New York launches mobile test-and-treat, World Bank OKs pandemic fund

New York City officials, flanked by the White House COVID-19 coordinator, yesterday unveiled the nation's first test-to-treat mobile units, which are designed to speed treatment to vulnerable groups.

And in global developments, World Bank officials yesterday approved a new pandemic preparedness fund, designed to shore up disease surveillance, lab networks, and other key health activities in low- and middle-income countries.

Test-and-treat reaches out to hard-hit communities

The mobile units will provide testing and include a clinician to provide instant access to prescriptions for no-cost antiviral medications for eligible people who test positive for COVID-19, NYC Health said in a statement. The units are partnering with pharmacies to provide immediate medication distribution.

The program is starting with 3 units and will expand to 30 during July.

Mayor Eric Adams said New York City was an epicenter in the early pandemic days but is now leading the way on prevention and mitigation. "This mobile Test to Treat program will save lives today and prepares us for future waves of this pandemic, keeping more New Yorkers safe and healthy," he said.

Ashish Jha, MD, White House COVID coordinator, said the United States has made a lot of progress. "But we know COVID isn't over, and we must ensure lifesaving treatments like Paxlovid are reaching our hardest-hit communities. That's exactly what New York City is doing with the launch of the nation's first mobile Test-to-Treat clinic."

In other US developments:

  • The Rockefeller Foundation, through its public charity RF Catalytic Capital, is opening its free at-home COVID test program targeting at-risk communities to all states, after it initially offered the program in six states, delivering an initial 1 million tests. Enrollment is open through Aug 31.
  • Pfizer yesterday announced that it has submitted an application for full approval for Paxlovid, its SARS-CoV-2 antiviral treatment. It is currently approved on an emergency-use basis.

World Band pandemic fund to launch in the fall

The World Bank's executive board yesterday approved a plan to develop a fund to strengthen pandemic preparedness, developed with broad support from G20 countries. Over $1 billion in financial commitments has been pledged, including by the United States, the European Union, Indonesia, Germany, the United Kingdom, Singapore, the Gates Foundation, and the Wellcome Trust.

David Malpass, World Bank Group president, said the long-term funding will help existing institutions in low- and middle-income countries prepare for future pandemics, with an expected launch in fall 2022. Financing will help strengthen disease surveillance, lab systems, the healthcare workforce, emergency communications, and community engagement.

The World Health Organization (WHO) will provide technical expertise in designing and setting the scope of the program.

In other global developments:

  • In an updated COVID-19 overview today, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said that cases are rising in seniors in 21 of 26 reporting countries, up 27% compared with the previous week. The group said the activity signals the start of a widespread wave due to the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants. Officials also noted that increased transmission in older age-groups is starting to fuel increased rates of severe disease.
  • The United Kingdom Office of National Statistics said today that rates continue to rise, with hospitalizations up in all age-groups. They say infection levels are now higher than during the peak of the Alpha wave, though hospitalization rates at that time were three times higher, with deaths more than 22 times higher.
  • Similar to the WHO and US Food and Drug Administration, the European Medicines Agency said today that updating mRNA boosters to include the Omicron variant may improve protection.
  • Pilgrims began arriving in Saudi Arabia today for the first full-scale Hajj since the start of the pandemic, with attendance expected at 1 million, according to Reuters. The Hajj begins on Jul 7 and ends on Jul 12.

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