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Pakistan’s vaccination campaignOn July 17, 2021, COVAX gave 1.2 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to Islamabad, Pakistan. These doses are an addition to five million COVID-19 vaccines already delivered to Pakistan by COVAX. By July 17, 2021, Pakistan had fully vaccinated 4.5 million people and partially vaccinated 18 million people. The new batch of vaccines will assist the government of Pakistan’s vaccination campaign, which started in February 2021.

The COVAX Initiative

COVAX, an international coalition led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, WHO, CEPI and UNICEF, aims to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. These organizations have teamed up with manufacturers to secure COVID-19 vaccine doses as well as manage the “freight, logistics and storage” of the vaccines.

Through COVAX, vaccines will be delivered to “92 low- and lower-middle-income countries” as well as “more than 97 upper-middle-income and high-income nations.” With these vaccine equity efforts, COVAX aids more than 80% of the global population. So far, COVAX has assisted Pakistan’s vaccination campaign by supplying 2.4 million doses of AstraZeneca, roughly 100,000 doses of Pfizer and 2.5 million Moderna vaccines to Pakistan.

COVID-19 in Pakistan

Pakistan was seeing slow economic improvement prior to the pandemic with yearly per capita growth averaging just 2%. Since the onset of COVID-19, Pakistan has now surpassed one million COVID-19 cases with more than 24,000 deaths. Furthermore, COVID-19’s impacts have left about 50% of the working class jobless and many of those who retained employment saw their income decrease. Informal and lower-skilled employees were the most impacted by unemployment. Like many countries, poverty has risen in Pakistan, with more than two million people pushed under the international poverty line in 2020. According to the World Bank, poverty incidence increased from 4.4% to 5.4% in the 2020 fiscal year.

Pakistan’s Vaccination Campaign

In the months following the lift of lockdowns in May 2020, Pakistan’s economy had been slowly recovering as the industry and service sectors became more active and production increased. Pakistan’s vaccination campaign is essential to stop the spread of COVID-19 and continue economic progress.

The World Health Organization’s Pakistan representative, Dr. Palitha Mahipala, praised the country’s vaccination campaign. She described the reach of the vaccination effort as a “remarkable achievement.” According to Dr. Mahipala, Pakistan distributes COVID-19 vaccines equitably, reaching citizens in even the most remote areas of Pakistan. Another UNICEF Pakistan representative, Aida Girma, says that the latest delivery of 1.2 million doses comes at a “critical time” as the Pakistani government aims to significantly boost its vaccination campaign to reach a greater portion of the population.

Looking to the Future

According to the World Bank, “the global economy is expected to expand 4% in 2021, assuming an initial COVID-19 vaccine rollout becomes widespread throughout the year.” Furthermore, according to the World Economic Forum, equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines means “10 major economies could be $466 billion better off by 2025.” These projections show that COVID-19 vaccination campaigns support economic recovery, nationally and internationally. With further support, there is hope for the full vaccination of Pakistan’s population in the near future, which will help boost the country’s recovering economy, contributing to overall global economic recovery.

Gene Kang
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

W.T.O Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala On Ending Poverty
On March 1, 2021, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala took office as the director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO). She is the first woman and the first African to hold this office. After experiencing the Nigerian Civil War, she came to the U.S. and studied development economics at Harvard University. She also received her doctorate in regional economics and development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 2003, she served as Nigeria’s finance minister. After a second appointment ending in 2015, she also served as a foreign minister and worked for the World Bank for 25 years, overseeing an $81 billion portfolio. In her newly appointed role, Okonjo-Iweala promises to influence and implement policy in order to restore the global economy.

What is the World Trade Organization?

The World Trade Organization is an international organization that deals with the “rules of trade between nations.” Member governments negotiate trade agreements that are then ratified in their own parliaments. All major decisions are made by the membership as a whole, either by ministers, their ambassadors or delegates.

The WTO plays an important role in reducing global poverty. Studies show that free trade helps impoverished countries “catch up with” developed nations. More than three-quarters of WTO members are developing countries. Every WTO agreement holds particular provisions for these countries, including longer time spans to carry out agreed-upon policies, “measures to increase their trading opportunities” and assistance to support these countries in building the necessary infrastructure to improve their economies. Least-developed countries are often exempt from many provisions.

The WTO also aims to reduce living costs and improve living standards by mitigating the effect of protectionism on consumer costs. This means that products are more affordable for those with a lower income. In addition, lowering such trade barriers stimulates economic growth and employment, creating opportunities for the impoverished to increase their incomes.

