The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. Despite the growing availability of vaccines in more countries and communities around the world, we are hitting several grim milestones. On Saturday, April 17, the world surpassed a reported three million deaths due to COVID-19 – likely a gross underestimate, according to experts. And just this week, India reported one million COVID-19 infections over three days, smashing records of reported daily cases.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the world is “approaching the highest rate of infection” so far in the pandemic, and that several countries are facing “a severe crisis, with high transmission and intensive care units overflowing with patients and running short on essential supplies, like oxygen.” The race against COVID-19 variants – soaring in many parts of the world – continues as the global community struggles to manage the devastating health, social, and economic impact of the pandemic.
On a more hopeful note, the number of people globally who have received a COVID-19 vaccine has now passed one billion. But vaccine distribution remains uneven, with some higher income countries like the U.K. fully vaccinating over 20 percent of its population while El Salvador has fully vaccinated less than 1 percent of its population.
In the face of many challenges, our clients are adapting to a new normal as they strive to meet the needs of patients and address inequities in health care. This week, in addition to our regular update on COVID-19, we are pleased to provide highlights from our clients and our team. Please click here for earlier issues of our COVID-19 Briefings.
Globally, 1,109,978,082 vaccines have been administered. The U.S. continues to make progress with mass vaccination campaigns: over 43 percent of the total population and over 82 percent of those 65 and older have received at least one dose.
With 43 percent of the U.S. adult population having received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced new recommendations for mask wearing on Tuesday, April 27. The new guidance states that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask outdoors, except in crowded settings.
In contrast, the situation is growing more distressing in other parts of the world, most notably India. Over the past few weeks, India has experienced a devasting surge of COVID-19 cases. The country accounted for 38 percent of global cases reported the week of April 18-25. As of Tuesday, April 27, more than 300,000 new infections were recorded for nine days in a row, with 357,000 new infections reported that day – breaking a record set only days before. Public health experts worry that if left unchecked, India’s epidemic could lead to over 2,300 deaths per day by the first week of June.
The rapid escalation of COVID-19 cases has left the country’s health system struggling to support the many patients requiring care or hospitalization. India is now facing a critical oxygen shortage, with reports of families using social media to try to secure oxygen for home administration, often at an inflated cost. In the capital, Delhi, where test positivity rates remain dangerously high (over 30 percent) over the past week, the city extended its lockdown until Monday, May 3.
Governments and pharmaceutical companies are stepping up to help the country respond. In Europe, the U.K. and E.U. members are sending respiratory devices, including 495 oxygen concentrators, which can extract oxygen from the air when hospitals run out of compressed oxygen canisters. The U.S. has pledged to send supplies and other assistance to India, beginning with 10 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the coming weeks, as well as raw materials to ramp up local production. The U.S. has stated it will share up to 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine globally, which has yet to be authorized for use in the U.S., and India hopes to receive a large share.
On Monday, April 26, Gilead announced its plans to donate at least 450,000 vials of remdesivir for COVID-19 treatment to India. The company will also donate the active ingredients and work with its voluntary licensing partners to scale up local manufacturing of remdesivir. Similarly, Merck & Co., Inc. announced on Tuesday, April 27 that it had entered into voluntary licensing agreements with five Indian generic pharmaceutical manufacturers to produce molnupiravir, an antiviral treatment for non-hospitalized patients with COVID-19; the company is co-developing the drug with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and it is currently being studied in a Phase 3 trial. Merck is also donating more than $5 million worth of oxygen-production equipment, PPE, and other supplies as well as financial assistance to support India’s response.
Global pandemic spread (Johns Hopkins University)
Reimagining the Delivery of Healthcare
This week, I had the privilege of participating in the Partnership for Quality Medical Donations’ (PQMD) annual Global Health Policy Forum. On Tuesday, April 27, I delivered the keynote speech on the topic, “Aligning Business Purpose with NGO Access and Impact: Driving Sustainable Access to Quality Healthcare.” As I sat down to draft my remarks, I reflected on how healthcare and medicine have been irrevocably transformed over the course of just one year.
