world’s 3.3 billion global workforce are at risk of losing their livelihoods. Informal economy workers are particularly vulnerable because the majority lack social protection and access to quality health care and have lost access to productive assets. Without the means to earn an income during lockdowns, many are unable to feed themselves and their families. For most, no income means no food, or, at best, less food and less nutritious food.
The pandemic has been affecting the entire food system and has laid bare its fragility. Border closures, trade restrictions and confinement measures have been preventing farmers from accessing markets, including for buying inputs and selling their produce, and agricultural workers from harvesting crops, thus disrupting domestic and international food supply chains and reducing access to healthy, safe and diverse diets. The pandemic has decimated jobs and placed millions of livelihoods at risk. As breadwinners lose jobs, fall ill and die, the food security and nutrition of millions of women and men are under threat, with those in low-income countries, particularly the most marginalized populations, which include small-scale farmers and indigenous peoples, being hardest hit.
Millions of agricultural workers – waged and self-employed – while feeding the world, regularly face high levels of working poverty, malnutrition and poor health, and suffer from a lack of safety and labour protection as well as other types of abuse. With low and irregular incomes and a lack of social support, many of them are spurred to continue working, often in unsafe conditions, thus exposing themselves and their families to additional risks. Further, when experiencing income losses, they may resort to negative coping strategies, such as distress sale of assets, predatory loans or child labour. Migrant agricultural workers are particularly vulnerable, because they face risks in their transport, working and living conditions and struggle to access support measures put in place by governments. Guaranteeing the safety and health of all agri-food workers – from primary producers to those involved in food processing, transport and retail, including street food vendors – as well as better incomes and protection, will be critical to saving lives and protecting public health, people’s livelihoods and food security.
In the COVID-19 crisis food security, public health, and employment and labour issues, in particular workers’ health and safety, converge. Adhering to workplace safety and health practices and ensuring access to decent work and the protection of labour rights in all industries will be crucial in addressing the human dimension of the crisis. Immediate and purposeful action to save lives and livelihoods should include extending social protection towards universal health coverage and income support for those most affected. These include workers in the informal economy and in poorly protected and low-paid jobs, including youth, older workers, and migrants. Particular attention must be paid to the situation of women, who are over-represented in low-paid jobs and care roles. Different forms of support are key, including cash transfers, child allowances and healthy school meals, shelter and food relief initiatives, support for employment retention and recovery, and financial relief for businesses, including micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. In designing and implementing such measures it is essential that governments work closely with employers and workers.
Countries dealing with existing humanitarian crises or emergencies are particularly exposed to the effects of COVID-19. Responding swiftly to the pandemic, while ensuring that humanitarian and recovery assistance reaches those most in need, is critical.
Now is the time for global solidarity and support, especially with the most vulnerable in our societies, particularly in the emerging and developing world. Only together can we overcome the intertwined health and social and economic impacts of the pandemic and prevent its escalation into a protracted humanitarian and food security catastrophe, with the potential loss of already achieved development gains.
We must recognize this opportunity to build back better, as noted in the Policy Brief issued by the United Nations Secretary-General. We are committed to pooling our expertise and experience to support countries in their crisis response measures and efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. We need to develop long-term sustainable strategies to address the challenges facing the health and agri-food sectors. Priority should be given to addressing underlying food security and malnutrition challenges, tackling rural poverty, in particular through more and better jobs in the rural economy, extending social protection to all, facilitating safe migration pathways and promoting the formalization of the informal economy.
We must rethink the future of our environment and tackle climate change and environmental degradation with ambition and urgency. Only then can we protect the health, livelihoods, food security and nutrition of all people, and ensure that our ‘new normal’ is a better one.
#UN; #Covid19; #HerdImmunity;
UN, Oct 12 (Canadian-Media): Using the principle of so-called “herd immunity” to stem the COVID-19 pandemic is “unethical” and “not an option” countries should pursue to defeat the virus, the UN health agency chief warned on Monday.
Heavy monsoon rains, such as in Bangladesh, leave already vulnerable people with less access to COVID-19 treatments. Image credit: WFP/Mehedi Rahman
“Herd immunity is a concept used for vaccination, in which a population can be protected from a certain virus if a threshold of vaccination is reached”, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), told the agency’s regular press briefing in Geneva.
But, he explained, it is achieved by protecting people from the virus, “not by exposing them to it”.
“Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak”, the WHO chief said, calling it “scientifically and ethically problematic”.
