World leaders call for international pandemic preparedness treaty

More than 20 world leaders have called for an international treaty for pandemic preparedness to protect the world from future health crises.

Backed by the World Health Organization, the treaty would “dispel the temptations of isolationism and nationalism” in the event of another crisis such as COVID-19.

In a commentary backed by the 24 leaders, the WHO compared the current situation to the one facing the world following World War II, saying the pandemic is the “biggest challenge to the global community since the 1940s”.

They added: “No single government or multilateral agency can address this threat alone. The question is not if, but when.

Together, we must be better prepared to predict, prevent, detect, assess and effectively respond to pandemics in a highly coordinated fashion.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been a stark and painful reminder that nobody is safe until everyone is safe.”

The leaders said they are committed to ensuring “universal and equitable access to safe, efficacious and affordable vaccines, medicines and diagnostics for this and future pandemics.”

Signatories include UK prime minister Boris Johnson, France’s president Emmanuel Macron, Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel and director-general of the World Health Organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, although US president Joe Biden has not signed it.

Dr David Nabarro, a special envoy on COVID-19 for the WHO, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that without “special action” the world will not be vaccinated until well into 2022.

This gives time for new variants to emerge, although getting this level of international cooperation is proving difficult.

Even the UK has said that it would only make vaccines available to other countries once it has a surplus of vaccines available.

Business secretary Kwasi Karteng told the BBC there is “some way to go” before this happens.

He made his comments after GlaxoSmithKline agreed to support US-based Novavax with the manufacture of up to 60 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine in the UK.

The agreement comes amid ongoing tensions between the UK and EU over vaccine supplies, after AstraZeneca failed to meeting production targets in a contract signed with the EU.

GSK will provide “fill and finish” manufacturing capacity at its Barnard Castle facility in the North East of England beginning as early as May 2021.

The UK government has ordered 60 million doses of the vaccine under an advance purchase agreement with Novavax, which will manufacture the protein-based shot at a factory owned by FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies in Billingham, Stockton-on-Tees.

The vaccine is under review by the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), although trial results announced so far have been promising.



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