In a major new report on our current status of pandemic preparedness — it has been said that there is a new threat of a quickly moving, highly lethal pandemic of a respiratory pathogen killing 50 to 80 million people.
The first annual report, which is authored by the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board, is an independent panel of experts organized by the World Bank and the World Health Organization to give the most frank assessments and recommendations possible.
They warn that the risk of a global pandemic is growing at an alarming rate — with the next one potentially naturally occurring, deliberately created or accidentally released. And while we have new vaccines and drugs that previous generations did not have access to, we also have new developments working against us.
Thanks to scientific advances, disease-causing microorganisms can be engineered or recreated in labs (they can also escape labs if explosions or other accidents occur.) In addition, due to our transportation infrastructure, it makes it very easy for travelers to pick up a disease in one country, fly across the ocean, and spread the disease to another country in just hours.
Not to mention climate change which causes natural disasters that put a toll on national health systems, which weakens their ability to respond to outbreaks efficiently.
It is also making us more susceptible to what the report coins “global catastrophic biological risks.” We are not prepared to handle them and need to act fast but political involvement must acknowledge the issue at hand.
“For too long, we have allowed a cycle of panic and neglect when it comes to pandemics: we ramp up efforts when there is a serious threat, then quickly forget about them when the threat subsides,” the report says.
To avoid any future pandemics, the report give several scientific, financial and social suggestions, a few of them being:
“Heads of government in every country should invest significant sums of money in preparedness as an integral part of national and global security.”
“Health officials should involve women in planning and decision-making, particularly because the majority of caregivers are women and their engagement ensures that policies and interventions are accepted.”
“Donors should increase funding for the poorest countries to close financing gaps for their national action plans for health security.”