WHO launches 'solidarity trial,' bringing countries together to study coronavirus vaccines
Photo by CDC on Unsplash

This week, a 43-year-old Seattle woman became the first person in the U.S. to be injected with a coronavirus vaccine. Don't get too excited, though—it's merely the first step in the clinical trials that will determine if the vaccine is safe and effective, a process that experts say will take 18 months or more.


It's also not the only vaccine being developed. Thanks to early efforts in China to sequence the genetic makeup of Sars-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) and share it with the world, scientists everywhere had a head start on the process. China's first vaccine was just approved for clinical trials, and scientists around the world are working on their own versions of vaccines to try to stop the global march of the virus.

While that's great, how will we know which of the vaccines being developed are the most effective? And if different countries come up with different treatments for the COVID-19 disease, how will we know which ones work the best?

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced today that they've created an international trial to study the various coronavirus treatments being developed to determine which ones work the best—a move that will help all of us in every nation.

"Multiple small trials with different methods may not give us the clear, strong evidence we need about which treatments help to save lives. WHO and partners are organizing a study in many countries in which some of these untested treatments are compared with each other," said WHO director Dr. Tedros in a media briefing today.

"This large, international study is designed to generate the robust data we need, to show which treatments are the most effective. We have called this study the SOLIDARITY trial."

Okay, that's the best possible name for a global study that brings countries together to solve the most immediate global crisis we've seen in our lifetime.

"The SOLIDARITY trial provides simplified procedures to enable even hospitals that have been overloaded to participate," Tedros said. "Many countries have already confirmed that they will join the SOLIDARITY trial—Argentina, Bahrain, Canada, France, Iran, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland and Thailand—and I trust many more will join."

My country, the U.S., is notably missing from that list. I hope we will step up and do the right thing here. We're all going to have to work together to defeat this virus, and pretending that we're somehow separate from the rest of humanity just isn't going to fly anymore.

Tedros added that the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund—a first-of-its-kind fun to help countries response to the coronavirus pandemic—has now raised more than $43 million from more than 173,000 individuals and organizations.

"These and other efforts give me hope that together, we can and will prevail," said Tedros. "This coronavirus is presenting us with an unprecedented threat. But it's also an unprecedented opportunity to come together as one against a common enemy."

Exactly. This virus is a common enemy to all humankind, the likes of which we have never faced. Now's the time for the entire planet—every country—to come together in solidarity and combine the best of all our resources to defeat it.

If you'd like to support the work of the WHO, find out more about the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund and donate here.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Photo by Tod Perry

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