GHTC joins statement to World Health Assembly on health emergencies and preparedness
The following statement—from Global Health Council, supported by the Global Health Technologies Coalition—was delivered at the 74th session of the World Health Assembly on agenda items 17: WHO’s work in health emergencies and strengthening preparedness for health emergencies and 18: Mental health preparedness for and response to the COVID 19 pandemic.
More than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, over one billion vaccine doses have been delivered globally. Yet access to vaccines and other lifesaving tools has not been equitable. The pandemic has spotlighted health inequities, which allow the virus to continue to spread, mutate, and overwhelm health systems—leaving marginalized populations further behind. These inequities were not borne of COVID-19 and inadequate investment and policy responses risk further widening the gap.
We applaud WHO efforts to address inequities through strengthened international cooperation and support negotiations to improve international pandemic preparedness. Collective action is critical to end this pandemic, achieve equitable recovery, and create stronger, resilient systems and WHO must be in the lead. We support calls to maximize dose sharing through COVAX, fully fund the ACT-Accelerator, and commit political leadership to oversee response and recovery.
We welcome the Director-General’s update on implementation of resolution WHA73.1—which acknowledges COVID-19 disruptions to essential health services—and urge Member States to increase investment in health systems to ensure continuity of services in pursuit of health for all.
We need a holistic approach to health system strengthening. To prepare for future health emergencies, WHO and Member States must urgently improve global coordination, increase sustainable financing for preparedness, and invest in better and more effective surveillance systems and field epidemiology training. National and global responses to future health emergencies, must include:
- Investment in national leadership positions and action plans to increase global health security to fully reach IHR compliance;
- Prioritization of regional research and manufacturing capacity;
- Strengthened medical and pharmaceutical supply chains in advance of health emergencies; and
- Incorporation of pathogen spillover prevention and zoonotic risk assessment.
Member States, WHO, and other stakeholders must promote an all-of-society approach to health system strengthening and pandemic preparedness that includes civil society engagement and addresses inequities at their roots. WHO must be well-resourced to prioritize a comprehensive preparedness agenda that ensures systems and services reach the last mile so that everyone is protected from future health emergencies.