News and Opinions  –  2022

Public hearings: elements to be included in a new international instrument on pandemic preparedness & response

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2022-04-28

On 12-13 April, the WHO conducted a first round of public hearings regarding a new international instrument on pandemic preparedness and response. This aimed at informing the deliberations of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) to draft and negotiate a WHO convention, agreement, or other international instruments on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. What substantive elements do you think should be included in a new international instrument on pandemic preparedness and response?

What substantive elements do you think should be included in a new international instrument on pandemic preparedness & response? An effective international instrument on pandemic preparedness & response correlates with what is needed to address antibiotic resistance. Photo: Qimono, Pixabay.

The guiding question of “What substantive elements do you think should be included in a new international instrument on pandemic preparedness and response?” was explored through spoken and written input from the public. More than 100 organizations were involved in the public hearings and the WHO noted that they received a large volume of written submissions in their closing remark.

ReAct made both spoken and written interventions.

ReAct’s written input to the first round of public hearings

Substantive elements of an effective international instrument on Pandemic Preparedness Response correlates with what is needed to addressing antibiotic resistance, including:

  • The new instrument should establish global prioritization, coordination and funding of public health needs driven Research & Development. An end-to-end approach is needed in which all actors and challenges along the entire chain from early-stage research to production and access are connected. It requires public sector leadership and is important that the needs of vulnerable groups are given priority.
  • Improved global surveillance for both viral and bacterial infections: this concerns surveillance and rapid testing capacity for early warning and monitoring of new mutations and their global spread. Laboratory capacity with trained staff especially in low- and middle-income countries must be strengthened.
  • Greater transparency of global supply chains and increased production capacity and procurement: creating more regional diversification of API and product production capacity will be essential. Clear procurement practices for essential drugs, such as antibiotics, should be established through global or regional pooled procurement mechanisms.
  • Equitable, affordable and timely access to health commodities: the new instrument should transform the global Research & Development system to deliver global public goods. This involves public leverage in the field of intellectual property, and attaching conditions on public funding to secure public health interests.
  • Strengthening health systems and taking a One Health approach should be seen as central elements. Concerning antibiotic resistance, conservation and stewardship must be taken into account, ensuring access while avoiding misuse and overuse of antibiotics.

Several other organizations echoed above important points made relating to antimicrobial resistance, also highlighting One Health perspective. In addition to ReAct’s interventions, the following pressing issues were emphasized:

  • Financial mechanism and engagements with policymakers from low- and middle-income countries are required to support low- and middle-income countries in managing future pandemics. In the resource-limited settings, various interventions to respond to the pandemic need to be cost-effective, affordable and accessible.
  • Transparency, accountability, and inclusive cooperations are critical in responding to current and future pandemic: a strong political commitment, law enforcement strategies, and evidence-based research on how to address these challenges will be required to address the future pandemic in an effective manner.
  • Civil society needs to fully engage in pandemic prevention and preparedness processes. Several organizations also highlighted the role of civil society organizations in responding to the global pandemic. It is highly suggested equal and inclusive participation of civil society organizations in key decision-making processes from conceptualization to implementation of the new international instrument.

Per the timeline established by the INB, the second round of public hearings will be on 16-17 June.