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Achieving Global Vaccine Equity for COVID-19: A Virtual Conversation

A Virtual Conversation with Jennifer Kates, PhD, MPA, Priti Krishtel, JD, and David Robinson, PhD

Moderated by Harsha Thirumurthy, PhD


Policy Priorities to Address Global Vaccine Distribution and Supply Gaps

The second wave of COVID-19 in India and other low- and middle-income countries has highlighted the tragic consequences of inequitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. As high-income countries achieve higher vaccination coverage, limited access to vaccines in low- and middle-income countries can lead to substantial loss of life and make it much harder to bring an end to the pandemic.

Join our expert panel as they discuss what the U.S. and other wealthy nations can do in the short-term to increase global access to COVID-19 vaccines and how the U.S. must alter its response to meet current COVID-19 needs and future pandemic preparedness goals.

Free & open to the public. See how to join live event here


Harsha Thirumurthy, PhD (Moderator) Associate Professor, Medical Ethics and Health Policy, Perelman School of Medicine

Harsha Thirumurthy, PhD is an economist at the University of Pennsylvania and Associate Director of the Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics (CHIBE), where he leads global health initiatives. He is also Co-Director of the Indlela nudge unit, a behavioral economics research and capacity building initiative in South Africa.

Dr. Thirumurthy’s interests lie at the intersection of economics and public health, with a focus on HIV prevention and treatment as well as maternal and child health. His research has assessed numerous interventions to promote health behaviors in low-income settings, typically using insights from psychology and economics as well as novel technologies.

In partnership with researchers and implementing organizations in Africa and India, he has led randomized trials of behavioral interventions and also evaluated large-scale disease prevention programs and cash transfer initiatives.

Dr. Thirumurthy completed a PhD in Economics at Yale University and his research has been published in leading journals in economics, public health, and medicine.

Jennifer Kates, PhD, MPA Senior Vice President and Director of Global Health and HIV Policy, Kaiser Family Foundation

Dr. Jen Kates is Senior Vice President and Director of Global Health & HIV Policy at KFF, where she oversees policy analysis and research focused on the U.S. government’s role in global health and on the global and domestic HIV epidemics. Widely regarded as an expert in the field, she regularly publishes and presents on global health and HIV policy issues and is particularly known for her work analyzing donor government investments in global health; assessing and mapping the U.S. government’s global health architecture, programs, and funding; and tracking and analyzing major U.S. HIV programs and financing, and key trends in the HIV epidemic, an area she has been working in for close to thirty years.

Prior to joining KFF in 1998, Dr. Kates was a Senior Associate with The Lewin Group, a health care consulting firm, where she focused on HIV policy, strategic planning/health systems analysis, and health care for vulnerable populations. Among other prior positions, she directed the Office of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Concerns at Princeton University.

Dr. Kates has served on numerous federal and private sector advisory committees on global health and HIV issues, including PEPFAR’s Scientific Advisory Board, the NIH Office of AIDS Research Advisory Council, the CDC/HRSA Advisory Committee on HIV, Viral Hepatitis and STD Prevention and Treatment (CHACHSPT), the board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, and the Governing Council of the International AIDS Society. She is also a lecturer at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Dr. Kates received her Ph.D. in Health Policy from George Washington University. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College, a Master’s degree in Public Affairs from the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, and a Master’s degree in Political Science from the University of Massachusetts

Priti Krishtel, JD Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director, I-MAK

Priti Krishtel is a veteran of the global access to medicines movement. A graduate of NYU Law, Krishtel worked as a lawyer in the U.S. and Switzerland before joining the Indian NGO Lawyers Collective in 2003. While there, she worked to educate and organize policymakers, media, women’s, children’s and LGBTQ rights groups, and communities living in poverty.

That formative, grassroots work was instrumental to Krishtel, who would work alongside fellow activists to lead the access to medicines movement to a pivotal moment in treatment access history: the passage of a health-friendly patent law. This and her subsequent work challenging unjustified patents made I-MAK, which she co-founded in 2006, a recognized global force in the access to medicines movement.

As co-executive director of I-MAK, she is currently working to broaden the base of support for the access to medicines movement, and elevating the people most affected and the least talked about, including women, senior citizens, and people in prison. Krishtel has never strayed from her roots as a committed campaigner for justice, a community organizer, and a relentless advocate for patients.

Krishtel is a frequent speaker at national and international events. She was most recently a featured speaker at the TED Women Bold+Brilliant Conference in December 2019. Her leadership has been recognized by Echoing Green, PopTech!, Asia Society, The King Baudouin Foundation, and others and she has been featured in Entrepreneur, CNN, The New York Times, Bloomberg, CNBC, The Wall Street Journal, The Hill, and Reuters.

David Robinson, PhD Deputy Director, Vaccine Development & Surveillance – CMC and Polio Product Development, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

David Robinson joined the foundation in 2017 as deputy director, CMC Vaccines Development and Surveillance. He and his team work with internal and external partners to develop and execute CMC strategies and harness advances in science and technology that enable vaccine development to save lives in developing countries.

David has 25 years of experience in global vaccine and biologics product commercialization, process development, and CMC regulatory strategy and execution. He worked at Sandoz and Schering-Plough but spent the majority of his career at Merck & Co, Inc. During his career at Merck, David held VP positions leading the Bioprocess R&D, Biologics Project Leadership, and the CMC Regulatory groups.

In this latter role, he supported the development of the regulatory strategy that led to the approval of multiple products, including Gardasil-9, an anti-C. difficile toxin B antibody, Zinplava™, a follow on biologic to Lantus, Lusduna™, a novel wet-dry autoinjector, and two allergy treatment tablets. David also chaired the CMC development team that achieved approval of RotaTeq, headed the product development teams that entered Merck’s first antibody and first biosimilar into clinical studies, and led the CMC regulatory group that gained approval of the first anti-PD1immunooncology mab in the US, Keytruda. Both RotaTeq and Keytruda won Prix Galien Awards as the best biotechnology products for their respective years.

David “retired” from Merck in 2015 and spent two years consulting for over a dozen clients, including the foundation, on their vaccines and biologics process development plans and CMC regulatory strategy. He received his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from U.C. Berkeley, his Ph.D. from MIT, and did his postdoctoral research at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH).