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Polio eradication in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic: Summary of urgent country and regional recommendations from the Polio Oversight Board meeting of March 24, 2020 | ReliefWeb.

[Source: WHO] [Published: 24 Mar 2020] [Origin: View original]

The COVID-19 pandemic response requires worldwide solidarity and an urgent global effort. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), with thousands of polio workers, and an extensive laboratory and surveillance network, is positioned and ready to ensure that our resources are used by countries in their preparedness and response. The COVID-19 emergency means that many aspects of the polio eradication programme will be—and in some areas are already-- substantially affected.

In light of these considerations, the Polio Oversight Board (POB) of GPEI recommends:

  1. All polio eradication country programmes prioritize support for the response to COVID-19. Specifically, for the next 4-6 months, GPEI assets (technical expertise, surveillance and community networks, and logistics capacity) at all levels (global, regional, national, and local levels) should be made available to support the global response to COVID-19. GPEI staff supporting COVID-19 front line activities, must be provided with the necessary training, materials, equipment and logistics to do so safely. Additionally, if required, GPEI financial management systems could be used to support the channelling of COVID-19 funding for the pandemic response.

  2. Critical functions related to Polio Acute Flaccid Paralysis and Environmental Surveillance should remain a priority and governments should do all they can to ensure they continue, to closely monitor the circulation of wild and vaccine-derived polioviruses. As much as possible, these surveillance activities should be paired with COVID-19 surveillance and data systems upgraded to support this expanded portfolio of work. To facilitate this work, the provision of personal protective equipment for surveillance officers should be prioritized.

  3. All polio activities which come in contradiction to global guidance on physical distancing, such as house-to-house or other immunization activities using oral or injectable vaccines, should be suspended to avoid placing communities and frontline workers at unnecessary risk, and facilitate rapid and effective COVID-19 response in countries. Specifically,
    a. All preventive polio campaigns should be postponed until the second half of 2020.
    b. Endemic countries, and non-endemic countries planning to conduct outbreak responses campaigns, should postpone all campaigns (mOPV2, bOPV) until June 1, 2020 and then reevaluate based on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic. Any country wishing to proceed with polio vaccination campaigns should only implement such campaigns after a thorough assessment of risk of COVID-19 transmission among frontline workers and communities and potential impact on immunization programs. Vaccines currently approved for preventative SIAs and outbreak response will be shipped, unless a country has decided to postpone that campaign. New vaccine requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

  4. Efforts to obtain an Emergency Use Listing recommendation for novel Oral Polio Vaccine type 2 (nOPV2), must continue at full speed. The preparation for nOPV2 roll-out, across the range of technical, communications, policy and manufacturing activities should also continue. Engagement with countries around initial use of nOPV2 will continue, as appropriate to their specific COVID-19 situation, with the goal of deploying nOPV2 for outbreak response during the second half of 2020.

  5. While halting important polio eradication activities is necessary, it will result in increased spread of disease and number of children paralyzed by wild and circulating vaccine-derived polioviruses. This will require a scale up of polio eradication efforts once the COVID-19 situation has stabilized. Without compromising support to the COVID-19 response, country programmes should take the opportunity during the pause in vaccination campaigns to improve other elements of the program such as strategic planning and performance management processes. Finally, GPEI and country programmes must develop a comprehensive set of context-specific strategies and a plan for resumption of operations.

This guidance and the timelines will be reviewed by the Strategy Committee on a bi-weekly schedule given the rapidly changing situation with COVID-19.


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67 Years Ago Today: Jonas Salk Announced The Polio Vaccine... And Did NOT Patent It | techdirt.

[Thu, Mar 26th 2020 12:05pm] Mike Masnick writes:

It seems worth noting a historical milestone today. 67 years ago today, March 26, 1953, Dr. Jonas Salk announced the vaccine for polio, and saved millions of lives. And this is notable given the current COVID-19 pandemic we're all living with. However, at a time when we're having to be vigilant for giant pharmaceutical companies sneakily trying to game the system to get extra exclusivity, and patent maximalists pushing for extended patent terms as an "incentive" to come up with a vaccine, it's worth noting the simple fact that he did not patent the vaccine. Indeed, in a TV interview with Edward Murrow, Salk famously said "could you patent the sun?"

Watch Global Citizen YouTube video [1:02] "Could you patent the sun?" https://youtu.be/erHXKP386Nk

Right at the beginning of that video you can see the famous exchange:

Murrow: Who owns the patent on this vaccine?

Salk (shocked face): Well... the people I would say. There is no patent... Could you patent the sun?

A few years back, there was an effort by a bunch of patent maximalists to try to recontextualize and minimize that statement. They made up things, claiming that it wasn't patentable in the first place (wrong), that there was too much prior art (nope), that because so many people had donated money to the research there was a general sense that "the public had already paid for the polio vaccine" and Salk patenting it "would have represented double charging." Of course, this is all ludicrous, when you recognize that most drugs today, including basically every current effort to deal with COVID-19, are also mainly paid for by taxpayer funds in the form of NIH grants and the like.

The key point, however, is that there are many different incentives -- and believing that locking up exclusivity in order to jack up the price of a drug or vaccine to obtain monopoly rents, is a silly idea that has no basis in real economics. Jonas Salk proved that in the 1950s and saved millions and eradicated polio. Anyone focusing on patents or other exclusivities in the middle of a pandemic like this is displaying wanton greed and a real misunderstanding of how incentive structures actually work. Today, Jonas Salk is correctly remembered as a hero. Any company looking to block out competition and charge monopoly rents for a treatment of vaccine to today's pandemic is rightly seen as a greedy profiteer.

The incentive structure for saving the world need not be that individuals need to pay tons of money to get it. Patents on drugs rarely make sense in even normal times. At this moment, they make no sense.


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