To obtain herd immunity from measles, for example, about 95 per cent of the population must be vaccinated. However, according to WHO estimates, less than 10 per cent of the global population has any immunity to the coronavirus, leaving the “vast majority” of the world susceptible.
“Letting the virus circulate unchecked, therefore, means allowing unnecessary infections, suffering and death”, Tedros said.
Cases on the rise
Tedros noted that in recent days, the world was seeing the most rapid rise in infections during the course of the whole pandemic, especially in Europe and the Americas.
“Each of the last four days has been the highest number of cases reported so far”, he stated. “Many cities and countries are also reporting an increase in hospitalizations and intensive care bed occupancy”.
The WHO chief also reminded that, as an “uneven pandemic”, every country is responding differently, and stressed that outbreaks can be controlled using targeted measures, such as by preventing amplifying events, isolation and testing.
“It’s not a choice between letting the virus run free and shutting down our societies” he declared.
Again: ‘No silver bullet’
WHO noted that many have harnessed their stay-at-home time to develop plans, train health workers, increase testing time and capacity, and improve patient care.
And digital technologies are helping to make tried-and-tested public health tools even more effective, such as better smartphone apps to support contact tracing efforts.
“We well understand the frustration that many people, communities and Governments are feeling as the pandemic drags on, and as cases rise again”, Tedros said.
However, there are “no shortcuts, and no silver bullets”, he added.
Only a comprehensive approach, using every tool in the toolbox, has proven effective.
“My message to every country now weighing up its options is: you can do it too.”
#UN; #GlobalImpact; #Covid19; #UNFPA; #GenderBasedViolence; #telecounselling
UN, Oct 11 (Canadian-Media): While the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been staggering, the full impact on health has been far greater, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). The agency said fear, isolation, grief, economic stress and shuttered support services have taken a toll on the mental well-being of people around the world.
Pema is a psychosocial volunteer with the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in Bhutan.
Image credit: © UNFPA Bhutan
Counsellors report urgent demands for mental and psychosocial support, particularly among women and girls who are facing an increase in gender-based violence, in addition to challenges brought on by the crisis.
Pema, a mental health counsellor who volunteers with UNFPA in central Bhutan, has witnessed this first-hand.
“This lockdown has brought the whole country to a standstill, but domestic violence and violence against women and girls have proliferated,” she said recently.
Surge in gender-based violence
A volunteer counsellor since 2007, Pema pivoted to providing services over the telephone due to the pandemic.
Pema said she has been “extremely busy” providing telecounselling services to survivors of physical and sexual violence.
The UNFPA-supported One-Stop Crisis Centre, located at the National Referral Hospital in Thimphu, Bhutan's capital, has also seen a surge in both gender-based violence and mental health concerns.
“During the first three months of COVID-19 restrictions, 22 cases of rape/sexual assault perpetrated against minors were reported to the One-Stop Crisis Centre,” said Dechen Chime, a UNFPA programme officer.
She added that over a three-week period in August, “the national newspaper reported increased cases of suicide, and the One-Stop Centre reported a suicide case every fourth day.”
UNFPA-supported non-governmental organizations, as well as shelters across the country, have also recorded dozens of cases of violence against women and girls.
Demand for telecounselling
Bhutan, a landlocked kingdom in the Himalayas, recorded its first case of COVID-19 in early March, prompting movement restrictions and shuttering schools and other institutions.
During the first months of the closures, the civil society organization RENEW, a UNFPA partner, delivered more than 200 telecounselling services, reflecting a marked increase in demand.
For Pema, telecounselling is not always enough. Some survivors require in-person support.
“For the last five days, I have been attending to a severe marital rape case through the telephone. The perpetrator has already been reported and is under police custody,” she explained.
“Today, my client has called me over seven times, and I am a bit worried. I want to visit her so I am applying for a movement order from the COVID-19 taskforce.”
Community volunteer network
The taskforce is a multi-sectoral group formed under the patronage of Her Majesty Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck, the Queen Mother of Bhutan and a UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador.
Normally, the taskforce addresses issues such as HIV and sexually transmitted infections by bringing together district health, education, legal and cultural representatives. Today, it coordinates much of the pandemic response.
With UNFPA’s support, the taskforce has also been working closely with the community volunteer network over the past six years. It is through this network that Pema, and more than 100 others like her, provide psychosocial support to survivors of violence.
The volunteers must travel over mountainous terrain to meet with clients, even in normal circumstances. Although the pandemic has complicated matters, the network has remained active in all 20 districts of the country.