Okonjo-Iweala and Poverty

Okonjo-Iweala’s long list of achievements includes many in the realm of poverty reduction. As the minister of finance in Nigeria, she helped Africa’s largest economy “grow an average of 6% a year over three years.” She also helped create “reform programs that improved governmental transparency and stabilizing the economy.”

As the board chair of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, she contributed to ensuring vaccine equity. During her 25-year career at the World Bank, she rose to the second-most prominent position of managing director. Okonjo-Iweala ran for the office of director-general of the WTO with the strong belief that trade has the power to lift people out of poverty.

Okonjo-Iweala is also a supporter of COVAX, aiming to resolve vaccine nationalism. During the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccine nationalism is a problem that disproportionately affects impoverished countries. COVAX is a global vaccination effort launched by Gavi and leading partners to ensure vaccine equity.

In a January 2021 article, Okonjo-Iweala writes that “All manufacturers must step up and make their vaccines available and affordable to COVAX,” in order to ensure equitable and timely vaccine distribution to low-income countries. She also warned against repeating history.

In 2009, a small number of high-income countries bought up most of the global supply of the H1N1 flu vaccine, which left the rest of the world lacking. If history were to repeat itself during the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact on impoverished countries, and the world at large, would be devastating.

Okonjo-Iweala’s Plan

As director-general of the WTO, Okonjo-Iweala’s immediate plans focus on ending the COVID-19 pandemic with vaccines for all. In a statement outlining her vision for the future of the WTO, she says “the WTO can and must play a more forceful role in exercising its monitoring function and encouraging Members to minimize or remove export restrictions and prohibition that hinder supply chains for medical goods and equipment.”

She also says that member nations of the WTO need to adopt a stronger stance in preventing vaccine nationalism and protectionism. International cooperation, in her opinion, is the only way to come up with the vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics needed to put an end to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Okonjo-Iweala has promised to face the economic and health challenges presented by the novel coronavirus head-on. Importantly, she notes that “a strong WTO is vital if we are to recover fully and rapidly from the devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic.” Okonjo-Iweala promises to work in a collaborative effort to “shape and implement the policy responses” necessary to restore the global economy.

Brooklyn Quallen
Photo: Flickr

impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ghana
Ghana’s poverty rate has halved over the past 20 years, but COVID-19 stunted the country’s progress. Amid an economic crisis, many Ghanaian people have lost their jobs, healthcare and education due to the pandemic. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ghana is severe, especially for women and children.

Child Labor is on the Rise

Global child labor decreased by nearly 40% between 2000 and 2020, but COVID-19 forced many children into the workforce. Before the pandemic started, 160 million children participated in child labor. If countries cannot mitigate the economic impacts of COVID-19, around 168.9 million children could be in child labor by the end of 2022. Children in low-income countries like Ghana are particularly at risk of experiencing child labor. Between expansive school closures, increased unemployment and lost family members due to COVID-19, Ghanaian children have become more susceptible to child labor since the pandemic started.

Children and families often turn to child labor because it is the only option available to meet their basic needs. Ghanaian children as young as 8 years old work jobs in industries such as mining, carpentry, fishing and transporting goods to support themselves and their families. Most countries have developed economic relief packages to assist families who are struggling, but it can be challenging for low-income countries to afford adequate social protection programs. The World Bank found that low-income countries, on average, spend only about $6 per capita in response to the pandemic. Adequate social protection programs may be necessary to fully combat the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ghana.

Educational Opportunities are Sparse

Many Ghanaian children have lost their educations since the pandemic started because of school closures or the need to drop out and support their families. At a shortage of proper funding, schools in Ghana struggle to afford food, technology for remote learning and resources for students with disabilities. Food insecurity has increased for students who formerly relied on their schools to provide meals every day. According to a recent study by Innovations for Poverty Action, 72% of Ghanaian children in public schools did not receive their usual daily lunches and 30% said they experienced hunger as a result of their schools closing. Without access to education, Ghanaian children are at risk of hunger and exploitation due to the vast impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ghana.

To combat malnutrition, UNICEF is providing children with micronutrient supplements, such as iron folate, to improve children’s health. The Girls Iron Folate Tablet Supplementation (GIFTS) Programme, which UNICEF helped the Ghana Health Service implement and develop, has reduced anemia in girls from the Northern and Volta Regions of Ghana by 26%. UNICEF is also helping Ghana attain educational resources and create school programs that are inclusive to students with disabilities.