On the second day of the Forum, these views were explored in a panel I moderated with Dr. Mel Spigelman, CEO, TB Alliance, and Martin Edlund, CEO, Malaria No More, “Innovation: How Technology Can Increase Access to Quality Healthcare.” Our discussion centered on how innovative technologies are emerging in spite of, and, perhaps, as the result of, the COVID-19 pandemic. Innovative research has contributed to the possible development of a malaria vaccine, and there are new developments for the treatment of TB. Yet, COVID-19 has slowed momentum and reduced resources to target these ancient killers. Both panelists underscored the need for ongoing commitment to innovation, and the continuing need to invest in other diseases.
Merck for Mothers Expands Safer Childbirth Cities Initiative during Black Maternal Health Week
As part of National Minority Health Month, the week of April 11-17 marked the fourth annual Black Maternal Health Week – a week to bring awareness, activism, and community-building to improve maternal health outcomes for Black mothers in the U.S. Merck for Mothers is a sponsor of Black Maternal Health Week, recognizing the need to deepen and advance collective action to end maternal mortality and reduce stark racial disparities in maternal health.
On Wednesday, April 14, Merck for Mothers announced support of the 20th city participating in its Safer Childbirth Cities initiative. This newest grant to the Austin Community Foundation aims to address the social determinants of health that contribute to poor maternal health outcomes in Austin, Texas. “Black Maternal Health Week is an important reminder that to address the alarming reality of the U.S being the only developed nation with maternal mortality rates on the rise, we need to directly tackle racial disparities in all of our solutions,” said Dr. Mary-Ann Etiebet, Lead, Merck for Mothers. Rabin Martin has provided strategic counsel to Merck for Mothers since the initiative’s inception.
MSD Explores the Future of Oncology Policy with the London School of Economics
Last month, the London School of Economics (LSE) published a report, “MSD Global Oncology Policy 2019 Grants Program: Report of the Inaugural Forum,” summarizing research findings and highlights of a Forum hosted by LSE and MSD in December 2020. The Forum helped disseminate insights from the first cohort of academic researchers from around the world who received independent grants to generate evidence and initiate dialogues on cancer policy and financing-related issues to improve outcomes for patients globally. The meeting stimulated discussions around policy decisions that affect cancer patients. The Forum’s attendees agreed on the need to prioritize government investment in cancer care, find opportunities to improve access to preventive services and treatment, and reduce structural inequalities in access to treatment. Rabin Martin provides strategic support for the MSD Global Oncology Policy team.
Embedding Health Equity and DE&I into How we Work
As a learning organization, we are committed to fostering our team’s curiosity and problem-solving capabilities through our “Works in Progress” sessions – collaborative staff-wide meetings to discuss common challenges and uncover creative solutions. On Tuesday, April 20, the Works in Progress team joined forces with Rabin Martin’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) team to examine a key issue – health equity.
In this special session, we dove into an exciting challenge: “What are the questions and considerations we should ask our clients to ensure they use a DE&I/health equity lens in all of their work?” The pandemic has exposed the need to develop and implement actionable solutions that address inequities pervading healthcare systems around the world. Through exploration of an actual client case study, we identified potential approaches to build our clients’ understanding of health equity and why it’s critical to their business and help them create solutions to address disparities in a sustainable way.
“Health Equity by Design”: A Conversation Moderated by Robert L. Mallett
On Wednesday, April 14, Rabin Martin CEO Robert Mallett participated in the Forging Forward Virtual Summit, hosted by the ONE HUNDRED and Changing Our World. Robert moderated a cross-sector panel, “Health Equity by Design,” which featured Dr. Judith Salerno (top), President, New York Academy of Medicine, and Dr. Patricia Doykos (bottom), Lead, Health Equity Initiative and Director, BMS Foundation.
