So, what are the lessons we learned? And how can we avoid a fragmented immunization effort in the event of another pandemic?
To ensure a fair global health system, there is no other option but to adopt a Global Pandemic Treaty aimed at building a common regulatory framework which would enable knowledge-sharing, provide resources and logistical support and maintain a transparent approval system of vaccine certificates.
Given the disruption and devastating loss of life we’ve seen in the past two years of Covid-19, it is of utmost importance that there are systems in place to prevent the next pandemic.
I am certainly not naïve enough to think a global treaty would solve all our problems. Countries will still need to continue investing in their own health care systems and pharmaceutical manufacturing and create agile systems of detection for emerging diseases.
But beyond that, we still need political will and multilateral cooperation between countries to bring about a coordinated global response to any pathogen.
There would have to be at least four major cornerstones in such a treaty:
1.) A free flow of raw materials and vaccines to be exported and shared by major producing countries of essential drugs and medicines. Each country should agree to export at least 25% of what it can produce for itself, for example. Hopefully, more and more nations will build their own capabilities in the years to come.
3.) Global agreement of regulatory standards: Clinical trials and manufacturing standards should be agreed to in advance, with oversight headed by a multilateral organization such as the World Health Organization. This will enable more manufacturers to be able to come forward and produce treatments and vaccines that adhere to good manufacturing practices and standards at a faster pace. This could also help fight misinformation about different treatments and vaccines, which fueled vaccine hesitancy and preferences for different vaccines over others.
4.) Universal travel vaccine certificates on a digital platform that is at the ready. This could eliminate any questions about authenticity and acceptance, especially for travelers in the event of future lockdowns.
These are just some elements that could help governments and international health regulatory bodies respond more quickly and effectively to future pandemics. A treaty like this could also provide a fair and predefined framework that would dial up the political will and help leaders deal with periods of crisis in their own countries.