The WHO Public Health laboratories knowledge sharing platform was launched in May 2020 to support COVID-19 reference laboratories facing challenges such as: establishing and transferring SARS-CoV-2 testing protocols, facing reagent shortages and managing the decentralization of testing.The initiative quickly expanded to include a global audience of laboratory stakeholders. The primary tool used for knowledge sharing is regular webinars, the organization of which is coordinated by the WHO Public Health Laboratory Strengthening unit (Lyon office) together with WHO Regional Offices, with simultaneous interpretation in 6 languages (Arabic, English, French, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish). In 2022, followers of the webinar series have also benefitted from a broadened scope of practice, with sessions now being offered on other epidemic-prone diseases and health emergencies and cross-cutting laboratory topics.
Leveraging the research, collaborations and commercialisation successes in contributing to Singapore’s fight against the global COVID-19 pandemic, Duke-NUS Medical School today announced that it is working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop the Asia Pathogen Genomics Initiative (APGI) to contribute to regional pandemic preparedness by improving genomic surveillance. Duke-NUS also launched a new regional centre to strengthen regional research capacity, cooperation and preparedness for future pandemic and public health threats.
Called the Centre for Outbreak Preparedness (COP), it will collaborate with key public sector partners and research institutions, as well as overseas partners such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization (WHO). COP will leverage Duke-NUS’ strong partnerships around the world, with particular focus on research institutes in South and Southeast Asia to increase the region’s research capacity and capabilities.
Using the platform of the first FIFA Arab Cup™, the World Health Organization (WHO), FIFA and the Qatari authorities are launching the #ACTogether campaign to call for teamwork and unity to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and tests.
A large proportion of the global population remains susceptible to infection and at an increased risk of severe disease and death. Vaccine inequity persists in many parts of the world; of the nearly 7.5 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines administered globally by mid-November 2021, only 0.6% had been administered in low‑income countries. The WHO is emphasizing the need to scale up access to vaccines, treatments and diagnostics, through support to the global Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator equity initiative, as well as the importance of strict adherence to public health measures.
FIFA will utilize football’s substantial platform during the FIFA Arab Cup Qatar 2021™ with a series of videos for broadcast, both in-stadium and around Doha. Team captains will also show their support for the message, while each participating member association will have assets to share with its fans via its social and digital platforms. The #ACTogether awareness initiative was first rolled out during the last edition of the FIFA Club World Cup™ in Qatar in February 2021 and its latest iteration stresses that the COVID-19 pandemic is not over.
A new assessment by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that only 14.2% – or one in seven – COVID-19 infections are being detected in Africa. To reverse that trend and curb transmission, the WHO Regional Office for Africa today announced a new initiative to enhance community screening for COVID-19 in eight countries. The programme aims to reach more than 7 million people with rapid diagnostic tests in the next year.
The WHO analysis used the COVID-19 calculator developed by Resolve to Save Lives which estimates infections based on reported number of cases and deaths and an infection fatality rate grounded in population-based studies. It found that as of 10 October 2021 the cumulative number of COVID-19 infections is estimated to be 59 million in Africa, which is seven times more than the over 8 million cases reported.
The countries participating in the programme are Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Republic of the Congo, Senegal and Zambia. To kick off implementation, WHO has disbursed US$ 1.8 million to the eight countries. WHO will support countries to interrupt disease transmission, through active case finding by deploying teams in local communities to seek out possible contacts of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and offer antigen rapid diagnostic tests.
A new agreement reached by the Global Fund and several producers of COVID-19 antigen rapid diagnostic tests (Ag RDTs) has resulted in a significant drop in the price of these tests, potentially making the products more affordable for many governments of low- and middle-income countries.
This announcement from the Global Fund, co-convenors of the ACT-A Diagnostics Pillar alongside FIND, ensures that the COVID-19 diagnostics produced by these quality-assured suppliers will be available at game-changing prices ranging from US$1.00 to US$2.00 per test or less. These developments have the potential to shift the diagnostics market and make testing more accessible.
