The COVID-19 pandemic has required an unprecedented “all hands on deck” approach to combat the virus’s impact on communities across the globe. As scientists and researchers work tirelessly to speed the development of safe and effective vaccines and treatments, health care providers are dedicating themselves to save the lives of those infected. And as policymakers debate legislation to maintain the safety of their constituents, essential service employees are working around the clock to ensure shelves remain stocked, packages get delivered and streets are cleaned. We are seeing extraordinary cooperation where everyone is doing their part – both on the frontlines and behind the scenes, individually and collectively.
During times of crisis, nonprofit organizations often step in to fill gaps in meeting urgent health and social needs. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have been indispensable in the fight against COVID-19, working to keep families from going hungry, coordinating delivery of medicines and supplies to low-income families, providing mental health services and protecting individuals and families facing domestic violence.
The business community, government agencies and philanthropic organizations have all recognized the critical role of NGOs in delivering essential services, including reaching populations at “the last mile.” On Friday, May 8, the European Commission established a “Humanitarian Air Bridge” to transport humanitarian staff, including from NGOs, and emergency supplies to support the COVID-19 response in hard-hit regions. Private companies across industries are channeling both financial and in-kind donations to a wide array of global and local NGOs.
This week’s issue of Rabin Martin’s COVID-19 Briefing spotlights the critical work of NGOs during times of crisis and beyond. The public and private sectors must ensure that NGOs are well-resourced so that they can, in turn, support people in need. Read more of Rabin Martin’s COVID-19 briefings here.
Tuesday, May 19, 2020
9:00AM-10:00AM EDTRabin Martin is pleased to participate in this year’s virtual World Health Assembly convening. Rabin Martin CEO Dr. Jeffrey L. Sturchio will join renowned global health expert and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Laurie Garrett in a conversation about the urgent need for global health leadership to address the rapidly evolving COVID-19 crisis.Questions are mounting about the feasibility of global unity in the face of the pandemic. Garrett will offer her perspectives on our collective failure to invest in pandemic preparedness and the difficulties in coordinating an equitable and evidence-based response. We hope you will join us for what promises to be a fascinating conversation.
NGOs: A Critical Force in the Pandemic Response
On Friday, May 8, Rabin Martin CEO Jeff Sturchio participated in a virtual conversation organized by Changing Our World and the One Hundred. With leaders from the United Nations Global Compact and International Rescue Committee (IRC), a global humanitarian NGO, Dr. Sturchio discussed the need for collaboration across sectors to ensure the success of the COVID-19 global response.
Among other activities, IRC is working to provide essential care services to refugees and displaced people; disseminating best practices and teachings around good hygiene practices; training health care workers on using PPE; and building health capacity of local organizations to amplify their impact. “The Coronavirus is not just a
problem for rich countries: we are only as strong as our weakest health system,” said David Miliband, CEO and President of IRC. Countless NGOs like IRC are doing incredible work to support communities affected by COVID-19 – from delivering lifesaving supplies to providing patient care. Here are some examples.
In-depth Look: Save the Children International
While children have been remarkably resilient to COVID-19 infection, they are by no means immune from the global effects of the pandemic. As one of few NGOs directly focused on responding to the needs of children in emergencies, Save the Children International was uniquely poised to offer expert guidance and resources to support children during this difficult time. From previous experience during the 2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, Save the Children recognizes how quarantines and school closures can depress the mental health and psychosocial wellbeing of children. As an estimated 1.5 billion children are unable to go to school, Save the Children has developed tips and weekly learning activities to protect the mental health and emotional and educational growth of young children.
Children in conflict zones and refugee camps are especially vulnerable to the secondary effects of the COVID-19 crisis. Such children often have no options for remote learning and do not have the space to practice social distancing to maintain their health. Save the Children is working to continue humanitarian efforts to reach the most vulnerable children affected by the conflict and economic turmoil in countries like Yemen, Syria and Venezuela.
In-depth Look: Direct Relief
Formed in the aftermath of World War II, Direct Relief has been helping people in moments of crisis for over 60 years. Now Direct Relief is using its expertise and relationships to help provide much-needed personal protective equipment (PPE), supplies and resources to health care providers on the frontlines.
While responding to the initial COVID-19 outbreak in China, Direct Relief made the prescient decision to begin stockpiling PPE and necessary medications for the eventual arrival of the virus in the U.S. The organization has been working with the American Hospital Association and public health agencies to coordinate distribution of their supplies to areas of greatest need. Since late January, Direct Relief has provided over 10,000 shipments of PPE, oxygen concentrators, ventilators and more than 40 million doses of medicine to 63 countries.
When asked how Direct Relief will steer their COVID-19 response moving forward, CEO Thomas Tighe pointed to the importance of collecting and analyzing data from their earlier actions: “I think each piece of the response has informed the next one.”
