The Forum of International Respiratory Societies calls for global access to effective, affordable COVID-19 vaccines

    The Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS), an organisation comprised of the world's leading international respiratory societies, calls for urgent access to affordable COVID-19 vaccines globally.

    The COVID-19 pandemic has affected more than 72 million people worldwide and resulted in more than 1.6 million deaths to date.  No country has been spared, and throughout the world this pandemic has placed a huge burden on health systems and on economies.   Many countries are now experiencing a second wave of infections, which are more severe than the first initial wave.  The elderly and those with underlying vulnerabilities including diabetes, chronic lung or heart disease, hypertension, obesity or immunosuppression are at higher risk for developing severe disease.

    Incredibly, less than a year after the start of the pandemic, effective, safe vaccines are now being approved for emergency use and some countries have already started vaccinating their citizens. The rapid development and authorisation of these vaccines must be accompanied by close monitoring for further guidance and optimal use.  However, roll out of vaccines is currently predominantly in high-income countries.  There is an urgent need for affordable vaccines to be made available in low- and middle-income countries, especially as there may be limited access to health care and to life saving supportive therapy including oxygen in these settings.

    “Now is a critical time in the fight against COVID-19. We need to ensure affordable, equitable access, transparency and fair distribution of approved vaccines to protect people in all countries.” said Stephanie Levine, MD President of FIRS. “This pandemic has affected people around the world and we now need a global effort to ensure that all countries can access preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic measures to beat it.”

    FIRS is comprised of: American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST), American Thoracic Society (ATS), Asian Pacific Society of Respirology (APSR), Asociación Latino Americana De Tórax (ALAT), European Respiratory Society (ERS), International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases (The Union), Pan African Thoracic Society (PATS), Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA), and the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD).

    The goal of FIRS is to unify and enhance efforts to improve lung health globally through the combined work of its more than 100,000 members.

    For more information about FIRS please contact Lisa Roscoe This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

    To Meet HIV World Health Goals, TB Treatment Must be Maintained During COVID-19 Response

    The global COVID-19 pandemic has strained health care systems around the world. In the developing world, tuberculosis (TB), which shares several symptoms with COVID-19, is often the first sign that a person has HIV. This World AIDS Day, the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS), is calling on governments, health advocates and non-government organisations to strengthen their response to AIDS and tuberculosis, and to ensure that TB services are maintained throughout their response to COVID-19.

    TB is the leading cause of death among those with HIV/AIDS worldwide, accounting for about one in three deaths, according to the 2020 UNAIDS Global Update. Yet, 60 percent of people living with HIV and tuberculosis are unaware of their co-infection and therefore not receiving the care that could prevent serious illness and death, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

    “Patients who are HIV positive remain at high risk for TB, and as the world directs its attention to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, it is it critical that TB programs continue to detect and treat cases,” said Juan C. Celedón, MD, DrPH, ATSF, President of American Thoracic Society, a FIRS founding member. “When treated with preventative therapy, latent TB can be managed, reducing the chance of death from AIDS and TB by about 40 percent.” 

    Shortly after AIDS emerged, it fuelled a global resurgence of TB that continues in many low- and middle-income countries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HIV infection is the strongest risk factor for progressing from latent to active TB.

    COVID-19 presents another challenge, as the symptoms are similar to TB and patients can become ill with both diseases. According to the WHO, experience with COVID-19 infection in TB patients remains limited but people ill with both TB and COVID-19 may have poorer treatment outcomes, especially if TB treatment is interrupted. HIV also increases the risk of other infectious respiratory diseases, including Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia and bacterial pneumonia, both of which can be life threatening.

    Since the AIDS epidemic began, the WHO estimates that 75.7 million people have become infected with HIV and 32.7 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses.

    Education, prevention strategies and new medicines, particularly antiretroviral therapies, have reduced the number of AIDS deaths by 60 percent per year since their global peak in 2004.

    Still, UNAIDS estimates that in 2019, 38 million people were living with AIDS and about 1.7 million people became newly infected.