Ghana’s Limited Healthcare

The COVID-19 pandemic has decreased access to healthcare in Ghana, particularly for pregnant women seeking antenatal care. According to UNICEF, many pregnant women did not receive any antenatal care during the pandemic, either because it was unavailable or because they feared contracting COVID-19 at a health facility. Additionally, many children who were supposed to get standard vaccinations when the pandemic broke out did not receive them due to a vaccine shortage and fears of catching COVID-19 at health facilities.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is working with Ghana to make healthcare more accessible, ensuring health facilities are safe and have the resources they need. As the first country to receive the COVAX vaccine in February 2021, Ghana has been on the road to recovery from COVID-19 for several months. The country also received 350,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in May 2021. The Ghanaian government, UNICEF, Gavi and WHO are collaborating to endorse and distribute COVID-19 vaccines, which will help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ghana.

Unemployment and Wage Reductions Skyrocket

According to the World Bank, more than 770,000 Ghanaian workers experienced wage reductions between March and June 2020 because of the pandemic and 42,000 workers experienced layoffs. While some businesses received support from the government, others did not or were unaware that such resources were available. Many businesses had to close at the beginning of the pandemic, which led to long-term financial struggles. The World Bank is working with the Ghanaian government to help businesses overcome damage from the pandemic and gain resilience in preparation for other economic changes. The organization is focused on raising awareness about government support programs like the Coronavirus Alleviation Programme, which protects jobs and benefits small businesses. The World Bank is also working on creating long-term, educational solutions that prepare young people in Ghana to enter the workforce with adaptability, certifications and a wide range of skill sets.

Solutions in the Works

Many organizations are working alongside the Ghanaian government to combat the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ghana. Organizations like UNICEF and Human Rights Watch are actively working to provide Ghana’s impoverished people with the resources needed to survive, including food, water, healthcare and education. The COVID-19 vaccine offers hope that Ghana will recover from the pandemic, opening the door for improvements in healthcare, education and jobs.

Cleo Hudson
Photo: Unsplash

COVID-19 Vaccination in UruguayAt the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Uruguay had some of the lowest infection rates in Latin America. On June 30, 2020, Bloomberg reported that while its bordering country Brazil had 1.34 million total cases, Uruguay had only 932 cases. Now, about a year later, COVID-19 vaccination rates in Uruguay are among the highest in Latin America, with more than four million doses received by citizens.

Impacts of COVID-19 in Uruguay

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Uruguay’s unemployment rates have increased dramatically. In March 2020, more than 86,000 citizens applied for unemployment insurance. Before the pandemic, applications averaged 11,000 per month. A complete vaccination rollout is critical for Uruguay’s citizens to return to work.

Uruguay has already started to reopen businesses, but since only about half of the country has been vaccinated, infections are increasing. In order to avoid another shutdown of the country and another fall in employment, efforts for COVID-19 vaccination in Uruguay need to receive continued support and funding.

Vaccine Success

On June 8, 2021, Uruguay released reports about the success of the Sinovac Biotech vaccine along with more information about the Pfizer vaccine. According to Reuters, Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine was more than 90% successful in preventing intensive hospitalization and death. Further, the vaccine reduced COVID-19 infections by 61%. The Pfizer vaccine was 94% effective in preventing intensive care hospitalization and death and 78% effective in reducing COVID-19 infections.

Increasing COVID-19 Cases in Uruguay

COVID-19 vaccination in Uruguay has been very successful so far, with 52% of the population given at least one dose of either the Sinovac, Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines. Despite this success, Uruguay is also facing a crisis as COVID-19 infections skyrocket.

For several weeks in late May and early June 2021, Uruguay had one of the highest global COVID-19 related death rates per capita. In the last week of May 2021, the small nation of just 3.5 million residents recorded an average of 55 deaths per day. Many experts blame public health guidelines that have become increasingly lax as the pandemic continues. Not enough of the population is vaccinated to support the less restrictive public health measures and Uruguay is now rushing to further increase its vaccination rates.

Global Support

The United States is working with COVAX to improve the vaccine rollout around the world, which might help Uruguay. COVAX is led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, the World Health Organization, Gavi and UNICEF. Its goal is to vaccinate at least 20% of every participating country’s population by the end of 2021. NPR notes that it may not be able to meet this goal due to the global vaccine shortage. Wealthier countries that have already secured enough vaccines for their populations need to step in to help struggling countries with vaccine donations.

Supporting the Global Vaccine Rollout

According to the Stanford Social Innovation Review, there are many ways in which organizations can support the global vaccine rollout. First, it is important that there is a level of trust between citizens and the distributors of the vaccine. Many people are hesitant about vaccines because they do not necessarily trust the intentions of vaccine developers. With trustworthy messengers such as community leaders and trusted organizations working to combat vaccine hesitancy, people may be less reluctant to receive a vaccine.

