News Round Up

World population:  7,919,624,238

Politics & Policies 

December 1st—Member states of the World Health Organization are banding together to make a plan to deal with future pandemics like the COVID-19 outbreak.  The World Health Assembly, the WHO’s decision-making body, voted to draft a “convention, agreement or other international instrument” on preventing, preparing for and responding to future pandemics.  The Special Session was only the second-ever since WHO’s founding in 1948. 

December 9th—The world’s overall performance on the GHS Index score slipped to 38.9 (out of 100) in 2021, from a score of 40.2 in the GHS Index, 2019. This, even as infectious diseases are expected to have the greatest impact on the global economy in the next decade. 

December 9th—South Korea ranked ninth in a 2021 Global Health Security Index report released on Wednesday.  The report, jointly by Johns Hopkins University and the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a nonprofit global security organization, measured the capacities of countries to see how well they are prepared for future health emergencies.  Top on the overall list of 195 countries was the U.S., followed by Australia and Finland.  The report says all countries remain “dangerously unprepared” to meet future epidemic and pandemic threats which could be more devastating than COVID-19.

December 13th—WHO’s total budget for 2022 to 2023 is over $6 billion, with member states contributing 16% of the total.  A debate among member states around a contentious proposal to increase their dues by over $1 billion by 2029 will take place this week.

December 17th—The G7 emphasized the importance of getting booster vaccinations out and an emphasis on nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPI).

December 20th—It has been a year of colossal efforts in global health.  Countries battled COVID-19, which claimed more lives in 2021 than in 2020, while struggling to keep other health services running.  Health and care workers have borne the lion’s share of these efforts but often received little recognition or reward.  Life-saving COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments were rolled out, but overwhelmingly in the richest countries, leaving many populations unprotected, especially in lower-income countries.  Across other health areas, from diabetes to dementia, there have been both setbacks and hard-won successes. 

December 22nd—Will 2022 be the year Covid starts to settle down, to show signs of being more endemic, less pandemic? Some experts think so — especially if the Omicron variant infects huge swaths of people worldwide.

Programs, Conferences, Grants & Awards

Devember 13th—After decades of being underestimated and overlooked, Muyembe’s hard work and integrity have finally started to pay off. TIME magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people of 2020.  Nature included him in its list of the ten people who mattered in science in 2019.  And that same year, the Government of Japan awarded him the Hideyo Noguichi Africa Prize. 

December 15th—The 10th Global Conference on Health Promotion on 13-15 December 2021 marked the start of a global movement on the concept of well-being in societies. A focus on well-being encourages different sectors to work together to address global challenges and help people take control over their health and lives.


December 2nd—More than 50 countries have stepped up border controls to slow the spread of Omicron, a highly mutated SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern that is sweeping through South Africa. But researchers say many of the restrictions — especially those targeting only travelers from a handful of countries — are unlikely to keep Omicron out, and come at significant cost to the countries concerned. 

December 13th—In this randomized clinical trial including 941 patients, based on the World Health Organization 11-point Ordinal Scale for Clinical Improvement, convalescent plasma (CCP) did not benefit 468 participants randomized to CCP compared with 473 randomized to placebo from April 2020 to March 2021. However, in exploratory analyses, CCP appeared to benefit those enrolled from April to June 2020, the period when most participants received high-titer CCP and were not receiving remdesivir and corticosteroids at randomization.

Diseases & Disasters

December 2nd—Researchers in Botswana and South Africa just detected the omicron variant a few weeks ago, but already many scientists are predicting that the efficacy of the vaccines will likely take a hit, probably a big hit, when it comes to stopping infections of omicron. And more breakthrough infections will likely occur if (and that’s a big if) omicron spreads here in the U.S.  At the same time, there’s hope that vaccines will still offer good protection against severe disease and hospitalization, especially with a third dose. 

January 1st—A South African study from the epicenter of the world’s omicron surge offers a tantalizing hint that the acute phase of the Covid-19 pandemic may be ending. 


