Requirement for Proof of Negative COVID-19 Test or Recovery from COVID-19 for All Air Passengers Arriving in the United States
Global scientists are intensifying research into COVID-19, as the World Health Organization (WHO) moves to expand its scientific collaboration and monitoring of emerging variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
A day-long virtual meeting of scientists from around the globe, convened by WHO, brought together more than 1 750 experts from 124 countries to discuss critical knowledge gaps and research priorities for emerging variants of the virus.
Welcoming them, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said: “Science and research have played a vital role in responding to the pandemic since day one and will continue to be the heartbeat of everything WHO does.”
The consultation was structured around six thematic areas covering epidemiology and mathematical modelling, evolutionary biology, animal models, assays and diagnostics, clinical management and therapeutics and vaccines.
Scientists noted the importance of research to detect and understand early on the potential impact of emerging variants on diagnostics, treatments and vaccines.
There was a consensus on the importance of integrating the new SARS-CoV-2 variants research into the global research and innovation agenda while enhancing coordination across disciplines.
“Our collective goal is to get ahead of the game and have a global mechanism to quickly identify and study variants of concern and understand their implications for disease control efforts,” said Dr Ana Maria Henao Restrepo, Head of WHO’s R&D Blueprint.
It is normal for viruses to mutate, but the more the SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads, the more opportunities it has to change. High levels of transmission mean that we should expect more variants to emerge.
Of the significant variants reported so far, some are associated with increases in transmissibility but not disease severity. Research is ongoing to address whether the changes impact public health tools and measures.
Genomic sequencing has been critical in identifying and responding to new variants.
“So far an astounding 350 000 sequences have been publicly shared, but most come from just a handful of countries. Improving the geographic coverage of sequencing is critical for the world to have eyes and ears on changes to the virus,” said Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO Technical Lead on COVID-19.
Increasing sequencing capacity across the world is a priority research area for WHO.
Better surveillance and laboratory capacity to monitor strains of concern needs to be accompanied by prompt sharing of virus and serum samples via globally agreed mechanisms so that critical research can be promptly initiated each time.
Scientists highlighted the importance of national data platforms to document critical clinical, epidemiological and virus data that facilitates the detection and assessment of new SARS-CoV-2 variants.
Early childhood development in conflict-affected countries is key to life-long health, wellbeing and prosperity, says WHO and partners
The early years in a child’s life are critical in building a foundation for optimal development through a stable and nurturing environment. However, for infants and young children living in humanitarian settings, risks such as forced displacement, migration, malnutrition, limited access to health services and insecurity threaten their chances to survive and thrive.
In 2018, more than 29 million children were born into conflict-affected areas, and an estimated 43% of children under-5 years in low- and middle-income countries—inclusive of humanitarian contexts—are currently at risk of not reaching their developmental potential. As the number of crisis-affected people continues to rise, so the proportion of future generations who experience severe distress will also increase.
Today, WHO, UNICEF, the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, International Rescue Committee and ECDAN launched a new thematic brief, Nurturing care for children living in humanitarian settings, highlighting actions countries must take to strengthen nurturing care and minimize the impact that emergencies have on the lives of young children and their families.
“Every moment, whether you are feeding children or reading them stories is an opportunity to ensure they are healthy, receive nutritious food, are safe and learning about themselves, others and their world,” says Bernadette Daelmans, WHO unit head for child health and development. “We must ensure young children and caregivers receive the early interventions they need to thrive, even in humanitarian settings.”
Nurturing care comprises of five interrelated and indivisible components for optimal early childhood development: good health, adequate nutrition, safety and security, responsive caregiving and opportunities for early learning.
- All infants and children receive responsive care during the first 3 years of life; and parents and other caregivers are supported to provide responsive care.
- All infants and children have early learning activities with their parents and other caregivers during the first 3 years of life; and parents and other caregivers are supported to engage in early learning with their infants and children.
- Support for responsive care and early learning should be included as part of interventions for optimal nutrition of infants and young children.
- Psychosocial interventions to support maternal mental health should be integrated into early childhood health and development services.
While these recommendations are for all settings, interventions implemented in emergencies may be adjusted based on the length and type of humanitarian, security or displacement factors at play in a given context. The brief calls on stakeholders across sectors to raise awareness about nurturing care and work together to craft early childhood development policies, plans, services and tools before, during and after a crisis.
The new brief is part of an advocacy series which seeks to apply a nurturing care lens when addressing specific issues affecting children’s development. Situated in the Nurturing Care Framework Advocacy toolkit, these resources serve to demonstrate what is already happening and what can be improved at multiple levels to ensure families receive the support they need, and children receive nurturing care.