The panelists detailed their organizations’ commitments and journeys to embedding equity across their operations and signaled the urgent need to address health inequities now, particularly given the COVID-19 pandemic. Both Dr. Salerno and Dr. Doykos pointed out that this is a process that requires us all to “listen and learn,” with a focus on truly understanding the needs of underserved populations and why the system has failed them: “Why have we made it so that the system is not trusted by communities of color?” asked Dr. Salerno. Dr. Doykos asserted that in order to truly make an impact, we must focus on working with partners and uncovering innovative solutions: “Who are the front-edge doers and thinkers?” Watch the session here.
Jeff Sturchio Speaks with the Business Council for International Understanding on COVID-19 Vaccination
The keynote address was given by Dr. Richard Hatchett, CEO of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation. Dr. Hatchett provided a compelling overview of the contributions that CEPI and its partners are making to the fight against the coronavirus epidemic, especially through COVAX and its efforts to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. Dr. Hatchett noted that distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines is “the most complex medical challenge ever undertaken,” and we’ll need global solidarity and cooperation to meet the goal, since “COVID-19 cannot de defeated by one country at a time.”
Each panelist offered fascinating insights on how their countries and organizations are contributing to the fight about COVID-19; the panel included Mr. Wes Wheeler, President, Healthcare and Life Sciences, UPS; Dr. Emmanuel Ankrah Odame, Director of Policy Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation, Ministry of Health, Ghana; Dr. Mercy Mwangangi, Chief Administrative Secretary, Ministry of Health, Kenya; Dr. Nicaise Ndembi, Senior Science Advisor, Africa CDC; and Dr. Nyambe Sinyanga, Head, Workforce Development, Ministry of Health, Zambia. Ghana is the first country to receive COVID-19 vaccines from COVAX, and Kenya and Zambia have since benefited as well. The Africa CDC is now working on the Partnership for African Vaccine Manufacturing to expand access to vaccines made in Africa, which will support the future response to the coronavirus epidemic. And UPS has already supplied more than 90 countries with COVID-19 vaccines and clinical trial materials, using their global logistics and supply capabilities. Several of the panelists reminded the audience of the importance of “ubuntu” (“I am, because of who we all are”), an African word that captures the need for working together to face the challenge of distributing COVID-19 vaccines to everyone who needs one.
Spotlight on Strategies to Support Employees with Disabilities
On Wednesday, April 28, Forbes published an article by Rabin Martin Director for Human Resources Meg Battle: “How HR Can Support Workers with Hearing Loss.” Sharing her own experience, Meg offered insights and personal anecdotes around how individuals with hearing loss can navigate the workplace.
She provided specific strategies for employers to support their employees with hearing loss: encourage open communication; support use of company benefits; utilize digital tools; and others. Meg issued a call to action: “In a world where communication is key, it is incumbent on organizations to consider how we might better support our colleagues who are living with hearing loss.”
Advancing Female Leadership Across Industries
Last month, Emily Chavez, Senior Associate at Rabin Martin, served as the keynote speaker at an event hosted by Microsoft’s Women in Gaming Community as part of the company’s Women’s History Month celebrations.
In alignment with the United Nation’s International Women’s Day theme, “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world,” Emily shared key insights from her work with client companies that develop vaccines, offered recommendations for addressing critical vaccination issues such as vaccine hesitancy, and answered questions about COVID-19 vaccines. “I think it’s so important for women to be leaders in the tech, science, and medicine fields,” said Emily. “I’m proud to have been able to share my knowledge and technical expertise, and was absolutely inspired by all the talent in the (virtual) room.”
A Commitment to Students: Rebecca Hoppy is “Principal for a Day”
For the second time, Rabin Martin President Rebecca Hoppy participated in PENCIL’s “Principal for a Day” initiative – an annual event that pairs leaders from the business community with New York City public schools, aiming to inspire students and support public education. Rebecca served as a virtual principal at H.E.R.O. High, a specialty high school in the Bronx focusing on Health, Education, and Research Occupations.
