Newswire: Former Liberian leader joins panel investigating the global response to COVID – 19

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

July 13, 2020 (GIN) – The World Health Organization has announced that Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia’s former president, and Helen Clark, New Zealand’s former prime minister, are to head a panel to review the global response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mmes. Johnson Sirleaf and Clark will head the newly formed Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response. The announcement follows the Trump administration’s formal notification to the U.N. on Monday of its withdrawal from WHO, which won’t take effect until July 6, 2021 with a possibility of reversal by a new administration or changed circumstances.
Mrs. Sirleaf led Liberia during the Ebola epidemic that began in 2014, when more than 11,000 people were infected with the virus and died. New Zealand has been lauded as a success story for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
The World Health body’s chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said it was time to reflect and to strengthen collaboration in order to contain the pandemic. “Through you, the world will understand the truth of what happened and also the solutions to build our future better as one humanity,” the AFP news agency quoted Dr Tedros as saying.
“I cannot Imagine two more strong-minded, independent leaders to help guide us through this critical learning process to help us understand what happened — an honest assessment and to help us understand also what we should do to prevent such a tragedy in the future,” the world health leader said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has been under pressure for some time to review its handling of the pandemic. It has faced criticism, most notably from the United States, that it was slow to respond to the initial outbreak in China; the evaluation announced by the WHO will look not just at the WHO’s response, but at the response of individual countries as well.
According to WHO’s announcement, the panel will operate independently and they will choose other panel members as well as members of an independent secretariat to provide support. They are expected to deliver an interim report in November and a “substantive” report to the World Health Assembly — the WHO’s governing body — at its 2021 meeting next May.

Newswire: Experimental drug gets green light for new Ebola outbreak

Ebola drug.jpg
                                                            Ebola drug vaccination

May 14, 2018 (GIN) – The Ebola virus which took thousands of lives in West Africa has resurfaced in central Africa. This time, health officials are ready to put an experimental drug to the test.

The outbreak, which has caused at least 19 deaths and 39 confirmed and suspected cases, was reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) Bikoro Health Zone, Equateur Province between April 4 and May 13, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The drug, known as rVSV-ZEBOV, was developed over a decade ago by the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, Manitoba and is now licensed to Merck to help protect people who have not yet been infected with Ebola.

It was proven safe and effective when first used in Guinea in 2015. Some 1,510 individuals were vaccinated between March 17 and April 21. Guinea was declared Ebola virus disease-free on Dec. 29. The trial ended on Jan. 20, 2016.

Others working with WHO are Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; Médecins Sans Frontières; and the DRC’s Ministry of Health to introduce the shot, a WHO spokesperson confirmed Monday.

A “ring vaccination” approach around the epicenter of the outbreak in the Congo, will be used. But because Merck’s Ebola shot hasn’t yet won regulatory approval, officials must obtain an importation license, plus establish a “formal agreement on the research protocols,” WHO spokesperson Tarik Jašarević told FiercePharma.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the world health body, said the WHO has a stockpile of 4,300 doses of the vaccine in Geneva; the company also has 300,000 doses of the vaccine stockpiled in the U.S.

The “ring vaccination” approach was a strategy used in 1977 to control smallpox. The idea is to vaccinate people who know someone who has been infected and the people who know those people, in an expanding “ring” around the infections.

So far, 393 people have been identified as part of the “ring” around people who are known or suspected to have been infected in the Congo.