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Antiviral Program for Pandemics & IMF

This publication discusses the recent Antiviral Program for Pandemics, its implication for the world, IMF and some of its initiatives  in Africa along with a note and video on Special Drawing Rights.

# Antiviral Program for Pandemics (AAP)

 

President Biden plans to invest $3.2 billion from American Rescue Plan as a part of anti-viral development strategy to build cutting edge next generation of treatments for COVID-19, so the country can be better prepared to fight future potential virus threats. Termed as Antiviral Program for Pandemics (AAP), Dr. Anthony Fauci elaborated on potential future threats from family of viruses in a recent Press Briefing by White House COVID-19 Response Team and Public Health Officials. These antiviral treatments complement the vaccination program that remains the bazooka among all the options in the US.

Antiviral Program for Pandemics (AAP) is a thought leadership program aimed at creating an ecosystem integrating key actors example academia, industry, policy makers to work decisively and collaboratively for a common good of addressing the heightened risks of viruses as the biggest universal disrupters, both today and tomorrow. The initiative facilitates creation of new antiviral drug centers to foster research for medication for SAR-Cov-2 and other prospective viruses of pandemic potential. The plan to identity additional candidates for program support apart from existing antiviral medicines that are in the later stages of development is both futuristic and visionary laying down the first clear cut strategy for espousing better preparedness to face present and future pandemics.   

AAP uses two prolonged approaches. First, invest in Research & Development for discovering new antiviral medicines. Second, accelerate clinical testing of promising antiviral medicines. Looking at the evidence from the pandemic, “repurposing of drugs” (a phrase used in the book Till We Win India’s Fight against the COVID-19 Pandemic by Dr. Chandrakant Lahariya, Dr. Gagandeep Kanga nd Dr. Randeep Guleria) i.e. using available drugs for treating COVID-19 enforces the validity of option of accelerating clinical testing of various existing medicines at various stages of development in the AAP program like those from Pfizer, Merck. 

Remdesivir, a drug developed to treat Ebola has had mixed success in treating patients suffering from the novel coronavirus. Americans approved Veklury (another name for Remdesivir) for treating SARS-Cov-2 patients based on specific parameters. Although the earlier reports of Remdesivir efficacy against COVID-19 were positive, the Solidarity test did not showcase any benefits from the drug. Subsequently, WHO dropped the medicine from its list of bulwarks against the pandemic.

Graph: CDC — Daily Trends in COVID-19 Cases in the United States Reported to CDC; 7-Day moving average as of 23 June, 2021.
Source: CDC *Historical cases are excluded from daily new cases and 7-day average calculations until they are incorporated into the dataset for the applicable date. Of 80,593 historical cases reported retroactively, 1,364 were reported in the current week and 1,165 were reported in the prior week.

Graph: The middle Road Data Source: CDC

As more variants of the novel coronavirus are increasingly becoming more lethal with higher levels of transmissibility, the development of antiviral pills enables a valid fight against the COVID-19 significantly for those with a weaker immune system. The policy initiative engulfs research of more potential viruses that are perceived as threats to the society, a critical enabler for social change and impact as risks from viruses as a weapon of mass destruction far outweigh risks from other known sources. The emphasis on discovering vaccines models the highly successful antiviral program focusing on discovering medication for HIV. 

Antiviral Program for Pandemics, $500 billion is for research and laboratory support, $1 Billion to support the creation of collaborative drug discovery groups called Antiviral Drug Discovery (AViDD) Centers for Pathogens of Pandemic Concern, $1 Billion for preclinical and clinical evaluation and $700 billion for development and manufacturing through NIH and BARDA.

 

Above interactive dashboard is embedded from CDC | https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#variant-proportions. The interactive dashboard default setting is “Nowcast Off” and in this mode to understand the data shown the link is here.

Graph: Data Source CDC | The middle Road 

Antiviral Program of Pandemics (AAP) lays down the foundation for other countries to follow suit for setting up research centers to negate the widespread transmissibility of variants of SAR-Cov-2. The United States is an excellent example of lead as it was the worst hit last year by the healthcare crisis despite having world-class research and development facilities matched by a few economies. As vaccination program continues to roll out in the country with 77.4% of 65 and plus population fully vaccinated, Americans will go through the inevitable, the painfully slow last mile vaccination process. To top the worries, the emergence of Delta variant as the major COVID-19 variant with footprints in already 77 countries globally gains in the US with national predicted value to be at 20.6% for the 2 weeks ending June 19, 2021, according to figures shared by CDC. The emergence of a dominant strain can be quick within a short time frame is evident from the change in the mix of variants in the US between December 2020 and May 2021.

 

At present,  there are The B.1.1.7 (Alpha), B.1.351 (Beta), P.1 (Gamma), B.1.427 (Epsilon), B.1.429 (Epsilon), and B.1.617.2 (Delta) variants of SARS-Cov-2 circulating in the United States. All of them classified as variants of concern, The middle Level  between variant of concern and the variant of high consequence.  The US has not identified any variant of high consequence. 

