Pandemics are here to stay. Here’s how to prepare for the next one

pandemics

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Mikkel Vestergaard Frandsen, Chief Executive Officer, Sceye


  • Pandemics like COVID-19 are set to become part of our new normal.
  • We have to learn how to respond to future outbreaks effectively and with the least economic damage.
  • Active strategies and well-resourced healthcare organizations should be the cornerstones of any future pandemic response.

Imagine if every time there was a new financial crisis, the President appointed a new Federal Reserve and granted it new fiscal powers. With no existing structure or network in place, chaos would result. Why, then, do we expect this approach to work in a public health crisis such as COVID-19?

With our long history of fighting diseases, two points have become increasingly clear. The first is that successfully managing viral pandemics requires a dedicated, mission-focused health organization whose leaders have experience in this field. The second critical lesson of public health – one that we are painfully relearning in this pandemic – is that an outbreak anywhere threatens all of us. Here’s how we can potentially get back to work faster and make sure we stay at work when the next pandemic strikes.

The spread of coronavirus was hardly a surprise, and certainly not an anomaly. Population growth and increased mobility has led to rapid transmission of pathogens globally. We are now seeing new, deadly viral outbreaks almost every year.

 

This is our new normal. We need to ask ourselves: what is a sustainable, humane model for dealing with this new normal in a manner that permits the economy to continue to function?

No developed country should have a passive strategy as its response to a viral pandemic. And yet everything that has been done in the US and Europe in response to Covid-19 has been passive. People have to self-isolate, self-identify as having symptoms, and even seek out a test themselves.

We have fought widespread infectious diseases before. The most successful eradication campaigns include smallpox, and our ongoing efforts against polio and Guinea worm which have resulted in near eradication. When we set out to control polio, we go out and actively find infected people. Guinea worm eradication efforts have been successful because here, too, we go out and actively find infected people. This is active suppression, and it’s the same successful strategy that has been deployed by authorities in Wuhan against COVID-19.

Active measures

One active option that proved successful in Wuhan is central isolation. This means that all confirmed cases are brought away from their homes to a specialized medical facility. For such a strategy to work, people with symptoms and people who have been in contact with cases must be isolated while being tested and awaiting results. This avoids the situation where infected people awaiting results have become super spreaders by getting on airplanes or attending parties.

Another option is moving faster towards herd immunity, which is when enough people have developed antibodies that further transmission of the virus is prevented. In this option we isolate and protect only the medically vulnerable and people above 65, and everybody else goes back to work or to school. Not every virus allows us to take advantage of herd immunity; it wouldn’t work for seasonal flu as it is dangerous for children and pregnant women. This, too, requires widespread testing so that we know when enough of the population has sufficient antibodies and the elderly can come out from isolation.

Numbers of COVID-19 tests carried out in the worst-affected countries
Numbers of COVID-19 tests carried out in the worst-affected countries
Image: Statista

The final option is one that has worked well in some Asian countries and is the most debated in the media: test-isolate-trace. Before COVID-19 we saw this strategy successfully applied during the last Ebola outbreak. When Ebola was first identified in Lagos in 2014, the threat of it becoming endemic in the largest and most-densely populated country in Africa was terrifying. Nigeria quickly commandeered the Polio Operations Center in Nigeria, and this became the springboard for rooting out the Ebola virus. The organization’s leaders and professionals quickly identified ‘patient zero,’ identified everyone he had been in contact with, and quarantined and treated anyone infected. As a result, Nigeria was declared Ebola-free within three months.

Which of these options to apply, and where to apply them, is for public health experts to decide. Each of these options, or a combination of them, will all let us out of self-isolation faster than a passive strategy would. It could also keep us working, keep children in school and in general require less adaptation for society when the second wave hits or when the next new deadly viral pandemic arrives.

Every option requires a dramatic increase in testing, and a vertical health organization to implement it. This kind of organization has a narrow mission and only one focus. It functions separately from most national healthcare systems, with a clearly established direction at the top carrying through to healthcare professionals and line workers on the ground.

We have excellent current and historic examples of what a vertical organization can achieve. Smallpox is eradicated, polio and Guinea worm have both been reduced by more than 99%, and malaria has been reduced by 62% since 2000.

There are examples of this approach in other spheres. The best-known is the US Federal Reserve – an expert-led, expert-managed, empowered body that is politically independent. It collects and analyzes relevant data and takes action for the good of the economy.

A permanent shift to a ‘public health Fed’ is what’s called for. They will provide both preparedness and rapid response. These vertical health organizations, acting quickly, thoroughly and vigorously will generate political support, public engagement and cooperation. And when there is no new outbreak, there are plenty of problems to practice on.

Health, pandemics, epidemics

What is the World Economic Forum doing about fighting pandemics?

The first human trial of a COVID-19 vaccine was administered this week.

CEPI, launched at the World Economic Forum, provided funding support for the Phase 1 study. The organization this week announced their seventh COVID-19 vaccine project in the fight against the pandemic.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched in 2017 at the Forum’s Annual Meeting – bringing together experts from government, business, health, academia and civil society to accelerate the development of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases and to enable access to these vaccines during outbreaks.