Over the course of the morning on Wednesday, April 28, Rebecca had the opportunity to spend time with Principal Kristen Cahill, H.E.R.O. faculty, as well as speak directly with students to hear more about their resilience during this challenging year and hopes and ambitions for the future. H.E.R.O. has an early college and career program focused on careers in healthcare, and Rebecca was thrilled to learn about the tremendous work the students are already delivering for their community and the field. “What an incredibly humbling and valuable experience for me,” said Rebecca. “Hearing the passion, dedication and commitment of Principal Cahill and her team and seeing bright young minds at work was truly inspiring. If this is the next generation of the healthcare workforce, the future of science and medicine is in good hands. Thank you to H.E.R.O. High, its wonderful staff, and its brilliant students for having me!”
Volunteering at COVID-19 Testing Sites in Rochester, NY
Recognizing the urgency to get people tested as quickly as possible for COVID-19, Rabin Martin Senior Associate Megan Bradley has been volunteering at testing sites in Rochester, New York since December. Megan’s responsibilities include registration, data entry, and community education, but her role changes as she jumps in wherever needed. “The hands-on experience has been invaluable,” said Megan.
“Interacting with the public and educating people on the importance of simple preventive measures, like mask wearing and hand washing, has made me feel like I’m contributing to recovery efforts in my community. I applaud all the healthcare workers and support staff who continue to risk their lives every day.”
From the Experts
“To support the recovery from COVID-19 and to fight future pandemics, we will need to ensure routine immunization is prioritized… To do this, we need to work together – across development agencies, governments, and civil society – to ensure that no child is left behind.”
Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance
Monday, April 26
“The bottom line is that preparedness and response systems can save millions of lives and trillions of dollars, but we need to invest. We need to invest money, we need to invest in technical support, we need to invest in strengthening institutions. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make the world a safer place.”
Dr. Tom Frieden, President and CEO, Resolve to Save Lives
Tuesday, April 27
“One of the things that we need to look at is the lack of uniformity of vaccination rates across this country. Where we have low areas of vaccination, we are going to potentially see more outbreaks, which is why we have to be careful and we have to make sure that people get vaccinated in all corners and in all counties.”
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director, U.S. CDC
Tuesday, April 27
“We have to try, looking forward, to get as much equity when it comes to public health issues as we possibly can. Because we’re all in this together. It’s an interconnected world. And there are responsibilities that countries have to each other, particularly if you’re a wealthy country and you’re dealing with countries that don’t have the resources or capabilities that you have.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
“Every single vaccine that is being used in Canada has been approved as safe by Health Canada, and I have tremendous confidence in all vaccines including AstraZeneca. I got the AstraZeneca shot myself last week and didn’t even hesitate.”
Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister, Canada
Wednesday, April 28
“Our region has demonstrated that it can successfully distribute COVID-19 vaccines quickly and effectively. Yet supplies are still far behind… That’s why we urge countries with extra doses to consider donating a significant portion of these to the Americas, where these life-saving doses are desperately needed and will be promptly used.”
Dr. Carissa Etienne, Director, Pan American Health Organization
Wednesday, April 28
What We’re Reading
- Epidemics That Didn’t Happen – Resolve to Save Lives
- The World Needs Many More Coronavirus Vaccines – Editorial Board, The New York Times
- Immunization Services Begin Slow Recovery From COVID-19 Disruptions, Though Millions Of Children Remain At Risk From Deadly Diseases – WHO, UNICEF, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance
- Door Knocking Works to Get Information to Immigrant Communities. Why Aren’t More Places Using It for COVID-19? – Alicia Diaz, STAT News
- I Run the W.H.O., and I Know That Rich Countries Must Make a Choice – Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, The New York Times
- ‘Cannon Fodder’: Medical Students in India Feel Betrayed – Neha Mehrotra and Aniruddha Ghosal, AP News
- In Africa, Vaccine Hesitancy Adds to Slow Rollout Of Doses – Rodney Muhumuza, ABC News
- Time to Say Goodbye to Some Insurers’ Waivers for COVID Treatment Fees – Julie Appleby, Kaiser Health News
Reports from International Governments and Bodies
- WHO COVID-19 Information and Guidance
- WHO Weekly Epidemiological Update: April 27
- WHO Weekly Operational Update: April 26
- 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.
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.