In-depth Look: International Medical Corps
International Medical Corps (IMC) has provided emergency medical relief and assistance for more than 35 years. The organization was quick to launch a U.S. COVID-19 response, deploying the first batch of supplies, staff and equipment to Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital in Los Angeles the day after Governor Gavin Newsom issued a stay-at-home order for the state of California.
Since then, IMC has led a multi-pronged approach using data to identify high-risk regions, strategically providing resources and staff to relieve the immediate burden on the health system and build institutional capacity to support self-sufficiency.
Private Sector Insights on Global Health Security
On Wednesday, May 13, Rabin Martin, as the Secretariat for the Private Sector Roundtable for Global Health Security (PSRT), hosted a twelfth call in a series on the latest health impacts of COVID-19. The call featured speakers from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Health Security Preparedness Department. Ludy Suryantoro, Head of Unit, Multisectoral Engagement for Health Security, and Marc Ho, Technical Officer, discussed the imperative for urban preparedness and the need to build country capacity to prevent, prepare, respond and recover from COVID-19 and other health emergencies.
Suryantoro began by noting longstanding efforts to align national and local governments in response to health emergencies. Historically, public health crises have forced national and sub-national decision makers to come together to tackle key challenges, from the need to prioritize vaccine recipients for H1N1 to navigating concerns about convening non-traditional stakeholders during the Ebola outbreak and managing the military’s presence in favelas as part of the Zika crisis.
He reported that Dr. Tedros has emphasized the need to work proactively with cities – acknowledging that by 2030, more people will live in cities than rural areas – and added that urban settings have and will continue to play an increasingly important role in health emergencies. Suryantoro added: “There is a serious need for local authorities to engage with national authorities to ensure cities are protected but also ensure that cities are prepared.”
Ho described how cities have been coping with the current pandemic, noting that the WHO has developed interim guidance for local authorities to improve preparedness, readiness and response. Many cities remain at risk of high infection rates and mortality because their settings facilitate rapid disease spread, including multiple points of entry (land, sea and air); large numbers of people traveling to cities for tertiary care; high population density; public transport that enables intra-city travel; infrastructure where people congregate, such as sports stadiums and museums; overcrowded living conditions; and substandard housing. Further, certain urban populations are more vulnerable to COVID-19, especially those living in informal settlements where clean water and good sanitation may not be readily available.
He provided examples of how cities and countries are experiencing COVID-19 differently, noting that in the U.S., nursing homes have been hot spots, but in Singapore, the country is finding outbreaks in worker dormitories, and in other regions there have been challenges in slum settings where hand washing is not the norm. In spite of these differences, he explained that, for the most part, cities across the world are facing similar problems and that WHO is seeking to share these experiences to provide learnings, especially in how to address the needs of vulnerable subpopulations.
While he commented that the WHO is not trying to be prescriptive, he said that they are providing guidance to cities on developing a strong approach to respond to health emergencies, including what to look out for – such as migration and mobility, mental health issues and impact on livelihoods.
Suryantoro described a new initiative – Global Cities Network for Health Security – to make sure cities and countries are protected. The network will serve as a platform for documentation, learning and sharing, with mayors and local authorities driving implementation, recognizing that responding to a pandemic often rests with the local leaders. He noted, “There are SOPs for situations like 9/11 but not for pandemics – and this needs to change. COVID-19 has taught us that this change needs to happen at the city level.”
The epidemic in the U.S. is far from over, with 1,395,265 reported cases. Though transmission is slowing and even declining in densely populated areas like New York City and New Orleans, cases are rising in the majority of the country. In response to intense political pressure – and, in some cases, threats of and acts of violence – 41 states have begun to relax social distancing measures, leading many public health experts to predict that the U.S. will soon see hotspots spiking across the nation.
Analysis of new cases signals the epidemic is not slowing at a national level (New York Times)
In congressional testimony on Tuesday, May 12, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, warned that should the U.S. not enhance its testing, contact tracing, isolation and social distancing practices, a second wave would “have the deleterious consequence of more infections and more deaths.” Researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health estimated that areas will experience rebounds of new cases and deaths two to four weeks after states begin to reopen.
Anthony Fauci, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease
As more regions of the U.S. consider reopening, decisionmakers should look to countries such as China, South Korea and Germany. Initially, these countries were praised for their ability to stop the spread of the virus, but in recent weeks as restrictions have lifted and citizens have returned to their daily activities, each country has seen a spike in cases. Economic experts from the IMF warn reopening too quickly could erase the gains made in controlling transmission, resulting in a more sustained epidemic and greater human and economic costs.
Others warn of a more insidious “third wave” of COVID-19 deaths that arise from patients delaying care for other illnesses. In the early weeks of the pandemic, over-burdened health systems could not treat those needing non-COVID-19 emergency care, resulting in thousands of preventable deaths. While epidemic control measures have reduced the burden on health systems, allowing them to provide more routine care, patients continue to stay away. This third wave of deaths will include patients who did not receive care because they feared for their safety – not because of a lack of health care capacity. The full impact of this third wave may not be seen for many months, but early data suggest it will be significant.
