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How the World Health Organization might fight future pandemics

19 Comments
By Emma Farge
FILE PHOTO: A WHO flag is pictured in Geneva
FILE PHOTO: A WHO flag is pictured at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo Photo: Reuters/DENIS BALIBOUSE

Negotiations on new rules for dealing with pandemics are underway at the World Health Organization (WHO), with a target date of May 2024 for a legally binding agreement to be adopted by the U.N. health agency's 194 member countries.

A new pact is a priority for WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as his second five-year term at the head of the global health agency gets underway. It seeks to shore up the world's defenses against new pathogens following the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 6.5 million people, according to the WHO.

The global health agency itself is facing calls for reform after an independent panel described it as "underpowered" when COVID-19 struck, with limited ability to investigate outbreaks and coordinate containment measures.

WHAT IS THE SO-CALLED PANDEMIC TREATY?

The WHO already has binding rules known as the International Health Regulations (2005) which set out countries' obligations where public health events have the potential to cross borders. These include advising the WHO immediately of a health emergency and measures on trade and travel.

Adopted after the 2002/3 SARS outbreak, these regulations are still seen as functional for regional epidemics like Ebola but inadequate for a global pandemic.

Suggested proposals for the pact include the sharing of data and genome sequences of emerging viruses and rules on equitable vaccine distribution.

Member states agreed in July that the new agreement should be legally binding. Another key meeting is scheduled for December.

It would be only the second such health accord after the 2003 Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a treaty which aims to reduce smoking via taxation and rules on labeling and advertising.

HOW DO COUNTRIES VIEW THE PACT?

The EU proposed the accord and is seen as its biggest backer. Developing countries are keen to use the negotiations as an opportunity to secure better access to vaccines, following allegations of "vaccine apartheid" from the WHO's Director-General Tedros.

Members are due to give their initial feedback to the draft in a public meeting between Dec 5-7. With so many member countries involved, securing agreement is likely to be tricky.

HOW WOULD IT WORK?

It is not yet clear how the 2005 regulations and the new pandemic accord might fit together.

One suggestion is that they should be complementary, so that existing rules apply to local outbreaks with the new rules kicking in if the WHO declares a pandemic -- something it does not currently have a mandate to do.

It remains to be determined whether negotiators will include measures such as sanctions to ensure compliance.

WHAT OTHER REFORMS ARE IN THE WORKS?

Separate talks on an initiative to overhaul the 2005 rules are taking place, with proposals submitted by the United States, the European Union and at least a dozen others, diplomats say.

Washington's proposals aim to boost transparency and grant the WHO quicker access to outbreak sites. Several diplomats said they are likely to prove too ambitious, with opposition from China and others expected on national sovereignty grounds.

China did allow WHO-led expert teams to visit the COVID-19 epicenter in Wuhan, but the WHO says it is still withholding clinical data from early cases that may hold clues about the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

© (Thomson Reuters 2022.

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

19 Comments

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Most countries would benefit from the planned new rules, and obviously it would be much better from a global perspective, but individual interests may be affected (for example those of pharmaceutical companies) so negotiations may get complicated before an agreement is reached.

After the influenza scare of 2009 some countries fought diplomatically to greatly reduce the scope of the 2005 health regulations, unfortunately they got their wish granted and covid is one of the consequences. Now (after disaster struck) some of those countries have recognized the value of an international public health authority pushing for countries to implement and obey rules meant to reduce the risks of pandemics happening and going unreported until it is too late.

Big problems remain, for example China (a likely place for newly introduced zoonosis to become the new pandemic) opposing the reforms, but hopefully something can be decided on time to prevent or lessen the damage from the next pandemic.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Until governments and health agencies acknowledge and hold people accountable for the "errors" and corruption that occurred during this pandemic, they must be resisted.

Also, they must address the extreme levels of influence that big pharma and people like Gates and Faucci have on health agencies, governments, MSM, and researchers.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Until governments and health agencies acknowledge and hold people accountable for the "errors" and corruption that occurred during this pandemic, they must be resisted

What errors and corruption are you talking about? and how is resisting the increase of transparency supposedly helps?

Also, they must address the extreme levels of influence that big pharma and people like Gates and Faucci have on health agencies, governments, MSM, and researchers.

When everybody in the field have the same conclusions about the value of measures and you refuse to accept these conclusions as valid the problem is much more likely to be of personal bias than a world wide conspiracy involving every single institution of the world.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

This is just one part of 'global governance'... while it appears there is no one world government, in reality the private sector is brought under control to outsource management of the population and there is even less accountability.

