Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO)
As we enter the final month of 2020, this unprecedented holiday season brings continued anxiety about the raging COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, fear is now giving way to hope in light of recent clinical trial results and the prospect of speedy approval of one or more COVID-19 vaccines.
Though vaccines have great potential to stem disease transmission, there are still substantial challenges in manufacturing and delivery that must be addressed to ensure that communities around the world are protected. Allocation frameworks that consider health disparities to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines are under development. As many experts caution: it is vaccination, not vaccines, that will help us turn the tide on COVID-19.
During last week’s Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S., we took a moment to reflect on all that we have to be thankful for during this pandemic – including the promise of safe, effective vaccines and treatments. We are grateful to those on the front lines of the COVID-19 response – scientists, healthcare providers, contact tracers, public health leaders, as well as other essential workers, including teachers, bus drivers, grocery store clerks, postal service employees, and many others.
Rabin Martin is proud to work with our clients and partners on initiatives that improve health around the world and strive to achieve health equity. This week, we are pleased to provide select highlights from our clients and our team, in addition to our regular COVID-19 update. Please click here for earlier issues of our COVID-19 Briefings.
Private Sector Highlighted During Global Health Security Agenda Ministerial Meeting
The Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) – a group of nearly 70 countries, international organizations, NGOs, and companies committed to a world safe and secure from global health threats posed by infectious diseases – hosted its 6th Annual Ministerial Meeting in late November.
The Private Sector Roundtable (PSRT) for Global Health Security – a cross-industry coalition that helps countries prevent and prepare for health crises – is a Steering Group member of the GHSA and was prominent throughout the meeting. Dr. Paul Stoffels, Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee and Chief Scientific Officer, Johnson & Johnson, spoke during the plenary session, “How Can the GHSA Help and Adapt to Better Prepare Countries for the Next Health Crisis?” Dr. Stoffels highlighted the valuable role of the private sector during the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for continued multi-sector collaboration.
The PSRT also hosted a side event, “Leveraging Private Sector Resources to Strengthen Global Health Security,” led by PSRT co-chair Ashling Mulvaney, Global Head of Access to Healthcare, Global Sustainability, AstraZeneca, that examined current gaps in countries’ global health security response and how the private sector could fill those gaps. Julie Kae, Executive Director, Qlik moderated a panel discussion among Dr. Mukesh Chawla, Adviser for Health, Nutrition and Population, World Bank Group; Dr. Patrick Osewe, Chief, Health Sector Group, Asian Development Bank; and Dr. Mark Van Passel, Senior Policy Advisor Global Health Security, Dutch Ministry of Health.
PSRT members from BD, Johnson & Johnson, Merrick & Co., McCann Global Health, and Qlik gave demonstrations of specific tools they are making available to countries to support national health security efforts – from a vaccine monitoring platform and data command center to biosecurity training and a lab quality scorecard. Finally, Dr. Ludy Suryantoro, Head of Unit, Multisectoral Engagement for Health Security, WHO, described a new mechanism for making private sector resources more easily accessible to countries – strengthening public-private partnerships. Rabin Martin is the Secretariat for the PSRT.
Merck for Mothers Supports New Research on Maternal Deaths in Nigeria
Merck for Mothers supported the development and November launch of a new report that explores the reasons why women are dying from childbirth in Nigeria, the country with the most maternal deaths in the world. “Why Are Women Dying While Giving Birth in Nigeria?” examines the specific challenge that fewer than 40 percent of births take place in a health facility.
The product of a collaboration among Africare, Nigeria Health Watch, and EpiAFRIC, the report is the culmination of a community-informed maternal death review carried out in 18 communities across six states. The report advocates for establishing systems at all levels of government to capture data on maternal deaths and drive greater accountability in improving maternal health.
The report was launched at the virtual “Giving Birth in Nigeria Summit” attended by high-level delegates from government, development organizations, local healthcare institutions, and civil society, among other key stakeholders and decisionmakers. Program representatives and community members discussed the question: How can we ensure all maternal deaths are counted and investigated with learnings that lead to quality maternal care? Community-level solutions were central to the dialogue. The speakers called on policymakers to enable community reporting of maternal deaths and to take greater responsibility for ensuring quality maternity care. Rabin Martin has provided strategic counsel to Merck for Mothers since the initiative’s inception.
AstraZeneca Partners with the Start-up Community on the Future of Healthcare
Over the past two months, AstraZeneca, in partnership with Slush, a community that connects start-up businesses with investors, hosted a two-part virtual series entitled “Healthcare of the future: A roadmap towards collaborative value creation – Our shared responsibility.”
