WHA: Get Ready for the Next Pandemic

 Bodies—some believed to be COVID-19 victims—lie exposed on the banks of the Ganges River. Uttar Pradesh, India, May 20, 2021. Image: Ritesh Shukla/Getty
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Bodies—some believed to be COVID-19 victims—lie exposed on the banks of the Ganges River. Uttar Pradesh, India, May 20, 2021. Image: Ritesh Shukla/Getty

The 74th World Health Assembly closed Monday with a strong call for an empowered WHO and a pandemic treaty to strengthen global preparedness for health emergencies. 
 
Top priorities: Ending the COVID-19 pandemic and preventing the next one.
 
“Right now the pathogens have the upper hand, they are emerging more frequently and often silently in a planet that is out of balance,” WHO's emergencies director Mike Ryan said, according to Reuters.

Member states agreed to meet in late November to discuss a global treaty that would “outlive budgetary cycles, election cycles and media cycles,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who also warned that the agency is currently struggling to maintain its current level of pandemic response.
 
A key part of the pandemic treaty: Giving WHO the power to swiftly investigate new disease outbreaks and promptly publish their findings.

Another imbalance to correct: Malaysian Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin drove home the desperate need for equitable vaccine access and his support from intellectual property waivers—his country has secured just 6% of the vaccines it needs, Health Policy Watch reported.

More highlights from the 30+ resolutions and decisions adopted:

  • An updated mental health action plan that for the first time includes mental health support during emergencies.

  • An “ambitious” 16% budget boost for the agency, which struggles to respond to health emergencies because most of its budget earmarked for specific health issues, AP reported.

  • A “historic” resolution reaffirming WHO’s role as the global directing and coordinating body during health emergencies

  • Initiatives to promote local production of medicines, tackle non-communicable diseases, and expand services for diabetes, disabilities, and eye care.
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