POLICY BRIEFING – WEEK IN REVIEW
Poor and middle-income countries are likely to be hardest hit in the current pandemic, given their less robust public health systems and conditions that promote the spread of the virus, like high-density housing. But when a SARS-coV-2 vaccine comes to market, those countries will have less buying capacity than wealthier ones. To address this problem, a public-private partnership called GAVI – backed by the Gates Foundation, the World Health Organization, the World Bank, UNICEF and governments of countries around the world – is proposing to make something called an advance market commitment. Under that mechanism, GAVI would commit to buying a minimum number of vaccines at an established cost for low and middle income countries. This guaranteed purchase would eliminate the risk of poor demand or inability to pay for the manufacturers of the vaccines. The idea of incentivizing development of drugs and therapeutics that may not be financially lucrative is not new; the Food and Drug Administration's orphan drug program currently does this, for example. An example of a similar proposal is the Health Impact Fund (HIF) which was proposed as a World Trade Organization mechanism nearly a decade ago but has not been implemented. Under the HIF, if companies would commit to making a drug available to low-income countries for the lowest possible price, they would be eligible for an annual award from the WTO, proportionate to the drug's health impact. However, HIF would not address a country's ability to pay, even a very low cost. The advance market commitment mechanism, which GAVI has used previously for pneumococcal vaccine, would both incentivize the process of developing vaccines and ensure equitable access to them. 5 June 2020.
Introduced by US House Representatives, the House Judiciary Committee is set to consider HR 7059, the Coronavirus Provider Protection Act. Developed in conjunction with the American Medical Association and several state and specialty medical organizations, this bipartisan bill seeks to give healthcare providers and their institutions liability limitations related to coronavirus. Because of the pandemic, many non-emergent medical screenings, exams, and procedures have been delayed in an effort to limit potential spread. This bill establishes a safe harbor for acts or omissions occurring within the declared national emergency through sixty days after its termination that were determined to be due to lack of adequate resources, inadequate testing ability, workforce shortages, or as a result of following established infection control guidelines that would otherwise be considered deviations from the standard of care. The bill does not offer provider protection for patients harmed as a result of gross negligence or misconduct. The House of Representatives. 3 June 2020.
Protests over the murder of George Floyd are now occurring in over 100 U.S. cities. These protests bring large crowds, and social distancing among protestors and associated law enforcement has become virtually impossible. So, it is no surprise that coronavirus infections are emerging at the site of protests. The protests began in Minnesota, the site of George Floyd's death. Since then, one deployed national guard member has tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, and nine other members have begun to show symptoms. In response, the Minnesota National Guard plans to test all deployed members. However, given pre-symptomatic spread, these measures may be too-little too-late. Further, it is not just the close contact that renders protests prime opportunities for the spread of coronavirus; the use of tear gas and other agents that can provoke coughing also may contribute to the spread. In addition, Black communities that are out protesting have already been hardest hit by the covid-19 outbreak in the United States, with demonstrably worse outcomes. The increased risks around protesting could compound these effects and inequities. Accordingly, local and state officials may be advised to increase testing capacity. Such efforts would be in line with the broad testing that public health experts have been calling for since the virus first emerged. CNBC. 3 June 2020.