Second, the delivery of vaccinations requires innovation. A major problem for those in rural and low-income areas is a lack of access. Many cannot travel far to receive a dose, therefore, investing in creative ways to deliver vaccines to remote locations is important. For example, implementing mobile vaccination sites.

Finally, supporting the training of local healthcare workers in contact tracing, COVID-19 education and vaccination means more people will be qualified to address the pandemic. Thus, COVID-19 vaccination in Uruguay can continue long after global organizations leave the area, ensuring efforts are sustainable. With private and public sector groups working together, combating the COVID-19 pandemic and improving global health is not a distant goal.

Jessica Li
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 and poverty in the Democratic Republic of Congo
The intersection of COVID-19 and poverty in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has worsened health and economic crises. In 2019, after years of political dissent, Félix Tshisekedi became president of the DRC. Prior to 2019, the nation had faced human rights violations as the previous president, Joseph Kabila, delayed elections and violently squandered peaceful protests to maintain his power beyond the constitutional two-term limit. Kabila killed hundreds of civilians in his quest to stay in power. Rebel groups have also displaced citizens and targeted healthcare workers for decades. Because of those groups and a new and fragile government, the DRC was particularly vulnerable to both COVID-19 and high poverty rates. Here is some information about the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in the DRC.

COVID-19 and Poverty in the DRC

When the coronavirus first appeared in the DRC, restrictions provided hope that conflicts would pause in the name of public health. However, rather than being able to safely receive necessary medical attention, persisting conflicts displaced at least 300,000 Congolese in Ituri Province. The mass displacement of Congolese made social distancing guidelines difficult to uphold, increasing individuals’ susceptibility to the virus. As of July 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported there have been 43,333 confirmed coronavirus cases and 973 deaths in the DRC since January 2020.

The pandemic reinforced the link between poverty and disease in the DRC. The DRC has the third-largest population of people in poverty globally – an estimated 73% of Congolese lived on less than $1.90 per day in 2018. Furthermore, particularly high numbers of people in the eastern part of the country are battling preexisting conditions ranging from diabetes and high blood pressure to Ebola, putting them at an elevated risk of contracting COVID-19. In a study of 766 COVID-19 cases in the DRC, only 2.6% of patients with mild or moderate health conditions died from the virus, compared with 45% of patients with a severe condition. The DRC’s struggle against other public health issues exacerbates the threat of COVID-19, especially among those living in poverty.

Economic Growth During COVID-19 Pandemic

In addition to the threat of increased COVID-19 cases and deaths, the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in the DRC has thus far been drastic. In 2020, the unemployment rate reached 4.6%, a 10.17% jump from the previous year. As of October 2020, expectations determined that COVID-19 would push approximately 4 million people into poverty by the end of that year.

The DRC’s rate of economic growth fell from 4.4% before the pandemic to 0.8% in 2020. The contribution of extractive industries such as mining to the DRC’s economic growth fell from 0.28% in 2019 to 0.17% in 2020. Attempts to contain the virus via government restrictions also impacted the manufacturing and commerce sectors. According to the African Development Bank Group, non-extractive sectors’ contribution to economic growth fell from 4.1% in 2019 to -1.9% in 2020. However, recent analyses are pointing toward a relatively quick recovery in 2021 and 2022.

Vaccine Rollout in the DRC

Vaccine rollouts are increasing globally, a trend that predictions have determined could continue. At the G7 Summit in 2021, the United States shared its plan to donate 19 million vaccine doses to the WHO initiative COVAX, which will distribute them to low- and middle-income countries. In March 2021, the DRC received 1.7 million Oxford-AstraZeneca doses from COVAX, but returned them due to potential health concerns. Around the same time, many European countries had also suspended the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine because of possible blood clots. In early July, the health minister of the DRC reported the country was in its third wave of COVID-19. Donating new vaccine doses to the DRC is vital.

Community Efforts to Increase Vaccination Rates

Even with vaccines available, Congolese must elect to receive them. Bélle-Surprise Makaya, a health worker native to North Kivu, advocates for vaccines in local communities. She and colleagues initiated their campaign in April 2021, when the first shipment of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines arrived in the DRC.

Makaya recognizes many Congolese people’s anxiety about receiving the “jab.” She told Gavi, an organization that works to provide immunizations to low-income countries, that she is “committed to dispelling such hesitations.” Makaya notes that her coalition has led to higher turnout among local populations and not just healthcare workers.

The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in the DRC has been drastic. However, initiatives like COVAX are providing vaccines, and Congolese people are learning why they should receive the vaccine. More vaccinations will not only slow the spread of the virus, but will also aid economic recovery as the country will spend less money on public health. Economic recovery is undoubtedly on the horizon in the DRC as long as vaccine rollout continues.

