COVID-19 Immunisation: Preparing for the Perfect Handoff

As the world mobilises to develop a vaccine, some countries will struggle to ensure their citizens are protected against COVID-19 – unless work starts to prepare them now.

Those most at risk of being left behind? The poorest and most fragile countries. And those with weak institutions and poor public health infrastructure.

The great divide of the 2020s could be between the vaccinated and those denied access to immunisation. Beyond the obvious health implications, countries risk finding themselves cut off from the rest of the world, as richer and more stable countries protect themselves from secondary epidemics.

Dr Emma Hannay is a global health consultant and Victoria Collis is a public service delivery consultant

The global race to create a COVID-19 vaccine is well underway. Teams in the USA and China have already reached the first big milestone of Phase 1 clinical trials on humans, with others hard on their heels in Germany, the UK, and Australia. It’s going to take 18 months or so, and likely cost between $200 and $500 million, but the chances of a successful vaccine are high.

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More on the Coronavirus and Slums

A few days ago on Global Dashboard, Mark Weston called for urgent action to respond to the needs of people living in slums during the coronavirus pandemic. The post has gone viral on Facebook, as interest in the subject has begun to intensify.

The Institute for Development Studies published this detailed briefing outlining the challenges facing those working to limit the virus’s impact in informal settlements, and suggesting a number of possible solutions. Clear information and advice, the authors argue, are critical for achieving buy-in to policies from slum residents. Drawing on the lessons of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, moreover, they highlight the need to collaborate with local residents to ensure that stigma doesn’t accelerate the virus’s spread.

In South Africa, the NGO IBP and others have produced this widely-shared flyer to show people living in informal settlements how to use shared taps and toilets without increasing their risk of COVID-19 infection. Another NGO, Slum Dwellers International, is working across Africa, Asia, and Latin America to help prepare communities for the virus.

Mark’s piece was picked up by South Africa’s leading news website, the Mail & Guardian. Last night he was interviewed on Cape Town’s Cape Talk Radio. While in some ways “African countries have been ahead of the game” in bringing in COVID-19 containment measures, he warned that “it will be dangerous if the countries of the Global South imitate those of the Global North” in their approach:

“Countries like South Africa have to develop their own policies, and even within South Africa you will need to have different policies for different informal settlements.”

Mark also made the point that responses in informal settlements will be most effective if they are community-led, with governments playing a key supporting role:

“The answers are going to come from within communities themselves. The community is the first line of defence, but governments can’t just wash their hands of this. They need to give communities what they need, things that they can’t access themselves.”

The podcast of the interview is available here. We hope the momentum will continue to build in the coming days and weeks.

COVID-19 and the Intergenerational Covenant

Until a month ago, a deep generational divide was the new front line in our polarised politics. But COVID19 could be about to change that – if we get this moment right.

Here in the UK, the December 2019 general election saw voting split along age rather than class lines, with the Conservatives winning 60% of votes among the over-65s while Labour won less than 20%.

Age divides on specific issues were just at stark – Brexit, most obviously, but also immigration (a factor in nearly 20% of over-65 votes compared to less than 5% of 18-24 year olds), cost of living (an issue of less concern to over-65s than any other age group), or climate change (the most important issue for 32% of 18-24 year olds, but only 13% of over-65s).

In the US, too, age has become a key dividing line. In the 2016 election, 18-29 year olds preferred Clinton to Trump by a huge 55%-37% margin, while over-65s chose Trump over Clinton by 53%-45%. In German politics, meanwhile, last year’s EU elections saw 33% of under-30s vote Green, pushing the party to second place in German polls for the first time ever in a nationwide poll amid a similarly widening generation gap.

None of this is surprising. Young people have had a shocking decade – bearing the brunt of austerity while coping with student debt, high housing costs, job insecurity, low pay, difficulty saving, and steadily tougher dependency ratios. Many older people, meanwhile, have enjoyed protection both from their higher rate of asset ownership, and the political clout of being a large generation that’s much more likely to turn out to vote.

Now, COVID19 puts all this into an even starker light. Younger people are taking a huge economic hit in order to protect older people. It’s an extraordinary act of solidarity across generations, and one that has the potential to be deeply healing and reunifying at a point when many countries sorely need it. But whether that potential is realised depends very much on what happens next.

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This is a Love Story: thinking globally during COVID-19

This is a love story. Forget what you’ve heard. It isn’t a war, it isn’t a fight. It isn’t a race, it isn’t a competition. This is a love story. 

Over the last few years, bringing international NGOs together to make the case for aid and development, we’ve been digging deeply into how people think (or, more accurately, how they hardly ever think) about the life-saving work their taxes pay for. We’ve captured that below, as dos and don’ts designed to help spokespeople from international organisations frame interviews, opinion pieces and social media posts in a way that will resonate at a time when families are worried about the impact of the coronavirus crisis on their own finances.

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How to Tackle Coronavirus in Slums

Western governments, following the example of China, have adopted broadly similar approaches to tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. After initial hesitation, and once infection rates and deaths have reached sufficiently alarming levels, they have enforced country-wide lockdowns.

Lower-income countries are beginning to copy this model. Rwanda, South Africa, and India are on full lockdown; Kenya and Sudan on partial lockdown. Measures implemented by other low-income countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America grow stricter by the day.

A one-size-fits-all approach, however, risks overlooking the enormous differences between rich and poor countries with regard to living conditions, social mores, and the availability of resources and services.

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Peace and Pandemics: How COVID-19 will impact violence and what we can do about it

As the world prepares for and responds to the direct health impacts of the COVID-19 coronavirus, those of us who work on reducing violence and preventing conflict are also bracing. The coronavirus pandemic is already producing knock-on effects for safety at the individual level, the community level, and – potentially – at the international level.

Recognizing and naming the risks we face is imperative, as is highlighting the positive steps being taken to reinforce peaceful resilience, to remind ourselves of our common humanity, and to re-invest in the international systems of cooperation that are more critical now than at any time in the past decade.

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You’re Not Being Bold Enough

You’re not being bold enough. I don’t mean that you should be going out. Stay at home, covidiots! I’m writing this from home in Italy – and just as it is said that the past is another country, right now this other country, Italy, is probably your future. So stay home.

And I don’t mean the nurses and the frontline workers – you are heroes. You are the boldest and the best of us.

I mean you policy wonks and thought leaders and popular economists. Seriously, you are not being bold enough.

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