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WHO’s Ongoing Efforts for a Global Pandemic Treaty

World Health Organisation's Director General | Credits: WHO

United States: The World Health Organization announced on Friday that although the draft agreement for a global agreement to combat pandemics has not been finalized by the anticipated date, work has been achieved.

Negotiations Extend

By this Friday, negotiators from the 194 member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) hoped to have a final draft agreement in hand, with the goal of adopting the legally binding language at the World Health Assembly later this month.

The WHO, which is hosting the member-state led negotiations, stated in a statement on Friday night that they missed the deadline and will now carry on with the negotiations during the upcoming weeks before the assembly.

Challenges in Negotiations

Precious Matsoso, the co-chair of the multinational negotiating committee directing the negotiations, declared, “This is not a simple exercise.” “Getting this done means getting it right.”

The paper aims to strengthen global defenses against novel diseases in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which claimed millions of lives. It also updates current regulations on managing pandemics.

Logo for the World Health Organisation | Credits: AP Photo

However, experts noted that there have been significant differences throughout the negotiations, especially with regard to equality, and that the deadline for achieving a deal has always been aggressive. In other nations, the pact has also taken on a political significance.

Controversial Aspects Deferred

A “pathogen access and benefits system” and other very controversial aspects of the pact have already been postponed for future discussion, with a two-year deadline. The goal of the system is to ensure that all nations equitably benefit from vaccinations, medications, and diagnostics produced as a result of sharing material having pandemic potential, such as novel viruses or strains.

Pharmaceutical Obligations

A provision in the current draft treaty asks pharmaceutical companies to set aside 10% of these products for donation to the World Health Organization (WHO) and 10% for the organization to purchase at a discount and send to underdeveloped nations in times of medical emergency.

According to a story published earlier this week in the British newspaper The Telegraph, the UK will not ratify a pact that would require it to provide half of its vaccine supply.

While the majority of nations backed a commitment to more equitable vaccine access, a precise percentage was not decided, according to a negotiator involved in the negotiations.

A provision about the sale of vaccinations at reasonable costs or their donation to WHO is included in an agreement currently in place that controls pandemic influenza. To give producers freedom in negotiations, it allows for both alternatives to be between 5% and 20%.

If the H5N1 type of avian flu, which has caused concern after being discovered in cows in the US as well as in other animals and birds, were to become widely transmissible among humans, this framework would come into action.

Visual Representation for global pandemic | Credits: iStock

Currently, the WHO rates the threat as low because there isn’t any proof of human-to-human transmission.

Political Implications and Urgency

If there were protracted delays, external experts warned that the pandemic deal may lose political momentum, especially because several nations are going to be holding elections this year. However, they insisted that the treaty was still worth fighting for.

“The Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi) director of policy advocacy, Michelle Childs, stated that there are proposals on the table that, if they went the distance, could make a difference.”

“If the agreement fails, our collective global health and security may be even more vulnerable than if the process never began,” said Alexandra Phelan, a global health law expert from Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University.

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