Shifting Strategies to End the COVID-19 Pandemic in the Aftermath of Omicron
By Beth Boyer
March 30, 2022
We are at a pivotal moment in the course of the pandemic and there is growing recognition that a shift in strategy is needed. In a new report released this week, the COVID GAP team calls for actions to chart a path forward for a sustainable control strategy for COVID-19.
The Path Forward
Our new report, The Path Forward, written in consultation with close to 50 experts from low- and middle-income countries, calls for an urgent shift in the global pandemic strategy that would rapidly change from an emergency crisis management approach to a sustainable control strategy that also helps to build resilient health systems better prepared to address future COVID-19 outbreaks and other public health threats.
1. Driving the urgent need for an updated strategy are five important recent developments:
2. Delta and now Omicron’s high transmissibility and partial immune evasion has changed the role and definition of vaccination;
3. Increased global vaccine supply and development of additional effective countermeasures are expanding our arsenal, making it more possible to contain COVID-19;
4. Pandemic fatigue and complacency is a growing problem;
5. Russia’s horrific invasion of Ukraine has co-opted the already limited attention and resources from the global COVID-19 response; and
6. Other population health priorities can no longer be deferred.
In response to these factors, national leaders, donors, multilateral organizations, and global public health organizations must support the urgently needed shift in global strategy by implementing the following four actions:
1. Support country-driven goals that reflect local realities and priorities;
2. Recognizing the global goal of 70% primary vaccination coverage, immediately prioritize fully vaccinating (including boosters) high-risk populations and health and other essential workers, with the aim of quickly reaching 90% coverage of those most at-risk;
3. Provide equitable access to oral antivirals through test-and-treat capabilities; and
4. Increase manufacturing capabilities and production in low- and middle-income countries for vaccines, therapies, diagnostic tests, and other critical health products.
Timely reporting of high-quality data at national and sub-national levels is necessary to assess progress and strengthen accountability. Robust financing and improved governance are also critical to achieve these recommendations.
A post-Omicron global strategy should build on the world’s successes, learn from its failures, and respond to dynamic conditions on the ground. The greater the delay in adapting to new realities, the higher the cost in lives, health, and economic prosperity.
Global Call to Action
In addition to the release of the Path Forward report, COVID GAP and the Pandemic Action Network co-hosted a virtual convening on Tuesday, March 29th to call for global action to end the COVID-19 pandemic and better prepare for the next one. The convening was jointly held with Africa CDC; African Population and Health Research Center; Amref Health Africa; Andean Health Organization; Center for Indonesia’s Strategic Development Initiatives; College of Medicine, University of Ibadan; School of Public Health, Cayetano Heredia University; WACI Health; and with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation.
The convening brought together diverse voices from around the world to highlight the urgent actions needed from Global Leaders at upcoming summits and events, including the Global COVID-19 Leaders’ Summit in April. A recording of the event is available online and a document summarizing the key recommendations and priority actions coming out of the convening will be released in the coming weeks.