    FIRS believes a global response to HIV/AIDS can be strengthened by:

    • Increasing awareness of the continuing global threat of HIV-related disease and its link to TB and other respiratory diseases.
    • Improving the health outcomes of people living with HIV through patient care and research into improved treatments and treatment strategies for both HIV and TB.
    • Reducing the incidence and severity of HIV-related disease by strengthening mother-to-child transmission prevention programs and increasing the early use of antiretroviral therapy.
    • Improving HIV education in at-risk communities to reduce the incidence of new HIV infections.
    • Reducing HIV-related health disparities and inequities.

    “As the global medical community responds to COVID-19, it must also continue to strengthen its response to HIV/AIDS, as well as TB prevention and treatment,” said Dr. Celedón. “Not long ago, HIV/AIDS and TB seemed insurmountable, yet HIV/AIDS is now a manageable chronic illness thanks to antiretroviral therapies, and TB is preventable and curable if treated appropriately. As a result, the WHO has set a goal of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030. The progress we have made against HIV/AIDS and TB should serve as an inspiration for medical systems dealing with COVID-19, as proof that epidemics can be managed.”

    World COPD Day, 18 November

    Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a preventable and treatable disease that causes breathlessness, chronic sputum production and cough.

    There are 300 million current cases of COPD in the world.  COPD is currently the third leading cause of death globally and is highly prevalent in low resource countries. Exposure to tobacco smoke and other inhaled toxic particles and gases are the main risk factors for COPD, although recent research has identified that suboptimal lung growth before and after birth can also increase the risk of COPD later in life.

    World COPD Day is a global campaign run by the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD), who are members of the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS).

    The 19th annual World COPD Day will take place on 18 November 2020.

    The goal of World COPD Day is to raise awareness and present new knowledge and novel therapeutic strategies for COPD worldwide. This year’s theme, “Living Well With COPD- Everybody, Everywhere” looks to send a positive message to both patients and providers that although there is no cure for COPD, there are many ways to actively live well with the disease.  This campaign aims to raise awareness for interventions like pulmonary rehabilitation, physical activity, self-management, and nutrition, as well as highlight the importance of social and mental well-being.  Worldwide education on these types of services can help raise awareness and promote advocacy for patient access everywhere.

    Initiatives to reduce the burden of COPD are taking place worldwide, including smoking-cessation programs, fighting against both indoor and outdoor air pollution, as well as examining childhood disadvantage factors. Although there is no current cure for COPD, actions to improve quality of life can take place anywhere by a variety of individuals in many types of settings. Employers can strive for safe breathing environments, citizens can be good stewards of air cleanliness, and both patients and families can help advocate for more research and better access to care, including pulmonary rehabilitation and mental health services.  In addition, providers and policy makers can work together to improve access to spirometry, essential medications, and other treatments, including telehealth and other types of access for patients in remote settings.

    Get involved

    FIRS invites everyone to participate in World COPD Day events on the 18th of November, 2020. Further information about GOLD and World COPD Day can be found at

    World Pneumonia Day: Urgent progress needed to end the preventable burden of pneumonia and deaths

    On World Pneumonia Day, 12 November, the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS), calls for urgent progress to end the preventable burden of pneumonia and deaths.

    Pneumonia is the single biggest infectious killer of adults and children – claiming the lives of 2.5 million, including 672,000 children, in 2019. Children under five years old and adults over 70 years make up 75 percent of pneumonia deaths.  Most pneumonia deaths occur in low and middle-income countries.  The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has highlighted the danger of pneumonia particularly in adults, with almost 47 million cases globally and 1.2 million deaths to date.

    To help increase the visibility of pneumonia and to raise public awareness of its risks, FIRS has joined the World Pneumonia Awareness Campaign, Pneumolight. More than 216 iconic landmarks in 47 countries across the globe will light up blue to mark World Pneumonia Day. The event will shine a blue spotlight on this neglected yet leading killer of children.

    Landmarks which will turn blue include: the King George Square in Brisbane, Australia; the Macau Tower in China; the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy; Niagara Falls in Canada; the Cibeles Fountain in Madrid; the National Library of Belarus; Milad – the highest tower in Iran; Olympic Tower in Munich, Germany; the Torch Doha in Qtar; the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada - the highest tower in North America and Table Mountain in South Africa.

