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.
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.
Rapid tests are a fast and accurate way to diagnose patients in a primary healthcare setting
Global partnership feeds healthy supply of rapid COVID-19 tests to low- and middle-income countries
A set of global agreements reached in September 2020 paved the way for 120 million rapid COVID-19 tests to be distributed to low and middle-income countries.
The Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, working with other organizations, concluded these agreements to enable the manufacture, distribution and rollout of these vital diagnostic tools.
At the time, there was a huge unmet need for fast diagnostic testing globally, especially in the low and middle-income bracket.
The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), the Global Fund, Unitaid, and World Health Organization (WHO) all worked on this project.
There was a particular focus on making tests available to countries without extensive laboratory facilities or trained health workers to implement molecular (polymerase chain reaction or PCR) tests.
Why is testing crucial in the fight against COVID-19?
Rapid tests are a fast and accurate way to diagnose patients in a primary healthcare setting, as this is where most people access services.
Rapid tests are also cheaper than laboratory tests. With a fast initial diagnosis, track and trace teams in more remote and rural areas can start work sooner without waiting for laboratory test results.
Quick results can prevent the virus from spreading in communities. Rural and remote healthcare settings especially need access to rapid testing, as accessing centralized laboratory services can take a long time.
The Global Fund made $50-million available to purchase 10 million tests per country.
FIND and WHO supported countries in distributing these tests.
Unitaid and the Africa CDC combined resources rollout tests to countries in Africa from October 2020.
Project Stellar to help countries expand diagnostic testing for Covid-19
In Sub-Saharan Africa, COVID-19 testing rates are still low in most
Countries. One of the reasons for this is inadequate investment in laboratory capacity. There is a similar trend in testing rates for HIV, TB, and malaria.
In addition, despite the availability of rapid antigen tests, many countries have not effectively decentralized testing to a community level.
Since February 2022, C19RM 2021, the response arm of the Global Fund, has been investing US$800 million across 100 countries to procure COVID-19 diagnostics and commodities.
Project Stellar was created in February 2022 within the Global Fund to support countries in reaching Covid-19 testing goals and strengthen laboratory systems over the longer term.
It aims to offer assistance with planning, mobilizing resources, and creating a targeted advocacy program to encourage testing. Countries will also receive help in developing a diagnostics strategy and algorithm.
Other goals for the project that will run up to December 2023 are to scale up testing, including training and community outreach, and the management of data and surveillance systems.
The project will also aim to improve regulatory approvals of rapid antigen tests and coverage for COVID-19 testing.
Another goal is to advocate for wastewater-based surveillance and epidemiological monitoring at a country level. Wastewater surveillance often provides an early warning system of cases rising.
Project Stellar will also help countries to strengthen data management and surveillance systems.
Getting tests into hands: delivering rapid diagnostic tests to South Africa
In June 2021, a large shipment of COVID-19 diagnostic tests procured by the Global Fund through their Pooled Procurement Mechanism arrived in South Africa.
Part of the order was 648 000 rapid antigen tests that produced results within 15 minutes for community health workers and medical personnel working on the front lines.
At the time, the country saw a rapid rise in infections caused by the Delta variant. The rollout of vaccines to the general public only started in July that year, with the elderly getting priority access.
All hands on deck
Logistics personnel interviewed by the Global Fund reported early-morning queues on average 100 metres long at testing sites, as people tried to access possible diagnoses in response to the new infection wave.
The test kits delivered in South Africa were manufactured in South Korea, flown via Ethiopia to a warehouse in Johannesburg, and sorted and distributed throughout the country.
The supply chain also faced several problems, including a shortage of shipping containers, resulting in delays in deliveries of essential products, such as personal protective equipment. Logistics personnel also feared theft and hijacking.
By 1 July 2021, the Global Fund has procured 21.5 million diagnostic tests worldwide.
Global Health Summit 2021: Rome Declaration signals world leaders’ commitment to fighting future pandemics.
On May 21, 2021, leaders of the G20 countries and other states signed the Rome Declaration signaling their commitment to fighting the current Covid-19 pandemic and agreeing to a set of principles to prepare and fight future pandemics.
What is the Rome Declaration?
The Rome Declaration signals a commitment from world leaders to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic and prevent and prepare for future pandemics. It was signed in May 2021 in Rome.
What does it say?
The Rome Declaration reaffirms the Covid-19 pandemic to be an unprecedented global health and socio-economic crisis that has disproportionately affected the most vulnerable communities, including women, girls, children, frontline workers, and the elderly.
It signals an agreement that all countries must work together to bring the disease under control, including working together for the equitable distribution of vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, personal protective equipment and treatment, supply chains, and boost and diversify global vaccine-manufacturing capacity.
What principles did leaders agree to support?
It also is a commitment that underlines sustained investments in global health towards achieving Universal Health Coverage with primary healthcare at its center will be essential for the future.
It recognizes the setbacks to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals caused by the pandemic.
The declaration also supported addressing the ACT-A funding gap to help it fulfill its mandate. The ACT-Accelerator has a funding gap of US$ 329 million for work planned up to 31 March 2023.
Significantly the declaration also noted proposals on a possible international instrument or agreement concerning pandemic prevention and preparedness.
The signatories also agreed on principles for future conduct in preparing, preventing, detecting, and responding to global pandemics.
These principles include support for the WHO as the center of a global pandemic response, sustainability, inclusivity, resilient recovery, and support for the One Health approach addressing risks emerging from the human-animal-environment interface, the threat of anti-microbial resistance.
Why do we not use antibody tests to diagnose COVID-19 infections?
Checking for antibodies is not the most accurate indicator of the presence of a SARS-COV-2 infection.
What are antibody tests?
This article explains the role antibody tests are playing in fighting the pandemic.
Antibodies neutralize foreign cells the body sees as a threat. Most COVID-19 vaccines trigger the body to produce antibodies against the spike protein in the SARS-COV-2 virus.
The spike protein is a molecule found on the surface of the virus, and it helps the virus to enter the host cells and spread from there.
Why can’t we use antibody testing to measure vaccine efficacy?
COVID-19 serology tests were designed early in the pandemic to detect only a few antibodies generated by natural infection, not vaccine-induced immunity.
They detect antibodies produced to fight the protein capsule around the virus and not the spike protein, while most COVID-19 vaccines introduce the body to small amounts of the genetic material in the spike protein to elicit an immune reaction.
Can antibody testing determine if a vaccine worked?
Not precisely. It takes around two weeks for the body to generate antibodies after COVID-19 vaccination, so even tests to detect the “right” antibody could be negative in the first few weeks after vaccination.
Can antibody tests be wrong?
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended that antibody testing not be used to evaluate either immunity levels or protection levels from SARS-COV-2.
Why still do antibody tests?
Data from antibody tests are helpful for surveillance studies. In these studies, large numbers of people in a community are tested. These studies estimate how many people were infected in the past and how fast the virus spreads.