Reflections on Lessons from Covid-19

I was pleased to see my letter to the editor published in The Economist (3 June 2023 edition). I wrote it in response to an essay written by Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director General of the World Health Organization. His essay “on the lessons from covid-19” had appeared “by invitation” in the 20 May 2023 edition of The Economist (available here).  Here is what I wrote: Continue reading “Reflections on Lessons from Covid-19”

Multi-stakeholder Concerns in Recent Lancet and Politico Reports: Losing Inspiration Part Two

Two recent publications on the COVID-19 pandemic have attracted my interest in the past couple of weeks – the Lancet Commission report “On lessons for the future from the COVID-19 pandemic” and a Politico Special Report on “How Bill Gates and his partners took over the global COVID response”.  Both are  useful assessments of the failure of a global approach to the pandemic, and I commend them both as the world moves to preparing for the next pandemic.  But they miss the boat  in different ways with regard to the multi-stakeholder nature of  the global effort.  One ignores its usefulness, while the other criticizes how it unfolded in the COVID-19 pandemic.  In this commentary, I explain why I am concerned about both approaches.  I believe that the pandemic opened up new opportunities for multi-stakeholder collaboration at the global level, and I sincerely hope that  this kind of collaboration will continue to evolve in a positive direction in spite of the setbacks. Continue reading “Multi-stakeholder Concerns in Recent Lancet and Politico Reports: Losing Inspiration Part Two”

The COVID-19 Pandemic in 2022 – Losing Inspiration Part One

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 – Losing Inspiration Part One”

Returning to the Pandemic with Renewed Inspiration for a Global Response

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!

Continue reading “Returning to the Pandemic with Renewed Inspiration for a Global Response”

Whither COVAX? A Progress Report on the Vision of Global and Multi-stakeholder Collaboration

The fluidity in the ebb and flow of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take us through uncharted waters as we gradually absorb the signs urging us to just “live with it” somehow.  Even the modified springtime message from the epidemiologists that we might at least manage to get past the “acute” phase of this pandemic by the end of 2021 seems to have lost its resonance. Here we are in mid-July 2021 with a global death toll passing the 4 million mark, and alarming reports about the highly contagious delta variant, the looming epsilon variant, urgent pleas  (and even mandates) from the French president and the Italian prime minister  to get vaccinated, crazy mixed messages in the UK, confusion about mask-wearing in the US, and dramatic upsurges in countries (like Indonesia this time) with low vaccination rates and limited access to available vaccine doses.  At least there is a renewed effort to work things through the COVAX Facility, both with regard to the more equitable distribution of available vaccine doses and, quite encouragingly, to increasing and diversifying the manufacturing capacity for vaccines but also for therapeutics and diagnostics. Here are my personal impressions of what this means for global and multi-stakeholder collaboration. Continue reading “Whither COVAX? A Progress Report on the Vision of Global and Multi-stakeholder Collaboration”

Whither COVAX? (updated with optimism)


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)”

Whither COVAX?

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?”

Personal Lamentations on Vaccine Nationalism

Vaccine Nationalism appears in multiple forms, it seems.  And it is unlikely that popular support for a global perspective will ever expand to counter any of it. At least not for the current pandemic. Here is a personal story – but one that is accompanied by a note about the global context – and a lamentation.  It’s all about a new bargain – a regional one, not necessarily a global one – for another 1 billion doses of vaccines (good news) – not for just anybody in need but for certain groups of people in need; not for now but for a year and a half or more from now; not for the sake of humanitarian concern but for the sake of shared national interests. Some might speculate that it’s all about US versus China, while others might insist that it isn’t. But it also has repercussions for global concerns spilling over into economic recovery from the pandemic, climate change, gender equality and even the future of global technology trends. Continue reading “Personal Lamentations on Vaccine Nationalism”

Further Reflections on the US Return to Global Health

Following the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on 20 January 2021, we have been treated to a lively first 10 days – announcing new directions on COVID-19, climate, racial equity, the economy, health care, immigration, and restoring America’s global standing.  While all these initiatives are very welcome, my focus here has been on the Biden Administration’s top domestic priority of controlling the pandemic – but from my usual global and multi-stakeholder perspective. And the good news on that score is that the US has returned to linking that domestic priority to active engagement in global health.  I shared my preliminary reflections on this good news last week (21 January 2021 and available here), and I have appreciated the lively reader comments and questions. Here is an update at the 10-day mark for the unfolding of the Biden Administration’s busy agenda on pandemic and health issues, along with my responses to the points raised by readers about the nature of US engagement globally and the prospects for a global response to the pandemic. Continue reading “Further Reflections on the US Return to Global Health”

So Far, So Good on the US at the WHO and at the COVAX Facility

The good news of the “day after”, above and beyond the happy sensation of savoring the smooth flow of democracy in action, was the carry-through on seeing the adults back in the room on multilateralism in global health and the pandemic. What do I mean? Well, the day that I am referring to is 20 January 2021, the day that was filled with pomp and ceremony (but no crowds) for the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to lead the United States government. On the day itself,  President Biden signed over a dozen executive orders to put things back in place, as it were. And on the “day after”, we witnessed the follow-through on a new national strategy on the COVID-19 response and pandemic preparedness. Here are some preliminary reflections on the good news, with the caveat that the journey is not yet over. Continue reading “So Far, So Good on the US at the WHO and at the COVAX Facility”