    FIRS President, Dr. Stephanie Levine,  FIRS member the Pan African Thoracic Society  President, Prof Joseph Aluoch, and past-President Prof Heather Zar will speak at the Global Conference for World Pneumonia Day, joining a diverse panel of more than 21 speakers from different organisations committed to fighting pneumonia.

    To end the preventable burden of childhood pneumonia and deaths there is a need to:

    • Raise awareness about pneumonia, the leading killer of young children.
    • Strengthen, accelerate and sustain interventions to prevent and treat pneumonia.
    • Focus on equitable access to, and delivery of comprehensive pneumonia prevention and control programs.
    • Design specific strategies to reach the “harder-to reach” populations to improve their accessibility to available interventions.
    • Conduct research to develop innovative strategies to reduce the burden of pneumonia.

    Together, we can end preventable deaths from pneumonia. 

    FIRS calls upon governments, health care providers, researchers, funders and families to ensure:

    • Improved, equitable and sustained access to effective pneumonia prevention and control interventions for all by all.
    • Strengthened health systems that promptly and effectively deliver strategies to reduce pneumonia deaths including provision of effective antibiotics and oxygen delivery systems.
    • Increased support for strategies to prevent pneumonia including immunisation, prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission, provision of anti-retroviral therapy for HIV-infected children, reduction of exposure to tobacco and air pollution, and increasing access to safe drinking water and sanitation.
    • Support for research towards innovative diagnostic, prevention and treatment strategies.

    If we do not take decisive action now, 11 million more children will die by 2030.

    About the World Pneumonia Awareness Campaign, Pneumolight

    To find out more about the World Pneumonia Awareness Campaign, Pneumolight, contact Catia Cillóniz on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

    Join the Global Conference for World Pneumonia Day on November 12th, 2020, beginning at 16:00 CET and concluding at 20:00 CET by visiting the Pneumolight YouTube Channel.

    World Lung Day 2020: Respiratory groups call for research to prevent, detect and treat respiratory infections

    Today, on World Lung Day (WLD), the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS), members and WLD partner organisations unite to advocate for respiratory health globally and call for more research to prevent, detect and treat respiratory infections.

    In 2020, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has made the world aware of how deadly respiratory viruses can be. In reality, respiratory infections have been with us for a very long time and will continue to be a major source of human suffering and death.

    Apart from viruses, there are many other sources of respiratory infection that cause much human disease. These include bacteria, fungi and other organisms which may infect the upper airways (nose, sinuses and throat) and/or, more worryingly, the lower airways and lungs (such as bronchitis and or pneumonia). They can cause lung symptoms such as cough, fast breathing, green sputum and breathlessness, as well as general symptoms such as fever, feeling ill and weight loss. Chest pain while breathing or coughing may also occur.

    Respiratory infections impose an immense worldwide health burden:

    • Each year almost 700,000 children die from pneumonia. 80 percent of deaths are in children under 2 years and adults above 65 years. Almost all deaths occur in low and middle-income countries.
    • Each year there are 10 million new cases of tuberculosis (TB) and 1.5 million deaths. Deaths from TB occur mostly in children under 5 years and adults in the 20-35 year age range. Over 95 percent of TB deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.
    • Viral respiratory infections can occur in epidemics and spread rapidly within communities across the globe, to become global pandemics. COVID-19 is one such viral respiratory infection that has affected more than 25 million people worldwide and nearly 860,000 have died by the beginning of September 2020. The burden will continue to exponentially increase in the near future.

    WLD is an annual lung health awareness day, occurring yearly on 25 September. To date nearly 200 organisations and many more individuals support WLD through lung heath advocacy and action. This year, with respiratory health firmly in the spotlight, it is a great opportunity to raise awareness of the burden of respiratory infections and call for:

    • Health security and prevention of future COVID-19 outbreaks.
    • Predictive tests to show who is immune and who will develop disease from novel infections.
    • Diagnostic tests to identify and treat those at risk to progress once infected.
    • High quality randomised controlled trials to find the best vaccines and treatments.
    • Access to effective, affordable vaccines and treatments for all.
    • Educating all on the benefits and safety of the Influenza and Pneumococcal vaccines, as well as the COVID-19 vaccine once developed.

    To learn more about World Lung Day and download the fact sheet, graphics and pledge campaign go to the World Lung Day Toolkit.

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