“This is a time when nothing moves without proper coordination,” said Pema. “The multi-sectoral taskforce and community-based service system working together has really helped me to reach out to my clients, even during this lockdown.”
Needs are rising
When the pandemic was announced back in March, coordination efforts began almost immediately. Vulnerable populations were identified, and information about support and services was widely disseminated through television and social media by UNFPA and partners.
However, despite these efforts, UNFPA warned that needs are growing, and urgent attention is required.
This Saturday, 10 October, is World Mental Health Day, and experts across the globe are advocating for increased investment in services at a time when many lives have been upended.
“We are already seeing the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on people’s mental well-being, and this is just the beginning,” said Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Supporting ‘Gross National Happiness’
Bhutan has recognized the importance of ensuring mental health, according to UNFPA. Since the 1970s, the country’s official development policy has been guided by the concept of “Gross National Happiness”.
The Ministry of Health has established a dedicated hotline, led by senior psychiatrists, to respond to those in crisis. Anyone at risk of suicide or self harm, or in need of any other mental health support, can access these services free of charge.
Additionally, the National Commission for Women and Children, and RENEW-UNFPA, also provide psychosocial counselling services and temporary shelter services, which are also free.
#UN; #StillBirth; #WomenHealth; #Tragedy; #UNICEF
UN, Oct 8 (Canadian-Media): A stillborn baby is delivered every 16 seconds, which translates into nearly two million infants over the course of a year that never took their first breath, according to a new UN report published on Thursday.
Kadiatu Sama, who has had no prenatal care and whose child was stillborn, is comforted by a woman nurse in the maternity ward of the government hospital in Sierra Leone. ©UNICEF/UNI32026/PirozziUNICEF/UNI32026/Pirozzi
Neglected Tragedy: The Global Burden of Stillbirths, released by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), reveals that 84 per cent of these grievous episodes occur in low and lower-middle income countries.
The first-ever joint global estimates also point out that stillbirths remain a challenge for high income countries, where a mother’s level of education is one of the greatest drivers of inequity, and ethnic minorities may lack access to sufficient quality health care.
“Losing a child at birth or during pregnancy is a devastating tragedy for a family, one that is often endured quietly, yet all too frequently, around the world”, lamented UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
A majority of stillbirths could have been prevented -- UNICEF chief
COVID factorAnd the report attests that the COVID-19 pandemic will likely lead a further rise.
A pandemic-induced 50 per cent reduction in health services, could cause nearly 200,000 additional stillbirths over a 12-month period in 117 low and middle income countries, according to modeling done for the report by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Muhammad Ali Pate, Global Director for Health, Nutrition and Population at the World Bank, and Director of the Global Financing Facility for Women, Children and Adolescents, spelled out: “COVID-19 has triggered a devastating secondary health crisis for women, children and adolescents due to disruptions in life-saving health services”.
Poor quality of pregnancy and delivery care; a lack of antenatal and intrapartum services and weak nursing and midwifery workforces are responsible for most of these occurrences, says A Neglected Tragedy.
“Beyond the loss of life, the psychological and financial costs for women, families and societies are severe and long lasting”, Ms. Fore affirmed, adding that “a majority of stillbirths could have been prevented with high quality monitoring, proper antenatal care and a skilled birth attendant”.
But even before the pandemic, few women in low and middle income countries received timely, high-quality care to prevent stillbirths, the report shows – with coverage ranging from less than two per cent to a high of only 50 per cent in eight important maternal health interventions, including C-sections, malaria prevention and pregnancy hypertension management.
"Welcoming a baby into the world should be a time of great joy, but everyday thousands of parents experience unbearable sadness because their babies are still born”, said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Sound investment needed
Despite advances in health services from 2000 to 2019, the annual stillbirth reduction rate was just 2.3 per cent, compared to a 2.9 per cent reduction in neonatal mortality, and 4.3 per cent in mortality among children aged one to 59 months, according to the report.
However, the study maintains that with sound policy, programmes and investment, progress is possible.
“The tragedy of stillbirth shows how vital it is to reinforce and maintain essential health services, and how critical it is to increase investment in nurses and midwives”, the WHO chief upheld.
Because pregnant women need continued access to quality care, throughout their pregnancy and during childbirth, Dr. Pate stressed, “we are supporting countries in strengthening their health systems to prevent stillbirths and ensure that every pregnant woman can access quality health care services”.
#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.”
#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.