FIU’s Global Health Consortium, the Office of the President and the Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work will hold a gathering of world health leaders on Friday, Feb. 26, to address critical issues around COVID-19 vaccines. More than 3,300 people have already registered for the online program.
The meeting brings together authorities from the Pan-American Health Organization/World Health Organization, the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine, Israel, Africa, Brazil and Switzerland as well as FIU. The goal: to share across borders and organizations the most impactful information about stemming the coronavirus.
“Everyone should have access to the top experts in the world,” says Dr. Carlos Espinal, director of the Global Health Consortium. He welcomes a broad spectrum of attendees to participate in what he calls “building a global perspective, because today the COVID 19 pandemic affects all of us, and what we do locally is highly relevant globally.”
Available at no charge and targeted to everyone from health ministers and hospital officials to medical personnel, researchers and administrators of NGOs, among others, the half-day program aims to share the most current data and thinking about a scourge that knows no borders.
Scheduled topics include an update on COVID-19 immunization programs within United States, Latin America, the Caribbean and beyond, with speakers addressing emerging variants and how to build worldwide trust in vaccination. Israel’s rollout, among the world’s most successful, will be examined as a possible model, and discussion of natural herd immunity will take place in the context of Brazil, where a resurgence of the virus threatens to reverse earlier progress.
Another major concern on the agenda: the issue of unequal access to vaccines, both in the global context as well as in the United States. “This is something that we are trying to really improve,” Espinal says of current efforts by the WHO and others, “how to reach the most underserved populations and reduce the inequity gap that we are facing today in many health issues.”
Data on COVID-19 vaccination in the United States shows unequal distribution of the life-saving drugs, with Blacks and other minorities vaccinated at disproportionately lower rates than whites. Internationally, developing countries, among them many in Africa, have experienced poor access to vaccines, in part because richer countries could more quickly and easily negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies. Efforts to increase such access will be addressed by the WHO’s representative to COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access, or COVAX. Representatives from Africa and Brazil will also speak on the subject of access.
Espinal remains committed to the notion that global cooperation is key to beating COVID-19. In an interconnected world based on an international economy, he says, no nation can succeed in isolation. “This is a commitment that we all should have in order to achieve our goals and objectives.”