Medical Technology

The World Must Bolster WHO and Agree Pandemic Treaty Expert Panel Says

GENEVA (Reuters) GENEVA (Reuters) The World Health Organisation (WHO) in advance of next week’s conference of health ministers, needs to be strengthened with more funding.

The efforts to stop the COVID-19 epidemic have been uneven and fragmented, marked by the limited availability of vaccines in low-income countries while the “healthy and wealthy” in wealthy countries receive boosters, high-level experts stated in their latest review.

Helen Clark, former New Zealand prime minster, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (ex-Liberia president) co-chaired the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response. They renewed their demands for urgent reforms. This included a new funding of at least $10 billion per year for pandemic preparedness, and negotiations on a worldwide pandemic treaty.

In May, the panel analyzed how the WHO and member countries had handled the pandemic, and said a new global response system should be put in place to ensure that no new virus could cause a pandemic as devastating.

“There is progress, but it is not fast or cohesive enough to bring the pandemic to an end all over the world in the near future or to stop another from occurring,” the panel noted in its report.

According to Reuters that more than 257 million people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus SARS-CoV2. 5.4 million people have died since the end of December 2019 when the first cases were first reported in central China.

On Nov. 29, 194 of the WHO’s member nations opened the three-day World Health Assembly to discuss the possibility of negotiating a treaty that would prevent the spread of future epidemics. Following the 2003 agreement to curb smoking, this would be the second public health treaty.

“Strengthening the authority and independence of the WHO and the development of new legal instruments are essential to the reforms that are required,” the panel said. “WHO requires more funding and more ability to investigate and report on pandemics faster and more independently.

Clark spoke at an event organized by Chatham House in London, said it had taken just five months to reach two new agreements on nuclear safety after the incident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine in 1986.

“Please act is the key message for states that are attending WHO next week. We are still in the middle of a pandemic and we shouldn’t ignore it … Please get on with the negotiations for the treaty,” she said.

The review said the aim of a pandemic treaty is to increase preparedness, strengthen obligations for countries to notify the WHO to outbreaks and allow speedy on-site investigations and ensure equal access to vaccines and other drugs.

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