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Wednesday July 06, 2022

Preparing for pandemics

June 24, 2022

Delegations from the world’s 20 largest economies convened in the Special Region of Yogyakarta to discuss how we can better prevent, prepare for, and respond to future pandemics. I am pleased to announce that the G20 member states have taken the first steps toward strengthening the global health system and ensuring health and prosperity for all.

The G20’s discussions at the first Health Ministerial Meetings have focused on five priority areas.

First, the G20 has agreed to mobilise financial resources for pandemic prevention, preparedness and response by agreeing to establish a new Financial Intermediary Fund (FIF). This fund aims to fill the financial gap needed to adequately respond to global health emergencies, estimated to be $10.5bn and felt most sharply by low- and middle-income countries. To date, the FIF has already seen over $1.1bn committed by several countries and organisations, with many more pledging to contribute in due course.

Second, the G20 member states have committed to work closely with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to establish a permanent coordinating platform that will work towards providing emergency medical countermeasures during health crises. Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have all witnessed first hand the delays in the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE), testing and vaccines. We must learn from this experience and act accordingly by having a standing coordination mechanism, which is ready to provide a timely and effective response to future health crises, wherever they may be.

Third, G20 countries expressed their support for the principle of global genomic data sharing, which has proven to be a key element of our collective efforts to monitor pathogens of concern that have pandemic potential. As chair of the G20 health track, it is my intention to take this agreement one step further to push for the establishment of a global network of genomic surveillance labs. This network should be facilitated by strengthened global data-sharing mechanisms, standards and protocols – all of which are the focus of ongoing discussions among the G20. This proposal will equip our global scientific community with the necessary data-sharing platforms to always be on the lookout for new viruses and in turn enable governments to respond quickly and effectively to emerging health crises.

Fourth, there has been important progress in the development of globally interoperable digital vaccine certificate verification mechanisms for international travellers. What this means is that international travellers may, in the near future, be able to verify their vaccination status using a single QR code that can be read and processed in any destination. This is certainly a step in the right direction to promote global mobility and accelerate global economic recovery, and I am happy to announce that a G20 pilot of this new system is already in the works.

Fifth, there is an increasing willingness among G20 countries to create an expanded network of research and manufacturing hubs for vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics across the globe. Low- and middle-income countries often suffer from the inability to develop and supply medical treatments to their populations in a timely and equitable way because of the skewed geographical distribution of research and manufacturing hubs in high-income countries. The G20’s support for a more proportionate geographical distribution of these hubs will go a long way to ensure that no country is left behind in future health crises.

Excerpted: ‘How do we best prevent, prepare for, and respond to pandemics?’ Courtesy: Aljazeera.com

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