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The Virus Next Time

Echoing recommendations made by earlier commissions that studied the growing risk of pandemics and the inadequate global system for dealing with them, the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response has released precisely the policy blueprint that we need. World leaders must not dither in implementing it.

BRISBANE – As more developed countries begin to feel as though they have made it to the other side of the COVID-19 crisis, two striking realities are coming into view. First, one can clearly see just how vulnerable many developing countries still are to rapidly escalating outbreaks of the type we are witnessing in India. The results of failing to distribute the most effective vaccines equitably and strategically are being laid bare.

Second, with more dangerous and contagious variants continuing to emerge, we do not have the luxury of delaying work toward a new international system for pandemic preparedness and response. We must start that project immediately. And fortunately, the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPR), chaired by former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has just published a blueprint for how to do it.

The question now is whether governments are ready not just to listen but to act. The answer will determine whether we can prevent future epidemics from becoming global catastrophes. I know from my own government’s experience during the 2009 swine flu (H1N1) pandemic that it is crucial to confront these crises with immediate, far-reaching, and coordinated action. Thanks to eight months of work by the IPPR, policymakers now have a comprehensive set of recommendations for transforming how we manage pandemic risks.

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