On this episode of the Global Health Matters podcast, FIND CEO Bill Rodriguez and Sikhulile Moyo, who led the team that helped discover the Omicron variant in Botswana, to discuss key questions such as “how available are essential diagnostics in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs)?” in an effort to understand the state of diagnostic testing in LMICs and how to achieve equity in access to testing in all countries.
Dr. Fifa Rahman, Prof Brook Baker, and Dr. Carolyn Gomes, ACT-A CSO Representatives for the Diagnostics and Therapeutics Pillars, have come together to author an op-ed on the need to accelerate testing equity for diagnostics and other COVID-19 tools.
At the time of writing, access to rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) and self-tests for COVID-19 were widely accessible in the Global North, but access in the Global South was far more constrained. The authors urgently call upon global health actors within the ACT-Accelerator to take action, including calling on WHO to accelerate development of guidelines for self-testing.
FIND, alongside the Global Fund, was named co-convener of the diagnostics pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-Accelerator) in 2020.
Traditional models of diagnostic testing are often characterized by a centralized approach, particularly true in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). However, there are several common barriers to centralized testing.
FIND is part of the process to remedy this, and this includes how the ACT-Accelerator has, since inception, worked to transform access to decentralized testing.
This FIND case study explores the process and partnerships that have driven progress across four stages:
- Accelerating innovation in research and development
- Ensuring efficient and sustainable test supplies
- Supporting robust national policy development
- Mobilizing community-based and self-testing strategies.
The study also highlights learning, impact and recommendations from a decentralized approach in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bangladeshi scientists participate in next generation genome sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 genome
In November 2022, The Child Health Research Foundation (CHRF) of Bangladesh announced that, for the first time, the SARS-CoV-2 genome was sequenced at the Next generation sequencing Research and Innovation Lab, Chittagong (NRICh). CHRF stated, “With support from our friends at FIND, CHRF helped set up the lab and provided training for its members. We will continue decentralising genomics and building scientists for Bangladesh.”
What is the ACT Accelerator?
The Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator was created after the outbreak of the SARS-COV-2 pandemic in 2020.
It is a global collaboration that uses existing public health infrastructure and expertise to accelerate the development and production of Covid-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines. It also focuses on providing equitable access to diagnostics and treatment.
The ACT Accelerator was launched in April 2020.
It has played a significant role in supporting the fasted and best coordinated global effort in history to fight a disease.
Its current focus is on scaling up access to Covid-19 tools worldwide.
Who are the convenors?
The ACT-Accelerator is co-convened by leading global health organizations.
It consists of three pillars and two or three partner agencies managing these.
What are the three pillars?
The three pillars of the ACT-Accelerator are the vaccines pillar, the diagnostics pillar, and the therapeutics pillar.
What does each pillar do?
The Vaccines Pillar has set a goal to rapidly rollout at least 2 billion vaccine doses in 2021 to high risk groups. It also has a goal to expand research and development.
Its third task is to identify new and emerging risks from variants of the SARS-COV2 virus.
The Diagnostics Pillar aims to identify new diagnostics and devliver 900 million high-quality tests by the end of 2021 to low- and low-middle income countries.
The Therapeutics Pillar promote research for effective treatments and ensure that countries optimize clinical care including the use of corticosteroids and medical oxygen for severe and critical patients. It also seeks to introduce new therapies and distribute up to 100 million treatment courses for populations in low and middle-income countries.
What does the Health Systems Connector do?
The Health Systems Connector (HSC) works across the three product pillars to identify and address bottlenecks in health systems worldwide and to enable the rollout of Covid-19 tools. The HSC also focuses on the rollout of personal protective equipment to health workers.
What is the role of the Access & Allocation workstream?
This workstream focuses on ensuring global equity and the allocation of Covid-19 resources. It also ensures that civil society and community engagement are integrated across all the pillars.