Coalitions like CEPI are made possible through public-private partnerships. The World Economic Forum is the trusted global platform for stakeholder engagement, bringing together a range of multistakeholders from business, government and civil society to improve the state of the world.

Organizations can partner with the Forum to contribute to global health solutions. Contact us to find out how.

As an outbreak anywhere threatens all of us this is not purely a domestic issue, so whether preparing for a new viral pandemic every year, or for vector-borne diseases, let’s fight them where they are right now and not wait until they arrive on our shores. The critical lesson of everything we have learned in public health is that we need to be proactive in tackling these diseases.

The US provided $11 billion in global health funding in 2019, up from $5.4 billion in 2006. There is significant pressure to cut that funding — but we can’t afford to lose it and it’s an insignificant amount compared to the cost of any one of those diseases spreading. Well-resourced public health verticals at home and abroad can be the most useful security assets and foreign policy tools. Most importantly, we don’t have an economy if we don’t have public health. If this viral pandemic has shown us anything it is that good public health at home and abroad is an investment – not an expense.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Migration has set EU’s political clock ticking; the stagnating economy cannot help it and Turkey doesn’t cooperate

South Asia can become an innovation hub. Here’s how

Why a global recession isn’t inevitable

What does artificial intelligence do in medicine?

The benefits of a cashless society

Japan must urgently address long-standing concerns over foreign bribery enforcement

Coronavirus: Commission proposes to activate fiscal framework’s general escape clause to respond to pandemic

A Valentine’s Special: giving back, a dialogue of love

If on a summer’s night: is UK businesses’ “new deal” the only key to the “best of all worlds”?

World Retail Congress Dubai 2016: Retail’s night of nights

Virus Coronavirus: No time to die

Chart of the day: This is what violence does to a nation’s GDP

Palestine refugees’ relief chief warns Security Council money to fund Gaza operations will run out in mid-June

Africa-Europe Alliance: Four new financial guarantees worth €216 million signed under the EU External Investment Plan

European Junior Enterprises to address the significant skills mismatch in the EU between school and employment

What happiness can teach us about how we measure human development

Celebrities are helping the UK’s schoolchildren learn during lockdown

Taking fast road to ‘e-mobility’ central to a sustainable future: COP24

US-China trade war is a ‘lose-lose’ situation for them and the world, warn UN economists

This digital currency could build a more sustainable global economy

UN relief chief urges Security Council to back aid delivery, more funding for millions of Syrians hit by harsh weather

EU to finance new investment projects with extra borrowing; French and Italian deficits to be tolerated

Could the fourth wave of globalization help to end epidemics?

EU adopts rebalancing measures in reaction to US steel and aluminium tariffs

UN chief welcomes start of Church-mediated national dialogue in Nicaragua

It’s time for global businesses to accept local responsibility

WHO working to save lives following powerful earthquake in Albania

Parliament demands ban on neo-fascist and neo-Nazi groups in the EU

We won’t win the online security war without people power

Grave concern over escalating humanitarian crisis, casualties, displacement across northwest Syria: UN

Banks can fight financial crime. But we can’t do it alone

China-EU Summit on 16-17 July 2018: “Work together to address common challenges”, by China’s Ambassador to the EU

Juncker Plan exceeds original €315 billion investment target

Rising inequality affecting more than two-thirds of the globe, but it’s not inevitable: new UN report

25 years on from genocide against the Tutsi, UN Chief warns of ‘dangerous trends of rising xenophobia, racism and intolerance’

How cities, not states, can solve the world’s biggest problems

Mergers: Commission prohibits proposed merger between Tata Steel and ThyssenKrupp

Microplastics have been found in Rocky Mountain rainwater

Mali: Two peacekeepers dead after dawn attack, several injured – UN Mission

Russia and the West to partition Ukraine?

RescEU: MEPs vote to upgrade EU civil protection capacity

Professional practices of primary health care for Brazilian health and gender inequality

Universities need strategic leadership. Here’s what it looks like

The health of the human being in coexistence with a transformative biosphere

Voices of Afghan women ‘must be heard at the table in the peace process and beyond’ UN deputy chief tells Security Council

Managing and resolving conflicts in a politically inclined group of team members

Telemedicine and the Brazilian reality

UN’s Grandi slams ‘toxic language of politics’ aimed at refugees, migrants

G20 to Germany: Abandon miser policies

German elections: Is Merkel losing ground or Shultz is winning?

EU paves the way for a stronger, more ambitious partnership with Africa

‘An unprecedented fiscal response’ – political and business leaders on managing the coronavirus crisis

Urgent action needed to address growing opioid crisis

I have a rare disease. This is my hope for the future of medicine

Bill Gates’ top 10 breakthrough technologies of 2019

Eurobarometer: protecting human rights tops citizens’ list of EU values

Global aid appeal targets more than 93 million most in need next year

Help prevent children ‘from becoming victims in the first place’, implores Guterres at campaign launch

Don’t let the virus quarantine your mind –Ways to strengthen “Mental” immunity

The developing countries keep the world going

More Stings?

Advertising

Trackbacks

  1. […] Pandemics are here to stay. Here’s how to prepare for the next one  The European Sting “self isolation when:1h” – Google News […]

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s