Reproduced from The Energy Progress Report 2020 using The World Bank data; Map: Axios Visuals

The twin global goals of effectively responding to COVID-19 and bringing power to hundreds of millions of people lacking electricity and cooling infrastructure are converging.

Why it matters: "Reliable power is critical for effective responses to COVID-19 and other diseases," states a Brookings Institution piece.

Where it stands: Roughly 790 million people lacked electricity access as of 2018, per a late May analysis from the World Bank, World Health Organization and other bodies.

  • That annual report on progress toward UN energy access goals notes that COVID-19 has "further accentuated the need for reliable, affordable access" in health care facilities.
  • And as we've noted before, some places in Africa and Asia with access are often beset by unreliable or intermittent supplies.

How it works: Reliable electricity is needed along the entire testing, treatment and eventual vaccination chain.

  • Power is needed for diagnostics on active infections, ventilator treatments, cleaning equipment and other key services in health care facilities, Brookings points out.
  • "[P]owering a cold chain will be critical to delivering a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available," they write.
  • Vaccines can be ruined when refrigerated storage units lose power, while "last mile electrification" is needed for distribution.

The big picture: A suite of efforts are planned or underway to improve care and eventual treatment of the pandemic as well as future illnesses, in regions with limited or absent energy access. A few...

  • It's firmly on the radar screen of the World Bank-led Energy Sector Management Assistance Program.
  • The bank's Makhtar Diop notes efforts are underway to mobilize donors to help sub-Saharan African governments electrify health care facilities with solar and battery tech.
  • The International Renewable Energy Agency and the UN's Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific are working to help rural health centers.
  • Go deeper: Duke University's Rob Fetter, who co-authored the Brookings piece, pointed me toward this COVID-19 roundup posted by the group Power for All, which works to expand electricity access via decentralized renewables.

The bottom line: "Remedying electricity access in health facilities in response to COVID-19 brings us a step closer to ending the vicious cycle of panic and neglect in preventing deadly diseases," the Brookings analysis notes.

Reproduced from The Energy Progress Report 2020 using Multi-Tier Framework, and The World Bank data; Chart: Axios Visuals

Zoom in: The multi-agency report on global power access highlights the energy hurdles facing health centers in developing nations.

What they did: The report compiles survey data on health care facilities in a subset of countries (as shown above).

What they found: "In every country analyzed, the power supply is compromised by unscheduled interruptions and voltage fluctuations," they find.

  • "Twenty-five percent of health facilities reported that unscheduled outages affect the capacity to deliver essential health services."
  • "Damage to equipment caused by poor-quality connections and frequent voltage fluctuations are also constraints for 28 percent of health centers."

Go deeper

Sep 16, 2020 - Health

CDC director suggests face masks offer more COVID-19 protection than vaccine would

CDC director Robert Redfield suggested in a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on Wednesday that face masks are "more guaranteed" to protect against the coronavirus than a vaccine, citing the potential for some people to not become immune to the virus after receiving the shot.

What he's saying: "These face masks are the most important, powerful public health tool we have. And I will continue to appeal for all Americans, all individuals in our country, to embrace these face coverings. I've said if we did it for 6, 8, 10, 12 weeks, we'd bring this pandemic under control," he said.

Sep 17, 2020 - Health

The risks of moving too fast on a coronavirus vaccine

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The scientific race for a coronavirus vaccine is moving at record-shattering speed. Making the most of that work — translating a successful clinical product into real-world progress — will require some patience.

Why it matters: If we get a vaccine relatively soon, the next big challenge will be balancing the need to get it into people's hands with the need to keep working on other solutions that might prove more effective.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Sep 16, 2020 - Health

Exclusive: First full at-home COVID-19 test

The Gauss/Cellex rapid at-home COVID-19 test. Credit: Gauss

Gauss, a computer vision startup, and Cellex, a biotech company that works on diagnostics, are announcing the first rapid COVID-19 test that can be fully performed by people at home without involving a laboratory.

Why it matters: Experts agree that the U.S. still needs far more widespread testing to help contain the coronavirus pandemic. An antigen test that could be performed and provide results rapidly at home could help reduce testing delays and allow people to quickly find out whether they need to isolate because of a COVID-19 infection.