The only pushback I have seen so far is from a few American states. If you do not withdraw from the system, you will be squashed under the globalist technocratic thumb...

0 ( +3 / -3 )

When everybody in the field have the same conclusions...

Oh please, you know very well that not everybody in the field have the same conclusions. Plenty of doctors/researchers preferred to get fired than to follow those "conclusions". And as I have pointed out many times already, those conclusions are increasingly shown in peer-reviewed studies to be wrong....

1 ( +3 / -2 )

This is just one part of 'global governance'... while it appears there is no one world government, in reality the private sector is brought under control to outsource management of the population and there is even less accountability.

Part of the actions being taken is precisely to make a requirement for companies to open the contents of the contracts they make with national governments, if this do not bring more accountability then what?

Oh please, you know very well that not everybody in the field have the same conclusions.

Why would I know something that is not true? you keep claiming there is no consensus, but fail to bring even one institution of science or medicine that support the claims you make, this clearly indicates that the consensus is real and applies. There are "doctors/researchers" making claims against the consensus for everything, (for example against the microbe theory of infection), that do not prove the consensus is wrong, just that there is always the chance of people not fulfilling their professional obligations and giving too much importance to what they want to believe, even if they can be proved wrong.

Plenty of doctors/researchers preferred to get fired than to follow those "conclusions"

If their choice was to ignore the evidence and just repeat things that could be demonstrated easily as false without anything to support those claims then they opted to get fired instead of acting professionally, which is completely different.

And as I have pointed out many times already, those conclusions are increasingly shown in peer-reviewed studies to be wrong

You have claimed so, but then offer no evidence of this actually happening, no peer reviewed studies indicating the consensus is wrong, much less with evidence of the level that support this consensus.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Is the WHO going to be able to force countries like China to obey international guidelines so they can't hide outbreaks like they did this time? if not then this will be useless.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Virusrex,

What errors and corruption are you talking about?

Sorry, but I have to side with Raw Beer (even if it's not how he intended): Lots of countries, lots of government officials have royally screwed the pooch when it comes to handling the pandemic, especially in the early days. A good number of government officials saw it as another grift to pull: massively overpriced PPE orders on government money (and cashing in a healthy intermediation commission), emergency funds that really only benefited the wealthier population ... the list is long. And I wholeheartedly welcome a thorough roll-up of everything that went inadvertedly and deliberately wrong when in 2020 most everyone seemed to run around like headless chicken.

What I vehemently disagree with though, and where Raw Beer and I will almost certainly disagree, is that the border closures, the mask mandates and eventually the vaccines were mistakes. Here, rather, I see the complete and utter failure of governments to communicate with their population.

This is why a playbook for the future can be of enormeous help, both for preparation and, if the need arises again, for the execution of pandemic countermeasures. The few countries that supposedly were prepared very much turned out not not be. Considering that we were incredibly lucky not to have a pandemic in the last 100 years before Corona and that it is more than likely that we will have pandemics more frequently in the future, I see it as quite essential to have a strong and universally agreed upon answer.

I consider myself not to be exceedingly hysterical, but I really don't ever want to live through the kakophony of 2020-2022 again.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The best thing they could do is make sure nobody carries out viral gain of function research ever again...

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Raw Beer,

The best thing they could do is make sure nobody carries out viral gain of function research ever again...

Aside from that being basically impossible (even a simple viral multiplication culture may already qualify as "gain-of-function research"), it would seriously and dangerously limit our capacity to gauge the next evolutionary step of viral evolution. Basically you would be stuck in the past and by the time you could develop antiviral countermeasures they would be directed at an outdated target. You couldn't

Now if you are arguing for stricter control, transparancy, and oversight of gain-of-function research I'm completely with you. But by prohibiting it completely you would effectively tie virologist's hands behind their back, relegating to being reactive instead of proactive.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The best thing they could do is make sure nobody carries out viral gain of function research ever again...

Aside from that being basically impossible (even a simple viral multiplication culture may already qualify as "gain-of-function research"),

No, I am not referring to the natural evolution of viruses, but rather genetic manipulations, either by directed recombinant DNA technology and/or through passages through engineered animals (e.g. humanize mice). You yourself stated in your previous post that we had not had a pandemic in the last years. "Simple viral multiplication cultures" did not produce pandemics. The only reason we had one now is because of gain of function research.

As for the antiviral countermeasures that were supposedly obtained thanks to gain of function research, well to be honest they have been disappointing and we would have been better off without them...