Scott Gottleib, former commissioner, FDAFollowing the emergency use authorization for remdesivir granted by the U.S. FDA on May 1, Gilead has struggled to figure out how to meet the demand for the new drug given current limited supplies and scarcity of the active pharmaceutical ingredient. In the FDA approval letter, the agency signaled the government’s intent to control the existing stock and to oversee its distribution. Since then, distribution has been uneven and, at times, illogical. While Massachusetts General Hospital was treating close to 400 COVID-19 patients when it was selected to receive an allocation of remdesivir, Melrose-Wakefield Hospital, another institution to receive the drug, was treating only 52 patients. At the same time, other hospitals in the Boston area each treating more than 200 patients were not set to receive any doses.On Tuesday, May 12, Gilead signed nonexclusive licensing agreements with five generic drug manufacturers to increase production of remdesivir. The five companies, Cipla, Mylan, Ferozsons Laboratories, Hetero Labs and Jubilant Lifesciences will supply generic versions of remdesivir to 127 countries, mostly low- and middle-income countries. The agreements allow the companies to produce remdesivir without paying Gilead royalties for the duration of the WHO-declared health emergency, or until another effective COVID-19 therapeutic is found.
The outlook for hydroxychloroquine dimmed even more last week when a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine showed no statistically significant patient improvement following hydroxychloroquine administration. The retrospective, observational study reviewed outcomes from 1,446 consecutive patients at New York-Presbyterian Hospital – Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City. While presenting disappointing findings, the authors called for randomized controlled trials to understand further the role of hydroxychloroquine in COVID-19 recovery.
Interest in remdesivir’s clinical application remains high as the National Institutes of Health launched the second iteration of the Adaptive COVID-19 Treatment Trial on Friday, May 8. The study will pair Gilead’s remdesivir with Lilly’s rheumatoid arthritis drug Olumiant to observe the combination therapy’s effect on outcomes in critically ill patients. The trial seeks to enroll more than 1,000 patients to examine the safety and efficacy of the paired combination.
In recent weeks, BioNTech and Pfizer have initiated Phase I/II clinical trials of their co-developed vaccine candidate in Germany and the U.S. Pfizer announced on Friday, May 8, that it is preparing for large-scale manufacturing of the vaccine, should it prove safe and effective, by shifting more routine medical production to contractors. The shift would allow Pfizer to devote more production capacity to its COVID-19 vaccine while maintaining the supply chain integrity for its other products.
On Monday, May 11, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations awarded its largest grant to date: $384 million to fund research into Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate. Novavax plans to use the grant to fund its research through Phase II trials (results from Phase I are expected in July) and to scale-up its manufacturing capacity. The company aims to produce 100 million doses of its vaccine by the end of 2020.
From the Experts
“We’re not reopening based on science. We’re reopening based on politics, ideology and public pressure. And I think it’s going to end badly.”
Thomas Frieden, former director, CDC
Monday, May 11
“If we skip over the checkpoints in the guidelines to ‘Open America Again,’ then we risk the danger of multiple outbreaks throughout the country. This will not only result in needless suffering and death, but would actually set us back on our quest to return to normal.”
Anthony Fauci, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Monday, May 11
“It’s 36 months at best before we can all feel that we’ve got this virus licked.”
Laurie Garrett, author,
The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance
Monday, May 11
“[Interruptions to HIV care] could effectively set the clock back by more than a decade to 2008, when more than 950,000 AIDS deaths were observed in the region. Only together can we get through this pandemic. In national unity and global solidarity.”
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus, Director-General, WHO
Monday, May 11
“The dance to defeat COVID-19 ultimately must be a global production.”
Jamie Bay Nishi, Director, Global Health Technologies Coalition
Tuesday, May 12
Reports from International Governments and Bodies
- WHO COVID-19 Information and Guidance
- WHO Situation Reports, May 11, May 12, May 13
- 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
- ‘Finally, a virus got me.’ Scientist who fought Ebola and HIV reflects on facing death from COVID-19 – Dirk Draulans, Science
- COVID-19 and Health Equity — Serving the Underserved, Poorly Served, and Never Served – Stephanie Miceli, The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
- Experts Warn Coronavirus Will Divert Resources from Killer Diseases – Andrew Jack and Neil Munshi, Financial Times
- Emerging from the Great Lockdown in Asia and Europe – Changyong Rhee and Poul Thomsen, International Monetary Fund Blog
- Even Finding a COVID-19 Vaccine Won’t Be Enough to End the Pandemic – Christopher Rowland, Carolyn Johnson and William Wan, The Washington Post
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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.