December 14th—Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine has been less effective in South Africa at keeping people infected with the virus out of hospital since the Omicron variant emerged last month, a real-world study published on Tuesday showed.

December 17th—Novavax, Inc., a biotechnology company dedicated to developing and commercializing next-generation vaccines for serious infectious diseases, and Serum Institute of India Pvt. Ltd. (SII), the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer by volume, today announced that the World Health Organization (WHO) has granted Emergency Use Listing (EUL) for NVX-CoV2373, Novavax’ recombinant nanoparticle protein-based COVID-19 vaccine with Matrix-M™ adjuvant, for active immunization of individuals 18 years of age and older for the prevention of coronavirus disease 2019 caused by SARS-CoV-2.

Environmental Health

December 2nd—Environmental worries can motivate but also overwhelm people. Polling from September 2020 showed that more than half of adults in the U.S. were anxious about how climate change affects their mental health. And nearly 40% of surveyed Gen Z Americans, born after 1996, said addressing climate change is their top personal concern.  The loss of Kevin remains a shock for me, and for others who cared about him — especially his mother, who has become increasingly involved in environmental advocacy. 

December 22nd—Sir Robin May, Chief Scientist at the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has called for urgent progress on a unified eco-labelling system for food in the UK. It comes as more than half (54%) of respondents to an FSA survey say they would like to improve their diet to make it more sustainable. The Healthy and Sustainable Diets consumer survey also revealed that 73% believe it’s important for them to buy food that has a low environmental impact.  Sir Robin explained that the way we grow, process and transport food is a major contributor to climate change, with food production as a whole accounting for more than a quarter (25%+) of all greenhouse gas emissions.

December 22nd—Bath politicians are arguing that conservationists are putting bird welfare above public health concerns as Natural England’s pilot scheme prevents removal of nests and eggs. Bath MP and Liberal Democrat, Wera Hobhouse said it had been almost impossible this year for Bath and North East Somerset Council to get permission to remove nests – despite their rising population and associated noise, droppings, and nuisance.

December 30th—The modern world is threatening sperm counts, altering male and female reproductive development, and imperiling the future of the human race.

Equity & Disparities

December 3rd—The newly-discovered Omicron variant has highlighted the unequal distribution of vaccines and the lack of vaccine accessibility in some of the most vulnerable groups in many lower-income countries across the globe.  Vaccine inequity has amplified the logistical burden, and highlighted the visible cracks in the global healthcare system. 

December 13th—The World Health Organization and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital today announced plans to establish a platform that will dramatically increase access to childhood cancer medicines around the world.  The Global Platform for Access to Childhood Cancer Medicines, the first of its kind, will provide an uninterrupted supply of quality-assured childhood cancer medicines to low- and middle-income countries. 

December 20th—In the 1950s, when a journalist asked virologist Jonas Salk who owned the polio vaccine, he replied, “Well, the people I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun? 

December 22nd—As 2022 approaches, with nearly nine billion vaccine doses administered worldwide, public health experts say goals of global vaccine equity have fallen woefully short. Not only has ramped-up vaccine production failed to address shortages in low-income countries, but there remains a long way to go in addressing the myriad challenges related to getting vaccines from tarmacs in low-income countries into residents’ arms. 

Women, Maternal, Neonatal & Children’s Health

November 11th—A dire shortage of anaesthetics, among other drugs, has caused operating theatres across Malawi to close, sharply increasing complication risk for pregnant women and preventing the possibility of caesareans. 

December 14th—”U.S. News & World Report, long known for its rankings of hospitals, issued its first ever “Best Hospitals for Maternity” rankings Dec. 7, highlighting facilities that perform well on key quality indicators. It plans to update the report annually.” 

December 23rd—While hospital-based initiatives are important, a renewed focus on maternity and infant health prior to and after delivery are essential to long-term positive health outcomes. 

December 28th—When the Taliban began targeting female judges, three women planned a daring escape. 

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