Almost two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, many scientific, policy, and implementation questions remain. The UCSF Pandemic Response Initiative (PRI) is responding to emerging needs, focusing its efforts at the global, regional, and community levels. PRI’s work spans advocacy and policy, social and behavioral research, and public health implementation projects that address the needs of low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) in their fight against COVID-19. Combining forces with other leaders in the field to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic, PRI continues to develop new partnerships with academic, government, and civil society colleagues around the world.
PRI is committed to advancing health equity through global advocacy for pandemic response and preparedness in LMICs, development of evidence to policy initiatives for low-resource settings, and support for participation in locally-driven research agendas and interventions.
Global Reach: Advocating for Enhanced Evidence-Driven Pandemic Response and Preparedness
One Virus, Few Treatments, Many Vaccines: An overview of global COVID-19 treatment and prevention
What COVID-19 vaccines are currently approved by the World Health Organization? Which ones are imminent? What are the differences between available vaccines? How well do they work? What do we know about the new Pfizer and Merck therapeutics for COVID-19 and their global availability? Dr. Monica Gandhi answers these questions and more. On December 8th, Dr. Gandhi, the Director of the UCSF-Bay Area Center for AIDS Research and Associate Chief of the UCSF Division of HIV, Infectious Diseases, and Global Medicine, guided us through a discussion around the current global COVID-19 treatment and vaccine landscape.
Sharing Lessons Learned
The World Health Organization Independent Panel on Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPR) invited the UCSF Institute for Global Health Sciences (IGHS) to develop a case study on the U.S. and Mexico response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report assesses the U.S. experience one year into the still-unfolding COVID-19 pandemic, aiming for a smarter, faster response to COVID-19 and future pandemics.
Collaborating Globally to End the Pandemic
PRI is an active member of the Pandemic Action Network (PAN), working with more than 89 member organizations supporting a coordinated global response. Major actions that PRI has partnered with PAN on include: advocating for a U.S.-led global COVID-19 summit, serving as a U.S. physician media liaison, supporting PAN advocacy for meeting vaccination targets at the G20, and creating a global action plan framework for world leaders.
Accelerate Access to Diagnostic Resources
With COVID-19 still raging in LMICs, and vaccine distribution and deployment slow, providing communities with access to COVID-19 diagnostic tests is of utmost importance. PRI highlighted these issues with partners at IDinsight in its recent Health Affairs Blog.
Regional and National Evidence-Based Policymaking and Advocacy
Development of the Latin American Pandemic Coalition
PRI and colleagues across IGHS and UCLA were awarded an incubator grant from UC Global Health Institute to launch the Latin American Pandemic Coalition. The project aims to foster partnerships in Latin America that bolster research efforts and spark evidence-based policy making for pandemic response, while also enhancing health security regionally.
Partnership with the Secretariat of Health, Baja California, Mexico
Using recommendations from the Mexico COVID-19 case study, PRI partnered with epidemiologists in the Mexican state of Baja California to support the first and only contact tracing program in Mexico. This relationship leverages UPIEA’s experience setting up a COVID-19 contact tracing program in San Francisco. Baja California and PRI shared findings from Baja California’s pilot program at the American Public Health Association 2021 conference.
Supporting Community Research & Action
Community-centered Approaches to Vaccine Communications
PRI convened a panel of community health practitioners and scientists to share local and global experiences combating COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, misinformation, and fears. Panelists shared lessons learned from indigenous communities in Guatemala, urban communities in Kenya and India, and communities in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Harnessing the Power of Social Media to Improve Vaccine Acceptance and Combat Misinformation
With funding from the Vaccine Confidence Fund, PRI is developing exciting new partnerships with community organizations and researchers in India and Guatemala to combat vaccine misinformation through social media. Read a press release about the work. Recent synopsis of our work in Guatemala and India was shared at the Vaccine Acceptance Research Network conference in March 2022.
Diagnostics: With its partner IDinsight, PRI created an evidence-based analytical tool, PRIoritize_Dx, that strategically allocates scarce testing resources. The tool uses country-specific inputs to help policymakers target their diagnostic program to the most at-risk populations.
Therapeutics: PRI, in collaboration with the University of Texas, Southwestern, published a scientific review of repurposed drugs for treatment of COVID-19 in the research pipeline. In December 2020, PRI hosted a digital forum, Monoclonal Antibodies for COVID-19 in Africa: Promise and Pitfalls, with global health experts to discuss this topic further. Post-webinar, PRI published a synopsis of applying monoclonal antibodies in LMICs to treat COVID-19.
Some recent press about therapeutics options, all of which have positive indications of decreasing hospitalizations and mortality include monpluvir, Pfizer’s Paxlovid antiviral, and the repurposed drug, fluvoxamine. PRI continues to apply an analytical, equity-centered lens to emerging therapeutics and treatment accessibility for LMICs.