In 2020 and 2021, the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic inspired in me an enthusiasm for the global, multi-stakeholder collaboration that was unfolding through GAVI in the newly formed COVAX Facility. Regrettably, this vision has not evolved into a reality as I had hoped it would. As a result, I have backed off from writing about the scope of global collaboration in this pandemic. Most strikingly, the evolution of collaborative thinking has moved from the basic and worthwhile premise of a global distribution of available vaccines (and diagnostics and therapeutics) to a recognition that regional and locally-based control of manufacturing facilities for these same products is a preferred and alternative objective -at least, under the current circumstances. Continue reading “The COVID-19 Pandemic in 2022 – A Concluding Commentary”
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to feature a lively debate on the balancing of scientific and policy perspectives. From the beginning of the pandemic, I have been writing commentaries on the importance of applying both a political lens and a scientific lens to the management of the pandemic. At the time, we were all understandably concerned about the risk of political actions that were clearly contrary to the scientific evidence. But that should not have led us away from the value of incorporating the science into a workable political framework for collaborative action. I still embrace the need for balance – combining the scientific guidance on who needs to wear a mask, for example, with political guidance on how this should be implemented in specific circumstances.
A second interest of mine has been to write about the remarkable flowering of global and multi-stakeholder collaboration that the pandemic has inspired – in vaccine development most strikingly but also in the efforts to ensure global sharing of vaccines and therapeutic needs. In fact, the multi-stakeholder nature of this collaboration has been a particular focus of my ongoing commentaries.
With these themes in mind, I started a compendium here of the proposals and actions since January 2021 that continue to inspire me to write about the global and multi-stakeholder response to the pandemic. This list had been regularly updated until March of this year (2022). It seems that I lost interest at that time – recognizing, perhaps, that the promise of better things to come just didn’t deliver the transformation in global collaboration that I believed was in the offing. So I stopped adding items to the list – even as new promises were dangled before us so temptingly – at the Second Global Pandemic Summit, at the World Health Assembly, at the G7 Elmau Summit, at the 12th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization….The list goes on. But the enthusiasm does not. So I have put a pause to the exercise and am preparing a wrapping-up commentary to boot. Stay tuned.
Moving beyond the “subterranean machinations” of Franco-American rivalries, I revert back to my preoccupations with the prospects for global and multi-stakeholder collaboration on the COVID-19 pandemic. And I do so with renewed inspiration, perhaps reinforced by the very sudden global panic about the Omicron variant, which the World Health Organization has identified as a new “variant of concern”. My inspiration, however, had already been reviving as a result of my personal tracking of the interviews and personal appearances of key “pandemic players” in the past couple of months. Most strikingly, we all saw the signs in October of more collaboration between the WHO and WTO Directors-General but also their further collaboration with the heads of the IMF and World Bank, I was also encouraged anew by the opportunity also in October to sit in on interviews with two major American figures, Dr. Rochelle Wilensky at the US Centers for Disease Control and Dr. Anthony Fauci at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. And then, through the past few weeks, I have found additional hopefulness in the health-related outcomes of both the G20 Leaders Summit in Rome and and the Conference of the Parties (i.e. “COP 26”) in Glasgow – yes, even there!
The fluidity of the pandemic was vividly apparent last week when we all heard about the sharp and unexpected reversal of the previous US position in support of intellectual property rights at the World Trade Organization. I had just expressed my own assumption a couple of days before, that the crisis that was unfolding in India (and in South America) was wreaking havoc on the COVAX Facility and on the very premise of an equitable and global response to the pandemic. And here came another dramatic change in the policy landscape – one that has inspired me to look more optimistically on the future of the global path after all! I am a bit more optimistic about the prospects for the COVAX Facility under the circumstances, even if the waiver announcement from the White House may seem to work against the interests of a global response through the COVAX Facility. Continue reading “Whither COVAX? (updated with optimism)”
Up until now, I have been speaking up for a global response to the pandemic – a globally defined, equitable sharing of all the tools we can possibly find by working together. The Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator initiative that was launched by the WHO a year ago is the prime example of this approach. I have been especially enthusiastic about the COVAX Facility that was launched as a part of this initiative to bring countries together to pool available vaccines for a globally equitable distribution based on population. But the huge surge in India upends the formula for the equitable sharing of available vaccines. It may well be that the formula had already lost traction because of the rationale for dealing with the second and third waves of serious outbreaks in the US and Europe. For me, though, it is the Indian surge that has led me to question the whole business of how we can achieve vaccine equity. It has become far more than a question of the equitable distribution of an existing but limited supply of vaccines; it has also become a question of how to dramatically – and rapidly – expand the actual supply. Continue reading “Whither COVAX?”