Roxane Gay, New York Times
Today we are fighting dual epidemics of COVID-19 and racism. Protests against recent acts of police brutality continue across the U.S. and around the globe. The murder of George Floyd on Monday, May 25, has sparked mass outrage at the failings of a justice system that does not consistently protect black Americans. Violence has been considered a public health issue in the U.S. for decades and now policy brutality is being called a public health crisis. According to Maimuna Majumder, a Harvard epidemiologist, “The same broad-sweeping structural racism that enables police brutality against black Americans is also responsible for higher mortality among black Americans with COVID-19.”
An effective and equitable response to COVID-19 will not be possible without a concerted effort to address the societal factors and systemic racism that are responsible for vast health inequities. Read Rabin Martin’s statement on the need to ensure equity here.
Peaceful demonstrations are a valuable public health tool in drawing attention to policies and practices that affect health and wellbeing. But they do not come without risks, particularly during a pandemic. Patrice Harris, President, American Medical Association, asserted, “In any season, police violence is an injustice, but its harm is elevated amidst the remarkable stress people are facing amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Public health experts fear that the current protests, along with recent demonstrations against lockdown and subsequent economic re-openings, will spur another wave of the COVID-19 outbreak. Social distancing is difficult to practice when protesters stand together in solidarity in groups of thousands. Law enforcement has exacerbated the situation in some places as officers block-off space, crowding protestors into physical contact with one another. With multiple factors compounding risk for the public, the need for a vaccine is even more urgent.
With the issue of equity front and center in today’s political discourse, calls for ensuring broad access to a vaccine and other COVID-19 related technologies are growing louder. On Friday, May 29, WHO launched the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP), with support from 37 countries. C-TAP promotes knowledge-sharing, including of intellectual property, to ensure widespread affordability and availability of products to counter the pandemic.
Nevertheless, questions remain around the availability and accessibility of a vaccine and whether people will be willing to get vaccinated voluntarily. This week’s edition of Rabin Martin’s COVID-19 Briefing focuses on the tensions and promise of a potential COVID-19 vaccine. What will it take to ensure the speedy development of a safe vaccine? How will it reach those who need it most? Please find our earlier COVID-19 Briefings here.
Global COVID-19 Cases (Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering)
Spotlight on Vaccines
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, WHO
Latest COVID-19 Vaccine Developments
Several public-private partnerships have emerged in response to the pandemic with many focused on combining resources and technologies to develop and manufacture a vaccine. As of Thursday, June 4, there are over 100 COVID-19 vaccine candidates in development globally. Of these, 10 are currently in clinical trials, with earliest data from phase 3 studies expected at the end of summer.
On Thursday, June 4, the U.K. government hosted (virtually) the third donor pledging conference for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. The Global Vaccine Summit sought to mobilize $7.4 billion in funding for 2021-2025 to ensure access to vaccines for people around the world, particularly children in low- and middle-income countries. By the end of the summit, Gavi had surpassed its goal, raising $8.8 billion from governments, private sector partners, and institutional donors. Notable donors include, but are not limited to, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UN member states, and non-traditional supporters such as TikTok.
Seth Berkley, CEO, Gavi
Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, has called on global entities to ensure any COVID-19 related technology, particularly a vaccine, is accessible to all people regardless of income. Gavi is expected to play a key mediator role in the distribution of a potential COVID-19 vaccine. The organization today launched the Gavi Advance Market Commitment for COVID-19 Vaccines (Gavi Covax AMC) – a new global financing mechanism developed by McKinsey & Company with stakeholders including the World Bank, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and WHO. The AMC aims to incentivize vaccine manufacturers to produce sufficient quantities of eventual COVID-19 vaccines by providing volume guarantees. AstraZeneca became the first vaccine manufacturer to sign an agreement with the AMC, pledging to provide 300 million doses of the vaccine candidate it is co-developing with the University of Oxford. “We are working tirelessly to honor our commitment to ensure broad and equitable access to Oxford’s vaccine across the globe and at no profit,” AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said at the launch.
While we are still months away from a COVID-19 vaccine, concerns are starting to emerge around the public’s willingness to use a vaccine once one becomes available. Paradoxically, the record pace at which industry is working to develop a vaccine is causing fear about potential safety. A Reuters/Ipsos poll of 4,428 adults found that a quarter of Americans are hesitant about a vaccine, with 40 percent believing that a vaccine is potentially more risky than COVID-19 itself.
