WHO extends talks to reach pandemic accord

Geneva, Switzerland — The World Health Organization annual assembly on Saturday gave member countries another year to agree on a landmark accord to combat future pandemics. 

Three years of effort to reach a deal ended last month in failure. But WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus hailed what he called historic decisions taken to make a new bid for an accord. 

The WHO agreed in 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic eased to launch talks on an accord to counter any new global health crisis. Millions died from COVID-19 which brought health systems in many countries to their knees. 

The talks hit multiple obstacles however with many developing countries accusing rich nations of monopolizing available COVID-19 vaccines. 

They have sought assurances that any new accord will make provision of medicines and the sharing of research more equitable.  

The WHO annual assembly “made concrete commitments to completing negotiations on a global pandemic agreement within a year, at the latest,” said a statement released at the end of the Geneva meeting. 

The assembly also agreed on amendments to an international framework of binding health rules. The changes introduce the notion of a “pandemic emergency,” which calls on member states to take rapid, coordinated action, the statement said. 

“The historic decisions taken today demonstrate a common desire by member states to protect their own people, and the world’s, from the shared risk of public health emergencies and future pandemics,” Tedros said. 

He said the change to health rules “will bolster countries’ ability to detect and respond to future outbreaks and pandemics by strengthening their own national capacities, and [through] coordination between fellow states, on disease surveillance, information sharing and response.” 

Tedros added: “The decision to conclude the pandemic agreement within the next year demonstrates how strongly and urgently countries want it, because the next pandemic is a matter of when, not if.” 

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