Global health issues
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently conducted a virtual press conference on global health emergencies on November 16, 2022. Margaret Harris hosted the conference at WHO Headquarters in Geneva. In addition, a broad panel of technical experts was present online and offline for discussion.
COVID-19, Monkeypox & Other Global Health Issues Virtual Press conference transcript - 16 November 2022. Image Credit: akedesign / Shutterstock
The conference started with opening remarks from Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, WHO. He addressed the session from Bali, Indonesia, where he was attending the G20 Summit. Referring to the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, he started his speech by saying, "when health is at risk, everything is at risk."
Dr. Tedros also mentioned that world conflicts, climate change, and food and energy insecurities had overshadowed the pandemic; however, each issue significantly impacted public health and economies. Finally, he congratulated the G20 leaders for their strong commitment to supporting health and health security and achieving universal health coverage under the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.
As mentioned by Dr. Tedros, the G20 leaders have ensured adequate financing for pandemic preparedness and response. They also expressed willingness to support the WHO mRNA Technology Transfer Hub in South Africa. With their support, a new pandemic fund was launched in Bali.
By mentioning that WHO has established a new training hub for emergency medical teams in association with Indonesia's ministries of health and Defence, Dr. Tedros thanked Indonesia for its leadership as President of the G20 in 2022. Furthermore, he anticipated working closely with India next year.
Dr. Tedros shared an important update on the Ebola outbreak in Uganda. He said, "there have been six more confirmed cases and one probable case of Ebola in Uganda, bringing the total to 141 confirmed and 22 probable cases. There have also been two more confirmed Ebola deaths and one probable death, for 55 confirmed and 22 probable deaths. In addition, 73 patients have now recovered".
He further mentioned that the Ugandan government's efforts to control outbreaks have significantly reduced disease transmission in most districts. However, a new case has been detected in the Jinja district recently. WHO and partners are currently helping the government to control the outbreak and rapidly initiate human trials for three vaccine candidates and two investigational therapeutics.
The FIFA World Cup
Dr. Tedros will be visiting the FIFA World Cup opening ceremony in Qatar. About five billion people are expected to attend this year's World Cup.
He mentioned that the WHO is working with Qatar and FIFA to promote physical and mental health through various activities. For example, they have planned to promote a healthy diet and physical activity among the World Cup audience through extensive video campaigning and television and social media messaging.
During World Cup events, they have implemented strict control measures to prevent disease transmission, including COVID-19. They have also prohibited tobacco use inside the stadium. In addition, WHO's goodwill ambassadors will be actively sharing the outcomes of the World Cup with the International Olympic Committee to support preparations for the Paris Olympics in 2024 and the Milano Cortina Winter Olympics in 2026.
Family Planning Handbook
Dr. Tedros mentioned that the WHO has released an updated Family Planning Handbook to provide health workers and policymakers with the latest information on contraceptives. This new version includes recommendations for broader access to self-administered contraceptives. These recommendations are expected to reduce the risk of unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
With this announcement, Dr. Tedros handed over the session to Margaret. She then opened the floor for questions. Many health reporters from around the globe put forward their queries to the expert panel.
The main focus of the discussion was on the availability of Ebola trial vaccines (ChAdOx, ChAd3, and VSV Sudan). Reporters also asked about the trials' robustness in gathering sufficient satisfactory evidence.
Experts on the panel mostly replied affirmatively about the availability of sufficient doses to initiate future trials. Regarding preparedness for future trials, one of the panelists, Dr. Ana Maria, said, "WHO, the partners and the vaccine developers are committed to randomizing these vaccines so we can generate the robust evidence that will allow us to know if one or more of them has the efficacy we hope they have."
The possibility of combined outbreaks of influenza, COVID-19, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in the upcoming winter was also discussed. In this regard, panelists recommended taking the COVID-19 and flu vaccines and following public health measures.
European Health Union (EHU) has arranged another press conference on November 17, 2022, to disclose that the Commission's Health Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) has signed a Joint Procurement Framework contract with the company Bavarian Nordic for the supply of up to 2 million doses of the monkeypox vaccine in 2023 and 2024. In this way, participating countries could build stockpiles and meet their medium and long-term needs.