The European Union announced on Wednesday the creation of a new biomedical authority designed to better respond to future pandemics, as it seeks to avoid repeating the mistakes that have undermined its early response to the coronavirus.
Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, the executive body of the bloc, has also pledged to donate an additional 200 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine to middle- and low-income countries by mid -2022, in addition to the 250 million already promised by the end of the year.
In her annual State of the Union address, Ms von der Leyen described immunization gaps as one of the biggest geopolitical issues nations face.
“The extent of the injustice and the level of urgency are evident,” von der Leyen told lawmakers at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France. EU member countries had only given 18 million doses in early September, a fraction of the 200 million promised.
While most developing countries have yet to administer a single dose of the coronavirus vaccine, including in the immediate vicinity of the European Union, more than 70% of adults in the block have been fully vaccinated. Ms von der Leyen said this places the bloc among the world leaders in immunization.
“We have held up,” she said, although she admitted that the bloc faced wide gaps at the national level as several Eastern European countries were lagging behind.
Ms von der Leyen’s confident tone on Wednesday contrasted sharply with her speech last year, when new cases of Covid-19 mushroomed across the block and coronavirus vaccines were months away.
“When I stood here in front of you a year ago, I didn’t know when and if we might have a safe and effective vaccine against the pandemic,” she said.
The European Commission, which has negotiated vaccines on behalf of member countries, has come under heavy criticism for the slow start of its vaccination program. The commission signed its first agreement on behalf of member countries months after the United States, hampering vaccine deliveries and, later, vaccination campaigns.
Still, the rollout has accelerated in recent months, and many EU countries have now overtaken other wealthy nations like Britain, Israel and the United States, and have started administering booster shots. to millions of older and vulnerable residents.
On Wednesday, Ms von der Leyen said the new agency, known as the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority, or HERA, would aim to “ensure that no virus will ever turn a local epidemic into a global pandemic again.” .
The new authority is set to become the European equivalent of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority in the United States, or BARDA, the federal health agency that focuses on vaccine development and pandemic preparedness.
It is expected to receive € 50 billion (around $ 59 million) in funding by 2027 and will work alongside existing EU health agencies, the European Center for Disease Control and the European Medicines Agency. .
Alaska’s largest hospital announced on Tuesday that a relentless coronavirus outbreak caused by the highly contagious variant of the Delta virus has left emergency room patients waiting hours in their vehicles and forced medical teams to ration care .
At Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, the hospital said it was now operating under “crisis care standards” – procedures in place to prioritize resources in a way that could leave some patients with care. inferior quality.
Alaska, where 60 percent of adults are fully vaccinated, is just one state among many. where the Delta variant has spread, putting a strain on hospitals. Last week, Idaho announced that medical centers in its northern state would adopt crisis care standards. In Alabama, all intensive care beds are occupied as hospitals in southern states are dangerously low on intensive care unit space.
In Mississippi, where 51% of adults are fully immunized, state officials have attempted to outsource “critical care level patients” to Kentucky. And in North Dakota, an executive with the state’s largest health care system said he could use up to 300 additional nurses to help treat Covid-19 patients.
In Anchorage, Dr Kristen Solana Walkinshaw, a senior executive at Providence Hospital, wrote in a message to the community that the hospital does not have the staff, space or beds to meet demand.
“Due to this shortage, we are unable to provide life-saving care to all who need it,” wrote Dr. Solana Walkinshaw.
The hospital said with an overflowing emergency room, patients have to wait in their cars for hours to see a doctor for emergency care. Elective surgeries continue to be postponed. Dr Solana Walkinshaw said rationing of care can include dialysis and “specialized ventilatory support”.
Providence Alaska Medical Center is a vital hub for patients statewide, serving as a destination for many people who need a higher level of care that cannot be provided in their home community. Dr Solana Walkinshaw said the hospital has been unable to accept patients from other facilities.
Alaska has reported a record number of hospitalizations in recent days. The number of new daily cases has also increased, but Gov. Mike Dunleavy has resisted the implementation of mitigation measures – such as mask warrants – that other states have adopted.
On Tuesday, Dr Solana Walkinshaw pleaded with members of the public to wear masks, even those who are vaccinated, and urged more vaccinations. She also encouraged people to avoid potentially dangerous activities, as seriously injured people may not have access to a bed at the hospital trauma center.
Dr Solana Walkinshaw said the hospital expects an escalation in hospitalizations for Covid in the coming weeks.
“What is already a stressful situation could quickly turn into a disaster,” wrote Dr Solana Walkinshaw.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the lack of centralized national data on schooling has made it difficult for parents, educators, policy makers and researchers to make decisions and analyze trends.
On Wednesday, a team from Brown University led by economist and author Emily Oster launched the Covid-19 School Data Hub, a site that includes data from about 56,000 schools in 31 states. It is one of the most comprehensive efforts to date to document how schools operate during the pandemic and ultimately, researchers hope, will measure the impact on children and the education system itself.
Site data will show when school buildings were open, closed, or were operating in hybrid mode. In 11 states, the hub can count the number of students who participated in each learning mode. It also includes the number of coronavirus cases discovered in schools in 30 states.
Over the next few months, Professor Oster said, his team hopes to add data on student performance and school enrollments to the site, checking whether students who left local schools last year have returned. In the future, researchers may be able to determine if and how school closures have affected high school graduation rates, crime, obesity and mental health needs, has t she noted.
Professor Oster emerged early in the pandemic as a well-known voice for in-person learning. In addition to her academic research on economics and public health, she is the author of a series of popular books on parents.
In an initial analysis using the new data hub, released Wednesday, Professor Oster showed that grades three to eight test scores in Virginia fell the most in schools that operated primarily online last year, and that the impact was greater in mathematics than in reading. .
These findings are part of a larger emerging body of research showing that millions of students have experienced academic setbacks during the pandemic, with black and Latino students, as well as students from low-income families, being the hardest. affected. These groups also had the least access to open classes.
The data center will fill an important information gap. There is no federal database of coronavirus cases discovered inside school buildings or during extracurricular activities such as sports.
The federal government conducted a limited survey of when various schools were operating in person or online and how many students participated in each setting. But the survey focuses only on the fourth and eighth grades in 4,000 schools.
The hub is funded by several leading philanthropic organizations: The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, founded by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan; Emergent Ventures, a George Mason University program backed by tech venture capitalist Peter Thiel; and Arnold Ventures, founded by hedge fund billionaire John D. Arnold and his wife Laura.
While the effort is vast, some pressing questions can be difficult to answer, Professor Oster said. States are not collecting data on school quarantine policies or closures related to the virus this school year, for example. And there isn’t much concrete information yet on how individual schools plan to help students recover from the pandemic academically.
“When the children are far behind, how do you get them to catch up? Asked Professor Oster. “It’s not just a pandemic problem.”