Engaging Community Health Workers to Support Home-based care for people with COVID-19 in low-resource settings
The four leading international health and humanitarian organizations announced today the establishment of a global Ebola vaccine stockpile to ensure outbreak response.
The effort to establish the stockpile was led by the International Coordinating Group (ICG) on Vaccine Provision, which includes the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), with financial support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. The stockpile will allow countries, with the support of humanitarian organizations, to contain future Ebola epidemics by ensuring timely access to vaccines for populations at risk during outbreaks.
The injectable single-dose Ebola vaccine (rVSV∆G-ZEBOV-GP, live) is manufactured by Merck, Sharp & Dohme (MSD) Corp. and developed with financial support from the from the government of the United States of America (USA). The European Medicines Agency licensed the Ebola vaccine in November 2019, and the vaccine is now prequalified by WHO, and licensed by the US Food and Drug Administration as well as in eight African countries.
Before achieving licensure, the vaccine was administered to more than 350,000 people in Guinea and in the 2018-2020 Ebola outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo under a protocol for “compassionate use”.
The vaccine, which is recommended by the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization for use in Ebola outbreaks as part of a broader set of Ebola outbreak response tools, protects against the Zaire ebolavirus species which is most commonly known to cause outbreaks.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is reminding us of the incredible power of vaccines to save lives from deadly viruses,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Ebola vaccines have made one of the most feared diseases on earth preventable. This new stockpile is an excellent example of solidarity, science and cooperation between international organizations and the private sector to save lives.”
UNICEF manages the stockpile on behalf of the ICG which, as with stockpiles of cholera, meningitis and yellow fever vaccines, will be the decision-making body for its allocation and release.
The stockpile is stored in Switzerland and ready to be shipped to countries for emergency response. The decision to allocate the vaccine will be made within 48 hours of receiving a request from a country; vaccines will be made available together with ultra-cold chain packaging by the manufacturer for shipment to countries within 48 hours of the decision. The targeted overall delivery time from the stockpile to countries is seven days.
“We are proud to be part of this unprecedented effort to help bring potential Ebola outbreaks quickly under control,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “We know that when it comes to disease outbreaks, preparedness is key. This Ebola vaccine stockpile is a remarkable achievement - one that will allow us to deliver vaccines to those who need them the most as quickly as possible.”
As Ebola outbreaks are relatively rare and unpredictable, there is no natural market for the vaccine. Vaccines are only secured through the establishment of the stockpile and are available in limited quantities. The Ebola vaccine is reserved for outbreak response to protect people at the highest risk of contracting Ebola – including healthcare and frontline workers.
“This is an important milestone. Over the past decade alone we have seen Ebola devastate communities in West and Central Africa, always hitting the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest,” said IFRC Secretary General, Jagan Chapagain. “Through each outbreak, our volunteers have risked their lives to save lives. With this stockpile, it is my hope that the impact of this terrible disease will be dramatically reduced.”
“The creation of an Ebola vaccine stockpile under the ICG is a positive step”, said Dr Natalie Roberts, Programme Manager, MSF Foundation. “Vaccination is one of the most effective measures to respond to outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases, and Ebola is no exception. An Ebola vaccine stockpile can increase transparency in the management of existing global stocks and the timely deployment of the vaccine where it’s most needed, something MSF has called for during recent outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of Congo.”
An initial 6890 doses are now available for outbreak response with further quantities to be delivered into the stockpile this month and throughout 2021 and beyond. Depending on the rate of vaccine deployment, it could take 2 to 3 years to reach the SAGE-recommended level of 500,000 doses for the emergency stockpile of Ebola vaccines. WHO, UNICEF, Gavi and vaccine manufacturers are continuously assessing options to increase vaccine supply should global demand increase.
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The ICG was established in 1997, following major outbreaks of meningitis in Africa, as a mechanism to manage and coordinate the provision of emergency vaccine supplies and antibiotics to countries during major outbreaks. The ICG works to improve cooperation and coordination of epidemic preparedness and response.
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org. For more information about COVID-19, visit www.unicef.org/coronavirus. Find out more about UNICEF’s work on the COVID-19 vaccines here, or about UNICEF’s work on immunization here. Follow UNICEF on Twitter and Facebook.
The World Health Organization provides global leadership in public health within the United Nations system. Founded in 1948, WHO works with 194 Member States, across six regions and 150 offices, to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable. Our goal for 2019-2023 is to ensure that a billion more people have universal health coverage, to protect a billion more people from health emergencies, and provide a further billion people with better health and wellbeing.
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