The series aimed to push the boundaries of science and improve patients’ lives by bringing together Slush’s global start-up community with AstraZeneca’s healthcare insights gained from their Emerging Markets Health Innovation Hubs.
The events explored the potential of digital technology to transform healthcare ecosystems, with an emphasis on cross-sector partnerships and the value of being patient-centric. Interactive sessions featured fast-paced pitches from start-ups seeking funding, mentoring, or partnership opportunities. The diverse global audience included investors, academics, and digital start-up founders. Rabin Martin supported the development and execution of the sessions.
World AIDS Day Reflections: RM at USCHA
December 1 marked World AIDS Day, an opportunity to celebrate the millions of lives saved, as well as reflect on the challenges that remain in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
World AIDS Day feels especially poignant this year as the world faces a new global health crisis; advocates worry that the burden of COVID-19 may reverse progress made against HIV/AIDS in recent decades. At the same time, the HIV/AIDS community is identifying opportunities emerging from the pandemic. For example, COVID-19 has drawn attention to the reality of global pandemics, like HIV/AIDS, and has raised interest in public health broadly, including prevention efforts and mobilizing communities to contain the spread of infectious disease.
Several Rabin Martin team members attended the United States HIV/AIDS Conference (USCHA) this Fall and were inspired by the dedication, creative problem solving, and resilience of the HIV/AIDS community. While organizations described success in using telehealth to provide key services to those living with HIV/AIDS during the pandemic, advocates warned that telehealth is not the silver bullet that will get the world to UNAIDS’ 95-95-95 goals (95 percent of people living with HIV know their status; 95 percent of people living with HIV are receiving treatment; and 95 percent of people receiving treatment are virally suppressed).
Technology alone cannot overcome the persistent health disparities and social determinants of health that remain a barrier to care for many people living with HIV/AIDS. Participants underscored the fact that stigma against people living with HIV/AIDS remains pervasive and called on each of us to stand up against stigma. With UNAIDS’ call for “Global solidarity, shared responsibility” this World AIDS Day, it is clear that the global HIV/AIDS community must remain steadfast in their dedication to end the pandemic.
DE&I at Rabin Martin
At Rabin Martin, we believe that Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) is foundational to achieving high quality, respectful, culturally responsive, and patient-centered care – an imperative to achieving health equity for underserved communities.
The most prevalent and severe health inequities occur where there is poverty, systematic racism, and discrimination. Some of the most common and well-researched health inequities are experienced between groups based on socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender expression, as well as geographic location.
At the heart of Rabin Martin’s mission is the commitment to work toward the reality of healthcare as a human right for all, not just for a few. Understanding the specific health inequities that exist within communities and how patients are affected adversely by social determinants of health requires the cultivation of multiple perspectives and voices from diverse demographic groups. This inclusivity not only reduces the risk of implicit bias, but also enhances the relevance and effectiveness of solutions to address these health inequities.
Our team asks three important questions each day as we co-create solutions for the toughest global health challenges:
- Does the solution/strategy address equity? Does it consider the needs of diverse populations and seek to narrow gaps in health disparities?
- Do we have the right voices at the decision-making table? Are they reflective of the communities served, with equitable share of voice and authority?
- Is the strategy responsive to intersecting social factors like gender, race, ability, class, and sexual orientation?
Ultimately, diversity, equity, and inclusion are at the core of the global health work we support. They are interconnected, and we cannot have one without the other. As such, there is a collective responsibility to foster inclusivity and to harness diverse perspectives that will meaningfully drive improved patient outcomes today and tomorrow. We invite you to ask these questions as you build your own solutions.
Sharing Perspectives: Lunch & Learns with Leading Health Advocates
Our team organizes regular “Lunch & Learns” with global health leaders to garner new perspectives and keep up to date with the latest developments in the field. Over the last two months, we have had the privilege of hearing from two remarkable women as part of this series.
In October, Emily Kramer-Golinkoff, founder of Emily’s Entourage, shared her inspiring story about establishing a patient advocacy group for people living with cystic fibrosis. Since 2011, Emily and her “entourage” have raised millions of dollars to speed research and drug development for nonsense mutations of cystic fibrosis.
Most recently, the organization has been working on The Magic Line: A Virtual Campaign to Conquer the Final CF Summit. The campaign, set to launch next Tuesday, December 8, highlights the life-changing impact of recent medical breakthroughs in cystic fibrosis and the urgent need to find treatments for those who have yet to benefit. Please join us in tuning in to this event and supporting this important cause.
