The second report on progress from the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response has been released.
Dr Gail Carson, Deputy Chair of the Global Outbreak Alert & Response Network (GOARN), University of Oxford, said:
“I heard the world say ‘Never again’ in 2003 after SARS whilst seconded to WHO as a young doctor. Multiple reports followed over the years commenting on various epidemics like Ebola, Zika, MERS and the flu pandemic of 2009/10 – yet we have all been found wanting by COVID-19 according to an Interim report by an independent panel on behalf of WHO and the governments – the IPPPR. This pandemic has revealed the weaknesses in the world at local, national and international level from preparedness, response, community trust, logistics, leadership and the list goes on. This interim report potentially raises more questions than answers but states some solutions will be put forward in the May report to the WHO World Health Assembly. The report is questioning of decisions made by WHO and by governments around the world with regard to time frames in early 2020. Unfortunately, this is an executive summary and is lacking the sharing of the background documents and analyses for us to understand the contexts in depth. It states that we have failed in a collective capacity to create a protective web of human security. In a review of Global governance and coordination in 2019, the authors including myself, speak of a ’global safety net’. That many of the components are there but there is a need for stronger coordination right down to local level. Many of the previous recommendations from the outbreaks cited, were not fulfilled and WHO remains chronically underfunded yet persistently criticised whilst expected to lead us through multiple crises. During this pandemic WHO has continued to respond to other outbreaks and health crises.
“Stepping back from reading this, history will judge us on how we quickly take on board what we can from this report. From Dr Tedros’ speech yesterday clearing stating the lack of COVID-19 vaccine access in many other countries, we have to uphold global solidarity. The IPPPR report highlights how inequity in this world has been intensified, is that what we want to look back on? How unfairly half of the world was treated! Decision making during the pandemic by WHO and by governments is raised by the IPPPR report. The processes that were in place and where they were lacking is highlighted as many of the identified short falls. That a whole of society response is required, indeed our communities need to feel as though they own the response. Yet the IPPPR report comments on a trust deficit. Trust is critical for adherence to the necessary measures to help contain this virus. Will we see the political commitment that is required across the world to bring this global virus to a halt? Time will tell and that is something that we are short of when every day, thousands become infected, die, recover, some with long lasting issues as Long Covid, miss out on education and the mental health crisis forms. Whilst responding to the pandemic and planning to recover, we must continue to prepare for what this virus might throw at us in months to come and for other health threats. At the WHO Executive Board this afternoon it was reassuring to hear support for a One Health approach – human and animal health working together. The representative from the UK offered support from G7 to the WHO aiming for a strengthened global health architecture for improved preparedness and response. That included compliance to the legal framework, the International Health Regulations, that all countries are signed up to with an improved evaluation of IHR capacities. Clearly no country no matter what their preparedness score had been was adequately prepared for this pandemic. We have a chance to respond better and to build back fairer than before. It is up to us all.
“Again, I paraphrase Roosevelt – the fate of all of us is dependent upon all of us.”
Prof Helen Lambert, Professor of Medical Anthropology, University of Bristol, said:
“The Independent Panel was set up by the WHO in response to a World Health Assembly resolution last year highlighting the need for strengthening global collaboration and effective response to health emergencies in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. I think in this report they are signalling their autonomy from WHO and other international bodies, but it is unfortunate that their recommendations are currently being interpreted as ‘criticism’ of WHO, because one of their headline findings is that ‘The World Health Organization has been underpowered to do the job expected of it.’ This should be recognised as a call to strengthen, not undermine, global institutions. One of their key messages is that global cooperation is paramount and they correctly identify incentives for countries (‘Member States’) to cooperate with the international system (as represented by WHO) as currently being too weak to ensure effective engagement. The Panel’s observations about the pandemic heightening inequalities is welcome, though they do not point out that this was predictable.”
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