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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.

December 13, 2021 by Anna Kovacevich

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The world remains unprepared to respond to future pandemics, warns the Global Health Security (GHS) Index report released last week assessing the efforts of 195 countries. The index, based on public information, measured each country’s ability to prevent, detect, and respond to health emergencies in 2021 along with other factors, like public confidence in government. The average country score for 2021 was 38.9 out of a possible 100, similar to that of the first GHS Index in 2019, and no country scored above 75.9. The report outlines key findings—most notably that all countries remain dangerously unprepared for meeting future epidemic and pandemic threats, despite many countries being able to quickly develop capacities to address COVID-19—and offers recommendations to use this opportunity to make new capacities more durable for further long-term gains in preparedness.

The US Agency for International Development on Monday announced the creation of the Initiative for Global Vaccine Access, or Global VAX, a new initiative to accelerate COVID-19 vaccination efforts around the world. Global VAX will aim to get COVID-19 shots into arms as well as enhance international coordination to identify and rapidly overcome access barriers, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. These efforts will include bolstering cold chain supply and logistics, service delivery, vaccine confidence and demand, human resources, data and analytics, local planning, and vaccine safety and effectiveness. The US government will supply $400 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to support this work, adding to the $1.3 billion that has been previously committed for vaccine readiness.

An experimental mRNA-based HIV vaccine showed promise in early animal studies, according to study results published Thursday. The research, conducted by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Moderna, and other institutions, showed the vaccine was safe and prompted antibody and cellular immune responses against an HIV-like virus in mice and monkeys. Rhesus macaques that received a priming shot followed by multiple boosters had a 79 percent lower per-exposure risk of infection by simian-human immunodeficiency virus compared to unvaccinated animals. The mRNA vaccine, which uses the same technology deployed in two effective COVID-19 vaccines, combines several features that could help overcome shortcomings of other experimental HIV vaccines, according to NIAID.

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