– Krystal Koski
Photo: Flickr

Immunization AgendaAs the 18-month mark of COVID-19 nears, people around the world are eager to return to normalcy. However, according to The New York Times, as of March 2021, more than 75% of all vaccine doses have gone to the wealthiest countries. Meanwhile, organizations are committed to fighting for vaccine equity so that lower-income nations are not overlooked in global vaccination plans for any diseases. The World Health Organization, UNICEF and Gavi, among other partners, launched the Immunization Agenda 2030 on April 26, 2021. The Agenda aims to “maximize the lifesaving impact of vaccines through stronger immunization systems.” This includes securing vaccines for developing countries.

Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP)

Prior to the Immunization Agenda, there was the Global Vaccine Action Plan, spanning from 2011-2020. The ultimate goals of GVAP were providing universal vaccination access and “reducing vaccine-preventable diseases.” Under GVAP, poliovirus types two and three were eradicated and measles incidents decreased by more than 80%. GVAP did not meet all of the goals it intended to, however, it did succeed in laying out a steady framework to proceed with the Immunization Agenda 2030.

The Immunization Agenda 2030 focuses on global participation in improving global vaccine access to reduce the threat of preventable diseases and ensure vaccine equity This requires strengthening healthcare and immunization systems and increasing accessibility. The strategy has primary targets to achieve the goal of saving more than 50 million lives through vaccines.

Targets for 2030

  • Reach at least 90% coverage of core childhood and adolescent vaccines
  • Reduce by 50% the number of children who go entirely unvaccinated
  • “Complete 500 national or subnational introductions of new or under-utilized vaccines — such as those for COVID-19, rotavirus or human papillomavirus (HPV)”

Immunization for Global Development

Since “immunization is the foundation of a healthy, productive population” vaccines contribute to global development. Children who are in full health have better chances of educational success, which contributes to economic prosperity and reduces poverty. Furthermore, preventing diseases means easing the burden on healthcare systems throughout the world.

The Agenda hopes to completely eliminate yellow fever outbreaks by 2026 and “reduce viral hepatitis B deaths by 65% by 2030.” According to the WHO, 47 countries across Africa and Central and South America are most burdened with yellow fever. In 2013 alone, yellow fever is estimated to have killed up to 60,000 people. Additionally, Africa has the highest cases of viral hepatitis in the world. According to WHO global data, in 2015, almost 260 million people had hepatitis B. As these diseases are less prevalent in wealthier countries, the Immunization Agenda calls for accountability to ensure high-income nations are doing their part for global immunizations.

Challenges

Achieving universal vaccine coverage comes with its own challenges. Vaccine hesitancy poses a threat to immunization. Founding partners of the Agenda place an emphasis on the trustworthy spread of information and an increase in health literacy to ensure vaccinations become a social norm. Additionally, the present threat of climate change greatly increases the risk of future pandemics and the spread of infectious diseases, especially via mosquitoes. The Agenda itself is working to limit the “environmental impact of vaccine waste.”

Moving Forward

The Immunization Agenda provides reachable goals to greatly reduce preventable disease deaths. The Agenda is calling for leaders in global health to make their commitments to the Agenda explicit. It also encourages leaders to urgently invest in strengthening their health systems, especially in the wake of COVID-19. The Agenda prompts leading governments and scientists to invest more time into vaccine research and development to strengthen the impact of vaccines and combat global diseases more effectively. Vaccines are the foundation of global health security and the Immunization Agenda 2030 commits to achieving vaccine equity and ensuring vaccines reach the people who need them most.

– Monica Mellon
Photo: Flickr

Vaccine Diplomacy in AfricaGlobal COVID-19 vaccine distributions aim to combat the pandemic. However, not all rollouts are equally fast and smooth and coverage is inconsistent. The COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Africa is indicative of vaccine inequity. Vaccine nationalism and vaccine inequity will only prolong the pandemic in the long run. Vaccine diplomacy in Africa is important to ensure that no continent goes overlooked.

Diplomacy in Global Health

According to Dr. Peter Hotez, a leading expert in global health, vaccine diplomacy employs vaccine delivery and distribution to advance global health by eliminating diseases. It also has the potential to advance international relations and neutralize conflict, among other pragmatic uses. Governments recognize that COVID-19 negatively impacts economic development, national security and foreign policy interests.

Global health is increasingly important in an age of globalization as governments become more connected. Governments use vaccine diplomacy to improve relations with other countries. Hotez recognizes the three elements of global health diplomacy as core diplomacy, multistakeholder diplomacy and informal diplomacy. Core and multistakeholder diplomacy can best describe COVID-19 vaccine diplomacy in Africa.

The Initial Success of COVAX

The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) co-leads the COVAX initiative aiming to develop and distribute COVID-19 vaccines equitably across the world. This is an example of multistakeholder vaccine diplomacy in Africa. Since the COVAX rollout began, GAVI has reported on its successes and shortfalls in Africa. Africa’s preparedness has paid off.

GAVI reported that nearly 40 African countries had national vaccination plans in place before rollouts began, smoothing the way for rapid and smooth rollouts. However, a lack of preparedness among some countries and dwindling vaccine supplies create challenges. GAVI emphasizes that as of April 2021, “less than 2% of the 780 million COVID-19 vaccine doses given globally have been administered in Africa.” Ongoing vaccine donations will be necessary to sustain COVAX’s strong start in Africa.

Vaccine Diplomacy in Africa

In addition to initiatives like COVAX, several countries have employed the concept of core diplomacy to donate millions of vaccines more directly. China is a major participant in this type of vaccine diplomacy in Africa. According to Think Global Health, several African countries have received pledges of free doses from multiple donors. In May 2021, in an act of diplomacy, China announced that it was donating COVID-19 vaccines to at least 40 African countries.

Distribution often ties closely to political agendas rather than a country’s actual needs. Of the 72 total beneficiary countries chosen by China, 70 are partners in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, “an ambitious global infrastructure project that aims to increase Chinese influence, develop new investment opportunities and strengthen economic and trade cooperation.”

Prioritizing Africa

In a move toward vaccine equity, on June 3, 2021, the White House announced its plan to donate 80 million vaccine doses by the end of June 2021, most of which is promised to COVAX. While the donation is immensely helpful, of the first 19 million donated doses, Africa will receive the smallest portion of five million doses despite experiencing a 20% weekly surge in COVID-19 cases.

Vaccine diplomacy in Africa is important to ensure the continent does not go overlooked. As cases in Africa surge, the need for vaccine equity grows more urgent. If one continent goes unvaccinated, all continents are unprotected. With more countries in support of vaccine diplomacy, efforts to combat the pandemic will have greater success.

– McKenzie Howell
Photo: Flickr

vaccinating Zero-dose childrenGavi, the Vaccine Alliance has partnered with Save the Children to expand the reach of vaccination efforts and health services for vaccinating zero-dose children. Millions of children around the world go without routine vaccinations every year, creating dangerous situations in developing nations plagued with diseases such as pneumonia and measles. The partnership intends to address this problem through a coordinated response of immunization programs to reach children in the most disadvantaged places on Earth.

The State of Global Child Vaccinations

There has been an undeniable trend of progress in global child vaccination rates over the past several decades. The rate of children fully vaccinated against diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus stands at 85% today compared with 20% in 1980. Likewise, the rate of vaccinations protecting against measles and polio rose from less than 20% in 1980 to 85% in 2019, while rates of vaccinations for rubella rose from less than 10% to more than 70% in the same period of time. However, despite the obvious progress in child vaccinations, there is still a sizable portion of children who are unvaccinated or under-vaccinated, leaving them susceptible to life-threatening diseases.

Approximately 20 million children are either under-vaccinated or completely unvaccinated across the globe, with more than 60% of this number coming from just 10 countries including Nigeria, Ethiopia and Pakistan. About half of the 20 million receive no routine vaccinations whatsoever, making them zero-dose children. These children overwhelmingly live in developing nations, many of which are high-intensity conflict zones. More peaceful areas in developing nations still lack adequate infrastructure and millions of children living in remote and marginalized communities have little or no access to healthcare.

The Risks for Zero-Dose Children

Zero-dose children are some of the most vulnerable people on the planet as they are easy targets for life-threatening diseases such as pneumonia, measles and HPV. Pneumonia kills more than 800,000 children every year, making it the leading infectious cause of preventable child deaths in the world. It is a treatable disease, and if diagnosed early, pneumonia treatment over a three-to-five day period can be successful using antibiotics costing just $0.40. However, in low-income countries lacking access to clean water, healthy diets and affordable healthcare, it is a life-threatening disease as almost all child pneumonia deaths occur in developing nations.

Other major diseases of concern to zero-dose children include measles and HPV. Global measles cases are on the rise again, reaching levels not seen in more than two decades. In 2019, the world reported about 863,000 cases of measles compared with only 360,000 the year before. This alarming escalation turned even worse with the arrival of COVID-19 as many countries had to suspend immunization services and programs leaving even more children unable to get vaccinated. Furthermore, while the rate of global HPV vaccinations has steadily increased for several years, fully-vaccinated girls only make up about 15% of the world with many developing nations lacking any vaccination programs. These low coverage levels around the world mean the likelihood a child born today will have all necessary vaccinations by age 5 is less than 20%.

The Partnership

Thankfully, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and Save the Children plan to make a global impact with a vaccination program intended to reach zero-dose children. Save the Children already works in developing nations by training and supporting frontline healthcare workers, delivering life-saving medicine and improving immunization coverage. Gavi will leverage this existing presence to expand immunization programs for vaccinating zero-dose children. The partnership between the two organizations will work by sharing key learnings and best practices to explore adding vaccinations to current treatments of pneumonia, malaria and malnutrition for children in low-income communities.

This program will build on the healthcare successes of Save the Children in developing nations and expand the reach of vaccinations to Gavi-supported countries such as Angola, the Republic of the Congo and Cameroon. Immunization efforts will prioritize fragile and high-conflict areas but other locations with major immunization gaps will also receive aid and vaccination increases. Additionally, the partnership will address vaccine hesitancy among parents by implementing community-based education programs and will continue the advancement of COVID-19 vaccination access in developing nations. These efforts stand to make an immense difference in developing nations and millions of children and their families stand to benefit, as do entire communities, as higher levels of immunizations lead to less infectious diseases.

The Road Ahead

Although health innovations in the past half-century have contributed to a major decrease in preventable child mortality rates, there are still far too many children who die from infectious diseases and many of these children are completely unvaccinated. In response to this situation, Gavi and Save the Children have teamed up with efforts in vaccinating zero-dose children in the world’s most impoverished nations. By building on the successes of current operations and introducing vaccinations into existing health programs, the partnership will strive to decrease the immunization gap and continue making headway toward the global goal of no zero-dose children.

Calvin Nordhougen
Photo: Flickr

Global Polio Eradication InitiativeMost think of polio as a disease of the past, eliminated from the world through scientific advancement. However, the disease remains present in some countries and runs the risk of spreading again if it is not contained. In the words of Ban Ki-moon in 2012, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, “Wild viruses and wildfires have two things in common. If neglected, they can spread out of control. If handled properly, they can be stamped out for good. Today, the flame of polio is near extinction — but sparks in three countries threaten to ignite a global blaze.” The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) seeks to finally eradicate polio throughout the world.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative

It is a truly global project, led by a partnership between the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF, Rotary International, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. Furthermore, the Initiative involves 200 countries around the world. The Initiative started “in 1988 after the World Health Assembly passed a resolution to eliminate polio.” Over 33 years, the Initiative has secured more than $17 million worth of contributions from donors and financing.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative has a well-developed and comprehensive plan which has produced numerous successes and lays out a roadmap to completely eradicate polio. One goal is integration. The GPEI seeks to integrate national governments’ vaccination plans with the polio vaccine, allowing children to get the polio vaccine as part of national immunization schedules. Enhanced integration also includes joint delivery of the polio vaccine with other vaccines, integration of polio surveillance with surveillance of other diseases and harmonizing data systems.

Routine vaccination of children is the crucial part of the plan, along with supplementary vaccination when needed. Areas that are most susceptible to an outbreak often receive supplementary vaccinations in targeted campaigns or through National Immunization Days.

Polio Success Stories

The success of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative since its founding is undeniable. The GPEI estimates that the global incidence of polio has decreased 99.9% since its inception. Polio efforts saved more than 1.5 million lives and prevented 16 million people from polio-induced paralysis. In addition to this, the GPEI administered more than 2.5 billion polio vaccines to children across the world.

Africa is a shining example of the GPEI’s success in eradicating polio. Even after the development of the polio vaccine in 1954, the disease remained endemic for decades and the continent struggled to track cases and vaccinate children. Around 1996, wild polio paralyzed 75,000 African children a year. The GPEI helped to coordinate cooperation between African national leaders and multinational NGOs, leading to greater tracking and quick responses to outbreaks.

As part of the Kick Polio Out of Africa campaign, the GPEI and other contributors provided nine billion doses of the oral polio vaccine and vaccinated 220 million children every year. Thanks to this work, Nigeria became the only country where polio was still endemic by 2016. In 2020, after four years without a polio case, the GPEI declared Africa polio-free. The elimination of a highly contagious and dangerous disease is a remarkable success story.

Remaining Countries and At-Risk Countries

While it is near eradication, polio remains endemic in Afghanistan and Pakistan. While concerning, there were less than 30 reported cases of the disease in these countries in 2018. Children miss out on coverage for polio in Afghanistan and Pakistan for various reasons, including a lack of infrastructure and an unstable political situation. Still, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative continues to vaccinate children, provide surveillance of the disease and work to develop new vaccines, diagnostic tools and antiviral drugs.

