Former Director-General of World Health Organization (WHO) Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland has recently said that spending just $5 per person annually on global health security for the next five years could prevent a future “catastrophic” pandemic.
She said it “would cost the world billions of dollars but that amount would be a huge saving on the $11tn response to COVID-19.”
Dr. Brundtland, who is the former PM of Norway, and other renowned international experts sounded the alarm over the threat of a rapidly-spreading deadly pandemic in September 2019.
She is now co-chair of the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB). She pointed out that there had been a collective failure to take prevention and response seriously and to prioritize it, adding, “We are all paying the price.”
“We knew it was a real threat, which is why we called the alarm,” Dr. Brundtland said. “We saw the preparedness was far from what it should have been at that time.”
She went on to say COVID-19 has provided a harsh test that proved their warning right. She said, “Because what we are in the middle of can happen again. We need to be better prepared.”
The GPMB’s second report, released today, has mentioned that another pandemic is “sure to come” without “strong leadership, solidarity and collective global action.”
The report’s foreword read, “We have created a world where a shock anywhere can become a catastrophe everywhere, while growing nationalism and populism undermine our shared peace, prosperity and security.”
Apart from Dr. Brundtland, the members of GPMB include Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, and George Gao, director-general of the Chinese CDC.
They said global health security could not continue to be funded by development assistance, calling for stronger support for global institutions.
The team called for coronavirus vaccines and other treatments to be allocated fairly and equitably. They said each country should receive enough vaccine for at least 2% of their populations.
Dr. Brundtland expressed concern over President Donald Trump’s refusal to join the WHO’s global scheme to distribute COVID-19 vaccines. The scheme, called Covax, aims to distribute 2 billion doses of any approved vaccine to the world’s most vulnerable people by the end of 2021.
“It’s very unfortunate the US has taken these kinds of position,” she said, “both with undermining the WHO and also by not sharing and participating with others in finding a common ground in how to share responsibility and do what is right.” “Here we say that every country should have a 2% coverage because that would cover health personnel and those who are very vulnerable,” Dr. Brundtland added. “If [the vaccine] is used only in rich countries then [the virus] will continue to spread in poorer countries … and then it gets reintroduced to people in richer countries.”