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The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak is an unfortunate reminder that diseases don’t respect borders. In a matter of months, the virus has swept the globe, infecting almost 3 million people in almost every country. The fear and uncertainty has disrupted financial markets and dominated the news cycles.
At ONE, we’re tracking COVID-19 closely. The outbreak requires an immediate response, and global cooperation and partnerships — among countries and continents — are crucial.
For example, a new partnership between the UK and Senegal has become a model for this type of cooperation and solidarity. UK aid is funding the development of a rapid diagnostic test for COVID-19. The test will be jointly manufactured in the UK and Senegal, which is a first for the African continent. By doing this, the tests will be financially accessible to low-income countries, as well as make the process of distributing them across Africa more efficient.
Alongside responses, we should also look to the future and consider what’s needed to prevent these types of outbreaks.
Here are a few key things we think you should know now, and moving forward.
What about a vaccine?
Vaccines are the most effective way to prevent infections, and we’ve answered six key question about a COVID-19 vaccine.
There are currently vaccinations to prevent some of the world’s deadliest and most infectious diseases including measles, pneumonia, whooping cough, influenza, HPV, and cholera. However, because COVID-19 is a new — or novel — virus, a vaccine does not yet exist. A COVID-19 vaccine is under development, with several companies working together and about potential vaccines in the pipeline. But it will take at least 12 months before an effective vaccine is available due to the time it takes to safety test, manufacture, and distribute.
Once a vaccine proves effective, international players such as Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance could play a crucial role in making sure the COVID-19 vaccine reaches those in poorest and most vulnerable countries. The recent vaccine for the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo is an example of how this would work.
Curious how vaccines work in general? We have a full breakdown on some of the most commonly asked questions on vaccines.
How can we prevent these types of outbreaks in the future?
When it comes to epidemic preparedness and response, the idiom “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is particularly fitting. Rightly, many countries and international organizations responded quickly once COVID-19 started to spread. But a good response relies on even better preparation.
For years experts have warned that the next big pandemic is a matter of “when” not “if.” That warning will still be true when the immediate threat from COVID-19 subsides.
With that in mind, the international community needs to ensure that three types of funding are available for current and future pandemics: immediate response; managing economic impact and dislocation; and building the capacity needed to prevent, detect, and respond to future threats.
All three funding streams are needed to improve health security today and ensure we are prepared for the next big health threat.
At ONE, we advocate for strong and effective health systems everywhere to keep people healthy, safe, and free of preventable diseases. We need strong funding, effective policies, political will, and targeted investments to make sure everyone, everywhere has the healthcare they need.
Curious on the basics?
What is coronavirus? How is it spread? What are the symptoms? How do I prepare?
It’s normal to have a ton of questions about COVID-19, especially as the situation is changing by the day. As the outbreak and global response evolve, the World Health Organization is a good one-stop-shop for the most up-to-date information on how to protect yourself and others.
Photo credit: Gov. Tom Wolf