💊 An overstretched WHO response; The need for new Covid-fighting antibodies; A respiratory disease emergency in Brazil
A status update on the AMA; The climate crisis is a health crisis, says the WHO; Pfizer shots live longer
Hello there, and welcome back to The Kable this fine Thursday. How’s work going? Not too well? Don’t complain, because at least you have a job. That’s more than these 199 people from Abbott can say. No more pandemic means no more pandemic-related revenue and no more pandemic-related jobs.
Overworked and exhausted? Still can’t complain because the WHO has it worse. From Covid and cholera to Marburg and humanitarian emergencies, the increasing number of global health crises has left the WHO’s response overstretched. As of March 2023, the agency was responding to 53 high-level emergencies. Gaps between demand and supply of funding and staffing are only getting wider. Good thing their new budget includes a 20% membership fee hike.
It's Africa Day today. Happy Africa Day. It could be happier, though. Africa was left out of the Covid conversation and is still being sidelined when it comes to long Covid. What will it take to rebuild the trust between Africa and wealthier countries? Devex reports on the first day of World Health Assembly discussions.
Also, at the World Health Assembly, experts are highlighting the global mental health crisis, which was exacerbated by the pandemic. Budgets and mental health workers remain scarce, so while the conversation is gaining steam, experts believe that governments need to take tangible action to tackle the mental health epidemic.
In Switzerland, the government is implementing a decision passed in a referendum last year to ban the advertising of tobacco products and e-cigarettes in places and media where young people can see it. So we guess tobacco companies will just have to focus their advertising efforts on older people; who cares if they die from smoking?
In India, the consumer affairs ministry is mulling issuing an advisory which would stop chemists from making consumers purchase entire blister packs of medicines when they don’t actually need the full strip. Chemists have valid concerns about this move; selling only a few pills means that the rest of the pack will not have important information like batch number and manufacturing and expiry dates. To work around this problem, the ministry may recommend modifying packaging.
In a case of shifting goalposts, Pfizer has applied to the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, or Sahpra, to extend the expiry dates on 7 million doses of their Covid vaccine. The National Department of Health is assuring the public that the shots’ shelf life can be safely extended by conducting a stability study. Extending vaccine shelf life is not uncommon, but the company will have to undertake the required steps before Sahpra can give it the go-ahead.
In Malawi, members of the Health Committee of Parliament want the libido enhancing drug, Viagra, off pharmacy shelves. Considering the risks that come with taking the drug without a doctor’s prescription, they want it to be sold only in certified facilities.
In Uganda, there are concerns that there aren’t enough medical workers to provide quality care to patients. But as the government can absorb only roughly 2,000 nurses every financial year, the Uganda Nurses and Midwives Union is finding ways to send the remaining 3,000 trained nurses to the UK and the Middle East. So much for red lists discouraging active recruitment from struggling national healthcare systems.
In South Africa, a cholera outbreak has claimed at least 17 lives; the precise source of the outbreak is unknown, but poor wastewater management and local government instability in Pretoria are likely to blame. In Zimbabwe, at least 9 lives have been lost to cholera since February. These countries join the at least 12 countries on the continent which have experienced cholera outbreaks this year. While local sanitation is partly to blame, cyclones and floods in southern Africa and a global vaccine shortage are no help at all.
And finally, when it rains, it pours. In Brazil, an outbreak of respiratory diseases – RSV, influenza A and B, and Covid-19 – has resulted in an emergency situation in the 16 municipalities of the state of Amapá.