In November, we were joined by Dr. Roopa Dhatt, Executive Director of Women in Global Health – a non-profit organization established over five years ago with the objective of achieving gender equality in global health leadership.
Today, Women in Global Health has attracted more than 25,000 supporters in more than 90 countries and continues to grow. Dr. Dhatt shared her experiences of changing the conversation about women’s leadership in health and challenging power and privilege: “Allyship sometimes means leaning out.” She also recommended books and resources on diversity & inclusion to support our learning on advancing gender equality in global health.
COVID-19: An On-Going Crisis
The U.S. accounts for over 20 percent of global cases, reporting 14,149,770 cases and 276,406 deaths.
Around the world, COVID-19 continues to accelerate. New cases remain high, with almost four million cases reported last week, and death rates continue to rise, with 69,000 deaths reported globally last week. As the world prepares for a holiday season unlike any other, experts worry travel and gatherings could exacerbate the already dangerous situation. Just days after Thanksgiving, Americans are facing increased social distancing restrictions as public health experts try to prevent the likely surge of cases from last week’s holiday travel and gatherings.
The past few weeks have seen a flurry of promising announcements regarding COVID-19 vaccine development. Within the span of two weeks, three trials (Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca/Oxford) released initial results from their final clinical trial stage, Phase 3. This week’s Rabin Martin COVID-19 Briefing provides a summary of these three trials.
On November 18, Pfizer released final results from the Phase 3 clinical trial of the mRNA vaccine candidate, BNT162b2, co-developed with BioNTech. The analysis found the vaccine to be 95 percent effective in preventing infections, even in high-risk geriatric populations. The trial found no serious safety concerns associated with the vaccine; participants reported only mild side effects, such as fatigue and soreness at the injection site. Pfizer expects to be able to produce 50 million doses by the end of the year and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021 – sufficient quantity to vaccinate 25 million people in 2020 and 650 million people in 2021 since two doses are required.
On December 2, the U.K. approved the vaccine, making it the first country to approve a vaccine based on final clinical trial analysis. Two weeks earlier, on November 20, Pfizer submitted a request to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the vaccine. The FDA will convene a vaccines advisory group to review the application on December 10 and may release a decision soon after. The first shipments of the vaccine are expected to be delivered on December 15, pending approval.
On November 30, Moderna shared the analysis of the complete data from the Phase 3 trial of the company’s mRNA vaccine, mRNA-1273. The analysis showed that the vaccine is 94.1 percent effective in preventing infections and 100 percent effective in preventing severe cases of COVID-19. Of note is that vaccine efficacy was consistent across different demographics (age, race and ethnicity, sex). By the end of 2020, Moderna expects to have approximately 20 million doses available in the U.S. and to manufacture between 500 million and 1 billion doses globally in 2021 (the vaccine does not require ultracold supply chains). Given the required two-dose schedule, the company’s projected production would be enough to cover 10 million people in 2020 and between 250 and 500 million people in 2021.
On the same day that Moderna released the final analysis, the company applied to the FDA for emergency use authorization. The FDA will convene a vaccines advisory group to review Moderna’s application on December 17 and may release a decision soon after. If approved, the company says Americans could begin receiving the vaccine December 21.
On November 23, AstraZeneca released initial results from the Phase 3 trials of the adenovirus vaccine candidate, AZD1222, co-developed with the University of Oxford. The interim results showed that the vaccine was highly effective in preventing COVID-19, and no hospitalizations or severe cases were reported in participants who received the vaccine. The analysis looked at two dosing regimens: two full doses given one month apart and, due to a contractor error, a half dose followed by a full dose one month later. While the second regimen varied from the original plan, both regimens proved efficacious (the two full dose regimen showed 62 percent efficacy, and the half dose/full dose regimen showed 90 percent efficacy). The company has said their total annual manufacturing capacity of AZD1222, if approved, would be three billion doses, enough to vaccinate 1.5 billion people. AstraZeneca has not yet submitted the vaccine for approval by the FDA or the European Medicines Agency.
From the Experts
“We’re in for a tough winter, but it will come to an end…And right now, as people start to think about Christmas and the New Year, my wish for us all is that we act responsibly and stand up for each other.”
Angela Merkel, Chancellor, Germany
Friday, November 28
“To every American, this is the moment to protect yourself and your family…If your family traveled, you have to assume that you were exposed and you became infected, and you really need to get tested in the next week.”