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Sorry, but I have to side with Raw Beer (even if it's not how he intended): Lots of countries, lots of government officials have royally screwed the pooch when it comes to handling the pandemic, especially in the early days. 

That is understandable and correction desirable, but the obvious intention of the original comment to which I replied is to also include as "errors and corruption" the achievements of the industry and governments as well as the understandable excess of actions where no other option (or precise information) was available to know for sure how much risk was acceptable. The examples you mention are reasonable and part of what would be corrected with the change of rules, but looking at the history of the comments the original was too obviously meant to mean use of vaccines and lack of use of worthless repurposed drugs, neither of which are examples of error nor corruption but perfectly valid actions that benefited countless patients.

The best thing they could do is make sure nobody carries out viral gain of function research ever again...

Because the opportune development of safe and effective vaccines thanks to these research (and the countless lives saved thanks to them) is something you want to forbid?

Exactly zero pandemics have been caused by gain of function research, and many measures against infection have been developed thanks to responsible use of this kind of work, a blanket disapproval of something that has been proved beneficial is not valid, what is valid is regulation and ethical/biosafety based rules so it can continue to be so.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

"Simple viral multiplication cultures" did not produce pandemics. The only reason we had one now is because of gain of function research.

No, it is not, the experts agree the hugely most likely explanation for the pandemic is the same as all the other pandemics in the history of humanity, pretending a personal belief that gain of function MUST have originated this pandemic completely depends on ignoring the many kinds of evidence that this was just another example of a natural pathogen adapting to humans, and pretending evidence that should be present (but is not) is available to prove the artificial origin of SARS-CoV-2. That is not reasonable and only evidence a very strong personal antiscientific bias.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Since when has science depended on consensus and NOT verifiable and repeatable research?

Oh yeah when the billionaires fund "the science".

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Since when has science depended on consensus and NOT verifiable and repeatable research?

You got it wrong, the evidence do not depend of the consensus, the consensus reflects the best available evidence. Saying that there is a consensus do not mean this is what people have to find in their research, it means this is what the full medical or scientific communities end up agreeing is what has been found with the latest research, of course in some fields or details there is no consensus, but in heavily studied things there is one.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

It would be great to see the WHO fight any pandemic, not just future ones.

There are currently a plethora of pandemics that the WHO is not fighting because of lack of manpower, lack of leadership, lack of ability.

As the article describes "the global health agency" had limited ability to fight Covid outbreaks. In other words, it failed.

Time to allow health expert organizations in major countries take the lead, especially in poorer countries that have been failed repeatedly by the WHO.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

There are currently a plethora of pandemics that the WHO is not fighting because of lack of manpower, lack of leadership, lack of ability.

Any reference for this? lack of power is a given since governments fought very strongly to decrease it, but I can't find anybody saying the WHO lacks leadership or ability to fight the pandemic.

 In other words, it failed.

How do you get this conclusion from having multiple successes in spite from the limited ability to strongarm countries to do better? do you think not having absolute success in every single detail automatically means failure?

Time to allow health expert organizations in major countries take the lead

Which organization have done anything even comparable to what the WHO achieved?

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Any reference for this? lack of power is a given since governments fought very strongly to decrease it, but I can't find anybody saying the WHO lacks leadership or ability to fight the pandemic.

Oh this is easy. There is a reference mentioning the WHO's inability to fight the pandemic.

It's called The Article on which we are commenting:

The global health agency itself is facing calls for reform after an independent panel described it as "underpowered" when COVID-19 struck, with limited ability to investigate outbreaks and coordinate containment measures.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Absolutely refers to ability specifically;

Your argument is that the WHO has lack of ability to fight the pandemic, but the quote only refers to one specific action, not the general fight. The part where your argument becomes invalid is not the meaning of the word ability is the unwarranted generalization of one single kind of action (that no other organization did either) as if that represented an inability to do everything else. That is still completely false.

Looks like the EU hs been critical of the WHO leadership too (again, from the article):

following allegations of "vaccine apartheid" from the WHO's Director-General Tedros.

Putting a little attention would let anybody understand that the allegations were done BY the WHO director-general, not against him. This is a well reported thing.

https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/world-has-entered-stage-vaccine-apartheid-who-head-2021-05-17/

I'm using Thomson Reuters as the source. Shouldn't you?

Again, the problem is not the source, the problem is trying to pretend it is saying something only you are doing. You are the one saying lack of absolute perfect success means failure, Thomson Reuters did not made this obviously invalid conclusion, that is all from your part.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

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