The Antiviral Program of Pandemics is a global thought leadership initiative, termed global ideology policy a magnificent way for major countries to come together in sharing know-how and knowledge for achieving success as we all race against time. From the Black plague to the Spanish flu, the world has seen pandemics before, however today with advances in medical science especially genomics, the global scientific community must paddle together to conquer the raging storm. Since 11 January 2020, when a consortium of scientists chiefly Chinese led by Yong-Zhen Zhang of the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center & School of Public Health posted the first genomic sequence of the SARS-Cov-2, to the fastest discovery of vaccinations for the novel coronavirus in history, the world has grown in scientific vigor unmatched in time. The world has yet to find an effective cure for HIV despite spending billions in research highlights the strides made by the scientific community over the last year. 

Read about response to the COVID-19. 

# Africa & IMF — Enabling Social Change and Impact 

 

Solomon Quaynor, African Development Bank VP, Private Sector, Infrastructure & Industrialization said: “We welcome this global partnership and the opportunity to provide the African voice, as Africa builds back better and boldly.  The opportunity to create jobs particularly for youth and women, from a focus on industrializing Africa underpinned by the African Continental Free Trade Area, will be our priority. Given the gap between the IMF estimates and what this partnership is committing to, we will seek to crowd-in African development partners, as well as African savings from SWFs, pensions, and insurance pools, estimated to have US$1.8 trillion AUM.”

graph Our World in Data

The longer the virus stays within our system, the higher the probability of it to mutate displaying more vulnerabilities within our societies developing immune escape system. As countries face second and third wave of the pandemic, many countries remain unprotected with minimal heathcare systems particularly the sub Saharan region in Africa and other selected regions globally. To enable social change and impact within the global arena, multiple entities including civic societies, multilateral and bilateral banks, commercial lending organizations, governments, activists are making a concerted effort to vaccinate the world at the earliest. One such initiative is from IMF to provide $50 billion plan to vaccinate 60% of the world’s population by mid 2022.  With Africa now facing the fastest growth rate in new COVID-19 infections, IMF projects this wave is likely to overtake previous peaks within a week. The pandemic has further aggravated the public debt among the middle level and low income countries. IMF places the public debt for sub Saharan Africa at 58% of the GDP in 2020, the highest level in almost two decades. Conflicts in many parts of Africa have further exasperated the situation with a colossal food shortage especially in the Tigray region in Ethiopia.

Special Drawing Rights or SDR was created by the IMF in 1969 as an international reserve asset to supplement other reserve assets of member countries. The collapse of Bretton Woods in  August 1971, brought an end to the era of a fixed currency regime linking the dollar to the value of gold.  However, as currencies began to freely trade against each other, the shift from the fixed currency regime turned out to be smooth. SDR defined as equivalent to 0.888671 grams of fine gold, the equivalent of one dollar shifted to the value of a basket of fixed currencies. SDR basket is reviewed every five years and at present consists of the US dollar, Chinese renminbi, Euro, Japanese yen, and the British pound. SDR is neither a currency nor a claim on the IMF rather a mechanism wherein members can lay claim to each other’s freely useable currencies. The IMF video below shares a wonderful perspective on how the SDR works.

# Debt Service Suspension

IMF estimates the global economic growth to be 6% this year yet sub-Saharan African would be the slowest growing region in the world with economic growth at 3.4%, a particularly worrisome figure for a continent saddled with huge debt. Herein, more than a decades-long The Debt Service Suspension program spearheaded by the World Bank Group, supported by IMF and actors from the international community is a key enabler. Both the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) and MDRI are cornerstone initiatives under the debt relief umbrella. The initiatives have relieved $100 billion for 37 participating countries with 31 of them from Africa. To express support during the pandemic, WBG, IMF, and G20 countries have suspended bilateral payments from the world’s poorest countries to lessen their burden due to the pandemic. As G7 countries move in tandem for debt relief along with vaccination aid chiefly from the US and China, Africa has to use every available opportunity to build it back through a web of partnerships, innovative policies example boost its startup ecosystem, promote inclusive healthcare, roll out quality educational programs, etc. With one of the highest proportion of the young population, Africans need key policy initiatives to keep unemployment rates low. IMF is not the only multilateral enabling social change and impact within the sustainable development in Africa. Several multiple development banks and institutions have agreed to commit capital of 80 billion dollars in the private sector in Africa in the next five years. But we are still far from the bridge.  

One key insight from the pandemic is crystal clear; we have entered unchartered waters — the risks from this and other emerging pandemics and measures to eliminate and limit these risks would be the focal point of our civilizations for generations to come. The world needs to move together to help one another during the time of the crisis. Development institutions and various actors are doing commendable work, a huge boost through concessional funding must be the driving force significantly for poor countries. End with words of Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director, IMF, it would be the best public investment of our lives and a game-changer for Africa. To add on for all the poorest countries in the world. 


References

  • The World Bank | Debt Relief
  • The Road Ahead for Africa—Fighting the Pandemic and Dealing with Debt; By Kristalina Georgieva, IMF Managing Director
  • Press Briefing by White House COVID-19 Response Team and Public Health Officials
  • Others cited through links

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