Ambassador Deborah Birx, Director, White House Coronavirus Taskforce
Saturday, November 29
“If we can hang together as a country and…blunt these surges until we get a substantial proportion of the population vaccinated, we can get through this.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease
Sunday, November 30
“World AIDS Day 2020 will be like no other. COVID-19 is threatening the progress that the world has made in health and development over the past 20 years, including the gains we have made against HIV. Like all epidemics, it is widening the inequalities that already existed.”
Winnie Byanyima, Director, UNAIDS
Tuesday, December 1
“If you’re offered a vaccine, it’s not just for you…You’re a tree in the forest. If you don’t burn down, the rest of the forest doesn’t burn down. Your responsibility in this is not just to yourself, it’s to your community.”
Dr. Mike Ryan, Director, World Health Organization Emergencies Program
Wednesday, December 2
What We’re Reading
- COVID-19 Is Causing Health Spending to Go Down – Drew Altman, Kaiser Family Foundation
- Sorry to Burst Your Quarantine Bubble – Rachel Gutman, The Atlantic
- The Race to Make Vials for Coronavirus Vaccines – Christopher Payne, The New Yorker
- Health Workers, Long-Term Care Facilities Should Get COVID-19 Vaccine First, CDC Advisory Panel Says – Helen Branswell, STAT News
- How Risk of Exposure to the Coronavirus at Work Varies by Race and Ethnicity and How to Protect the Health and Well-Being of Workers and Their Families – Lisa Dubay, Joshua Aarons, Steven Brown, and Genevieve M. Kenney, The Urban Institute
- COVID Combat Fatigue: ‘I Would Come Home with Tears in My Eyes’ – Katherine J. Wu, The New York Times
Reports from International Governments and Bodies
- WHO COVID-19 Information and Guidance
- WHO Weekly Epidemiological Update: December 1
- WHO Weekly Operational Update: November 30
- CDC Coronavirus Resource Page
- COVID-19 Health Systems Response Monitor
- NCD Alliance COVID resources relevant to NCDs
Funding and Policy Trackers
- International Monetary Fund Policy Tracker
- Kaiser Family Foundation Coronavirus Policy Tracker
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Corporate Aid Tracker
- Devex Interactive Funding Tracker
Resource Pages and Market Research Literature
- JAMA Resource Center
- The Lancet COVID-19 Resource Centre
- 2019 Novel Coronavirus Research Compendium (NCRC)
- National Academy of Medicine COVID-19 News and Resources
- WIPO COVID-19 IP Policy Tracker
- The COVID Tracking Project
- PharmaIntelligence: Coronavirus – What will the Impact Be?
- Health Affairs Resource Center
- STAT News COVID-19 Tracker
- Global Health NOW’s COVID-19 Expert Reality Check
- International Association of National Public Health Institutes COVID-19 Resources
- Center for Strategic and International Studies The Reopening and Take as Directed Coronavirus Crisis Update Podcast
- Primary Health Care Performance Initiative Forum
- U.S. Global Leadership Coalition COVID-19 Issue Briefs
- Prevent Epidemics Weekly Science Review
- COVID-19 Watch Weekly Updates
For more information or should you have any questions, please contact us.
We welcome feedback from our readers. Please send comments or suggestions of items to cover in future COVID-19 briefings.
About Rabin Martin
Rabin Martin is a global health strategy firm working at the intersection of private sector capabilities and unmet public health needs. Rooted in our mission to improve health for underserved populations, we design strategies, programs and partnerships that both deliver public health impact and drive business results. We leverage our deep knowledge and networks across a wide range of geographies and health areas to develop tailored solutions for every client engagement. We have helped many clients create bold global health initiatives and innovative multi-sector partnerships. Our specific areas of expertise include infectious disease and vaccines, non-communicable diseases, rare diseases, maternal and child health, and universal health coverage. Our clients and partners include multinational health care companies, multilateral institutions, government agencies, large foundations and leading NGOs. Rabin Martin is part of the Omnicom Public Relations Group.
About Omnicom Public Relations Group
Omnicom Public Relations Group is a global collective of three of the top global public relations agencies worldwide and eight specialist agencies in public affairs, marketing to women, fashion, global health strategy and corporate social responsibility. It encompasses more than 6,000 public relations professionals in more than 330 offices worldwide who provide their expertise to companies, government agencies, NGOs and nonprofits across a wide range of industries. Omnicom Public Relations Group delivers for clients through a relentless focus on talent, continuous pursuit of innovation and a culture steeped in collaboration. Omnicom Public Relations Group is part of the DAS Group of Companies, a division of Omnicom Group Inc. that includes more than 200 companies in a wide range of marketing disciplines including advertising, public relations, healthcare, customer relationship management, events, promotional marketing, branding and research.