It’s time to start preparing for future epidemics | Corona virus pandemic


Already five million people worldwide have been killed by COVID-19, and the World Health Organization’s access to the COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (WHO/ACT-A) grimly pridect Five million more lives will be lost to disease in the coming months. Also of concern is that COVID-19 cases will swell from 260 million confirmed so far to 460 million by the end of 2022.

The damage from COVID-19 was so catastrophic that when it appeared World Health Assembly The World Health Assembly (WHA) is meeting in private, from November 29, and its mission is nothing less than to prevent a recurrence of such a tragedy. The damage from COVID-19 has been so devastating that we now need an internationally binding agreement to prevent future outbreaks from turning into epidemics again.

In the words of WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the new agreement should be based on a high-level commitment to health for all based on equality and solidarity among nations. Not only should all people equitably get what they need for their health, regardless of their wealth or income, but the international community should ensure the equitable use and distribution of available medical resources. For that to happen, we need a fully functional global monitoring system, fast tracking and sharing of emergency support and predictable funding.

Nothing demonstrates the need for this more clearly than our collective failure, as an international community, to deliver on our promise to secure the equitable distribution of vaccines. Although, thanks to remarkable science and strong manufacturing performance, we will have produced 12 billion doses of vaccine by Christmas – enough to vaccinate every adult in the world – 95 percent of adults are still unprotected in low-income countries. This is perhaps the greatest public policy failure of our time.

82 countries are set to miss each country’s internationally agreed adult vaccination target – 40 percent by December – by the World Health Organization. On current trends, it will take at least until Easter to get close to the 40 percent mark, and even then, dozens of countries could miss. Indeed, since the G7 meeting in June, where leaders pledged that the entire world will be vaccinated by 2022, the gap between those who have the vaccine and those who don’t have widened rather than narrowed.

In high-income countries, vaccination rates have risen from 40 percent in June to 60-70 percent now, but they have moved at a glacial pace in low-income countries – from 1 percent to less than 5 percent. In fact, six adults receive booster doses in middle- and high-income countries versus every adult is vaccinated each day in a low-income country, and 90 percent of African health workers remain unprotected.

Despite important regional initiatives such as the African Union Vaccine Procurement Facility (AVAT), it has taken steps to address the inequality gap with the purchase of 400 million single-shot vaccines from Johnson & Johnson and another 110 million doses from Moderna — 50 million coming between December and March — it is It is still insufficient to meet the needs of a continent of 1.3 billion people.

This disparity is explained simply: 89 percent of all vaccines were purchased by the G-20, the world’s richest country, and today it holds control of 71 percent of future deliveries. Promises from the Global North to deliver vaccines to the Global South have failed: only 22 percent of America’s promised donations have been sent. Europe, the United Kingdom and Canada fared much worse, sending only 15, 10 and 5 per cent, respectively.

COVAX, the global vaccine distribution agency, which had hoped to send 2 billion vaccines by December, now expects to deliver only two-thirds of that number. Such is the volume of vaccine stockpiling in the richest countries that health data research group Airfinity has estimated that by the end of 2021, 100 million unused doses in the G-20 stockpile of “use by” dates will expire and be wasted.

For the G-20 countries, having and stockpiling life-saving vaccines and denying them to the poorest countries is morally untenable. Allowing tens of millions of doses to be wasted is an act of medical and social sabotage that may never be forgotten or forgiven. An urgent and continuous month-by-month delivery plan and airlift of vaccines, coordinated by G20 countries, is now needed to put unused capacities to use where vaccines are most needed.

But the disparities in vaccines show why more fundamental changes are needed in the international structure of health decision-making. Of course, only a few international organizations have been given the freedom and autonomy to make binding decisions that national governments have to follow. The discretion available to the World Trade Organization’s Court of Appeals and to the International Criminal Court, whose decisions are final, are areas in which an international organization can overturn nation-states and, because of that, is under assault from an anti-international coalition.

While there is a global health treaty focused on reducing the demand and supply of tobacco, and the 2011 agreement to ensure that the WHO can obtain supplies of influenza vaccine when needed, the binding worldwide agreement called for to enable global health authorities to do Thus, more for pandemic prevention, detection, preparedness and control remains elusive.

The Special Summit of the World Health Assembly offers us a unique opportunity to address these gaps by serving as the starting point for a process that will rapidly develop a legally binding international agreement under the auspices of the WHO Constitution. They can benefit from important reports – the G20 report by Larry Summers, Tarman Shanmugaratnam, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Mario Monti’s report to the WHO European Region, and the recommendations of the WHO review led by former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark.

First, our global health leaders must have greater authority to develop and scale up health surveillance.

Second, we need to build on the pioneering work of ACT-A and COVAX to ensure the manufacturing and equitable distribution of PPE, tests, treatments and vaccines so that all countries can detect, respond to, treat and protect against current and future epidemics.

Third, we need a global pandemic preparedness council. But all of this will only work if we devise a sustainable financing mechanism to address the stark global disparities in the provision of health care around the world. Oftentimes, in times of global crisis—even those when we are faced with life-and-death decisions—we commit to a beg pot walk or “pledge” conferences in a way that is more reminiscent of organizing a tour of a fundraising charity.

Ideally, pandemic preparedness should be funded through a burden-sharing formula where costs are shared between countries with the greatest ability to pay. So far, only less than 20 percent of the WHO’s budget is covered in this way. The eradication of smallpox in the 1960s and 1970s made history, not least because the final push to eradicate the disease began with a burden-sharing agreement in which richer nations shared the costs.

Given the trillions of dollars lost in trade due to COVID-19, the $10 billion annual budget for pandemic prevention and preparedness, which is considered essential by the G20 Independent High-Level Committee, will provide one of the largest investment returns in history. But we must act now – and next week’s World Health Assembly is the place to start – if we are to be prepared for all future possibilities.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.





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