The failure to eliminate or contain polio completely could lead to a resurgence. If not contained, this could lead to 200,000 or more global cases a year within 10 years. The GPEI, in support of the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan, works extensively with leaders in the countries to vaccinate children and provide teams of volunteers.

Children need multiple doses of the vaccine for effective prevention and vaccinations must be widespread in order to prevent any community transmission. For this reason, the GPEI has identified five main at-risk countries that are vulnerable to outbreaks and require greater surveillance:

  1. China
  2. Indonesia
  3. Mozambique
  4. Myanmar
  5. Papua New Guinea

Approaching the Finish Line

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative has had major successes so far and is nearly at the finish line of eradicating polio from all nations of the world. Unprecedented global cooperation and collaboration have been the driving forces behind its achievements. Global collaboration is integral for addressing all aspects of global poverty.

Clay Hallee
Photo: Flickr

Germany Foreign Aid
In 2019, Germany followed the U.S. as the second-largest donor to official development assistance (ODA). Historically, Germany’s foreign aid has focused on migration, forced displacement, food security and climate concerns. In its foreign aid policy, Germany aims to create lasting change in the nations it reaches. Here are eight facts about Germany’s foreign aid.

8 Facts About Germany’s Foreign Aid

  1. The BMZ Handles Aid: The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) primarily addresses the regulation of foreign aid. The BMZ is responsible for the development of policies, management of projects and the allocation of funds in times of crisis. Its support centers on several factors important to development, including “good governance, education, rural development, climate control, sustainable development, and a strengthening of the private sector.” Germany expects responsibility from the countries it lends aid to and thus does not grant budget support freely.
  2. The BMZ Does Not Work Alone: The BMZ works in accordance with other ministries, including the Federal Foreign Office and Ministry of Defense. The Federal Foreign Office addresses matters of humanitarian aid and, if a military presence is necessary, the Ministry of Defense offers assistance. KfW, a German-owned development bank, has also played a key role in Germany’s foreign aid contributions.
  3. Making UHC a Reality: The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of 2015 marked Universal Health Coverage (UHC) as a priority. UHC embodies the idea of having “all individuals and communities receive the health services they need without suffering financial hardship.” Germany has committed to this ideal in three stages. Globally, Germany aims to strengthen health systems through technical and financial support. On a multilateral level, Germany endorses the P4HNetwork, which provides health financing, and the L4UHC leadership course, which helps in the development of partnerships. Lastly, Germany is aiding its partner countries directly in the development of necessary changes.
  4. Supporting Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance: Germany has donated to Gavi through the BMZ since 2006 and its support continues to grow. Chancellor Merkel “pledged EUR 600 million for Gavi over the 2016-2020 strategic period” in 2015. Providing immunizations across the globe, Germany’s support of Gavi enables a safer, healthier world.
  5. BMZ Unveils an Effective Reform Strategy: The BMZ’s primary goal remains the same; eliminating poverty and world hunger. However, the BMZ is changing how it aims to achieve this goal through new focuses, new partnerships and new modes of cooperation. BMZ has reduced its number of partner countries from 85 to 60 but has done so to maximize its efforts strategically. German foreign aid is attempting to establish peace and structure with its nexus and peace partners. By “strengthening [German] support for people in crisis and refugee regions, addressing the root causes and supporting them in the process of stabilization,” the BMZ is aiming to build up nations like Syria, Yemen and Iraq.
  6. Germany and Syria: In recent years, Germany has shown great support for the Syrian people. In 2018, more than 500,000 Syrian refugees resided in Germany. German support is not solely based on helping the refugees, however. In June 2020, as part of a conference jointly hosted by the E.U. and U.N., Germany pledged $1.78 billion to humanitarian aid for Syria.
  7. Germany and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: Adopted in September 2015, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development replaced the previous Millennium Development Goals. The initiative comprises 17 goals and ties together poverty reduction and sustainability. Within the decade, the United Nations wishes to address the most pressing concerns of poverty, female empowerment and climate concerns. Germany is one of many nations playing a large role in addressing these goals.
  8. An Endorsement that Looks to the Future: Alongside Ghana and Norway, Germany requested the establishment of a global action plan in April 2018. This request took the form of the Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-being for All. The plan has united 12 agencies dedicated to health, development and humanitarian efforts, allowing each to strengthen each other while addressing the central SDGs.

The nation has proudly taken up the mantle of leadership and will serve as the Presidency of the Council of the European Union from June 2020 until December 2020. Germany promised additional ODA-funds in June 2020, dedicating $3.5 billion for “global health measures, humanitarian assistance, and overall development cooperation.”

Kelli Hughes
Photo: Flickr