The “anti-vax” movement continues to be well-organized, with an active social media presence and high-profile figures questioning the safety and efficacy of vaccines in public discourse. “The extremists, the belief-driven groups who reject vaccination on principle, whose aim is to disrupt and polarize, they’re not changing, in fact they’re capitalizing,” said Heidi Larson, Professor of Anthropology, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Director of the Vaccine Confidence Project. The Vaccine Confidence Project is launching a large-scale study with partners to conduct national polls and monitor public sentiment around the pandemic in efforts to guide public engagement strategies to ensure uptake of a future COVID-19 vaccine.
Anthony Fauci, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), commenting on the prospects for developing a vaccine by year’s end
The rapid evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic has spurred changes to biomedical research and development that have allowed innovation to progress at unparalleled speed. While not without hiccups, the FDA’s response has expedited the review and authorization process for treatments and vaccines. This week, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn promised to formalize such changes into normal practice after the pandemic. “I am committed to making sure that some of the lessons learned from managing this pandemic will lead to permanent improvements at the FDA in processes and policies,” Hahn said. Critics remain mixed as to whether these changes are in fact improvements or detriments to the FDA.
The transformations in FDA processes align with the Trump administration’s “Operation Warp Speed” to accelerate development of a viable vaccine. On Wednesday, June 3, the White House selected five companies as finalists in producing a vaccine: Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co., Inc., Moderna, Pfizer, and the AstraZeneca-Oxford University collaboration. Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, and AstraZeneca -Oxford University have already received billions in funding from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), and all five companies are expected to receive additional funds to further expedite research and production.
From the Experts
“Racism attacks people’s physical and mental health. It’s an ongoing public health crisis that needs our attention now.”
Georges Benjamin, Executive Director, American Public Health Association
Friday, May 29
“We are now facing two storms in this country—the pandemic and the civil unrest. Those storms won’t be here forever, they will pass. And then the question is ‘Are we going to rebuild this country together? Are we going to go our separate ways again as we have in the past?’”
Kenneth C. Frazier, CEO and Chairman of the Board, Merck & Co., Inc.
Monday, June 1
“By the beginning of 2021, we hope to have a couple hundred million doses [of a vaccine].”
Anthony Fauci, Director, NIAID
Tuesday, June 2
“None of us can be lulled into this false sense of security that the cases may go down this summer.”
Deborah Birx, Coordinator, White House Coronavirus Response
Tuesday, June 2
“The situation we face is dire, but not hopeless – as long as our approach to defeating the virus is based on solidarity. We must work together, share resources, and apply the proven strategies we have learned along the way. This is our way out.”
Carissa Etienne, Director, Pan American Health Organization
Tuesday, June 2
“The appalling impact of COVID-19 on racial and ethnic minorities is much discussed, but what is less clear is how much is being done to address it. Urgent steps need to be taken.”
Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner on Human Rights
Tuesday, June 2
Reports from International Governments and Bodies
- WHO COVID-19 Information and Guidance
- WHO Situation Reports, June 1, June 2, June 3
- 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 Preparedness Tool
- International Association of National Public Health Institutes COVID-19 Resources
- Primary Health Care Performance Initiative Forum
- U.S. Global Leadership Coalition COVID-19 Issue Briefs
- Prevent Epidemics Weekly Science Review
What We’re Reading
- Police Brutality is a Public Health Crisis – Brian Resnick, Vox
- Two Crises Convulse a Nation: A Pandemic and Police Violence – Jack Healy and Dionne Searcey, The New York Times
- Decolonising COVID-19: Delaying External Debt Repayments – Mishal Khan and Sarah Shanks, The Lancet
- The Protests Will Spread the Coronavirus – Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic
- Trump Scapegoats China and WHO—and Americans Will Suffer – Laurie Garrett, Foreign Policy
- Antibody Tests Were Hailed As Way To End Lockdowns. Instead, They Cause Confusion – Christie Aschwanden, Kaiser Health News
- Latin America Carries Rising Burden of Global COVID-19 Cases – Lisa Schnirring, CIDRAP
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.