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In this regular feature on Breakthroughs, we highlight some of the most interesting reads in global health research from the past week.

May 31, 2022 by Anna Kovacevich

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The World Health Assembly (WHA) convened last week and concluded with several decisions affecting the global health architecture. The Assembly adopted a decision to bolster sustainable financing at the World Health Organization (WHO) by raising “assessed contributions,” or mandatory member fees, to cover 50 percent of the organization’s base budget by 2030, alongside steps to increase the agency’s efficiency. Proposals to immediately reform the International Health Regulations—which govern countries’ obligations to report and respond to pathogens that could lead to global public health emergencies—were not adopted due to member state disagreement, but the Assembly established an extended consultation process for future reforms and set a timeline for their implementation. Member states also discussed the ongoing negotiations around a pandemic instrument, which are being driven by an intergovernmental negotiating body formed last year, but any specific decisions will likely be at next year’s WHA at the earliest.

Rising cases of monkeypox—confirmed in 19 countries since early May—have driven interest in the existing range of vaccines and treatments that could be used to offer protection against the outbreak. The monkeypox virus, which causes a usually mild infection, is closely related to the smallpox virus—and smallpox vaccines appear up to 85 percent effective in preventing monkeypox, according to WHO. There are two available smallpox vaccines: Bavarian Nordic’s Jynneos, also known as Imvamune or Imvanex, which has US approval for prevention of smallpox and monkeypox and European Union approval for smallpox but ability to be prescribed off-label for monkeypox, and Emergent Biosolutions’ ACAM2000, which has US approval for people at high risk for smallpox infection and no European Union authorization. While symptoms of monkeypox often resolve on their own within two to four weeks, there are also smallpox antivirals that may be considered for use.

On Wednesday, Pfizer committed to provide its patented medicines and vaccines already available in the United States and Europe at a not-for-profit price to 45 lower-income countries. The deal, announced during last week’s World Economic Forum, includes 23 medicines and vaccines for infectious diseases, some cancers, and rare and inflammatory diseases, as well as future products. The initiative also includes Paxlovid, Pfizer’s oral antiviral treatment for COVID-19. Rwanda, Ghana, Malawi, Senegal, and Uganda are the first five countries to commit to join the accord, which will help inform rollout in all 27 low-income countries and 18 lower-middle-income countries that have transitioned from low to lower-middle-income classification in the past ten years. Pfizer says the initiative will be paired with improvements in diagnostics capacity and distribution infrastructure to improve access, as well as technical assistance for health worker training and expedited regulatory processes for entry of the new medicines.

About the author

Anna KovacevichGHTC

Anna supports communications activities and member coordination for GHTC. Her portfolio includes the development and dissemination of the coalition’s communications materials and digital outreach, facilitating engagement and outreach to coalition members, and supporting all more about this author