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Dr. Walensky and the Global COVID-19 Response

Global COVID-19 Response
President Joe Biden’s selection of Dr. Rochelle Walensky to run the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will be instrumental in strengthening the agency’s global COVID-19 response moving forward. By strengthening the agency in three key ways, Dr. Walensky will benefit the CDC’s pandemic response both at home and abroad.

3 Ways Dr. Rochelle Walensky Will Benefit COVID-19 Global Response

  1. Dr. Walensky’s previous work improving access to HIV testing brings hope that, under her leadership, the CDC will strengthen the global COVID-19 response by determining effective testing measures and increasing access to testing. Scientists continue to call for increased testing to effectively manage and control the spread of COVID-19 as the number of confirmed cases remains uncertain due to insufficient testing worldwide. Dr. Walensky has received international recognition for prior work on cost-effective HIV testing, care and prevention. Her previous research has emphasized the importance of providing treatment to those living with HIV while also highlighting the need for greater access to HIV testing in order to reduce the spread of the disease. Given Dr. Walensky’s knowledge and experience demonstrating the cost-effectiveness of increased access to HIV testing, expectations have determined that she will similarly advocate for more accurate COVID-19 testing as the head of the CDC.
  2. A study by Dr. Walensky and other researchers demonstrates the need for greater investments in overall vaccine distribution if countries hope to control the spread of the coronavirus through immunization. While Dr. Walensky’s expertise in HIV prevention will prove to be essential as COVID-19 vaccines become available, growing concerns exist regarding vaccine distribution in low-income countries. The wealthiest countries have purchased the two leading COVID-19 vaccines, threatening to delay access to vaccines in poorer nations. This situation could be devastating for developed and developing countries alike, as even countries that achieve herd immunity could be vulnerable to outbreaks if the world’s poorest countries do not bring the virus under control. While the researchers’ research centers on vaccine distribution within the United States, the concerns they present apply to vaccine distribution in developing countries, where proper investments in vaccination campaigns will be necessary to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines to all people. By placing these concerns at the forefront of vaccine distribution, the CDC under Dr. Walensky will benefit the agency’s ability to assist vaccination campaigns internationally.
  3. Dr. Walensky’s colleagues and mentors have praised her for her ability to bring cultural sensitivity to her work, a practice that will endure as she leads the CDC. Her previous work has equipped Dr. Walensky with the experience necessary to provide tailored knowledge and COVID-19 support to developing countries within the respective contexts. With limited COVID-19 funding, the CDC will benefit from Dr. Walensky’s guidance, as she recognizes the importance of addressing underlying factors that contribute to the spread of COVID-19, including poverty and the living conditions of the impoverished. Additionally, others know her for her effective communication within underserved and marginalized communities.  By improving adherence to CDC guidelines in communities that have historically experienced exclusion or mistreatment by Western medical professionals, Dr. Walensky will further benefit the CDC’s response.

Although the CDC has previously lacked in its ability to respond to the pandemic both domestically and internationally, Dr. Walensky’s leadership will benefit the global COVID-19 response by strengthening the agency’s focus on adequately combating the virus globally. Her prior experience and research insights will help shine a light on those at risk of being left behind.

– Emely Recinos
Photo: Flickr