Recap: Webinar “A Pact for Pandemic Readiness” on 23 June 2022
What do we need to focus on to be ready for future outbreaks? How could a better surveillance intelligence and response make a difference this time to be really prepared next time? Which role does the One Health Approach play to achieve this? Within its G7 Presidency, Germany has come forward with a G7 Pact for Pandemic Readiness to advance discussions on improving pandemic preparedness through fostering readiness in the areas of surveillance and response and strengthening the Health Emergency Workforce. On 23 June 2022 the Global Health Hub hosted a webinar on the topic “A Pact for Pandemic Readiness – Protecting Health Globally through better Surveillance and Response”. This event is part of the discussion series “Shaping Health Globally – from the German Global Health Strategy to Shared Commitment” of the German Federal Ministry of Health in cooperation with the Global Health Hub Germany.
Insights on pathways to be ready for future outbreaks
The speakers shared their perspectives about insights on pathways to be ready for future outbreaks through sectoral collaboration and international cooperation based on the One Health approach. The following experts contributed with their points of view: Dr Christophe Bayer (Head of Division for Health Security, International Crisis Management, Federal Ministry of Health), Prof Dr Fabian Leendertz (Founding Director of the Helmholtz Institute for One Health and Professor for One Health at the University of Greifswald), Dr Oliver Morgan (Director of Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence Systems, World Health Organization) and Dr Karoline Schollmeyer (Senior Veterinary Officer at Division Animal Health, Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture). The webinar was moderated by Prof Dr Johanna Hanefeld (Head of Center for International Health Protection, Robert Koch Institute). Participants from over 30 countries registered to the event.
An endeavour to bring together stakeholders
The pact is aiming on aligning actions in the field of pandemic preparedness and readiness. Dr Christophe Bayer, BMG: “The Pact for Pandemic Readiness is an endeavour to bring together different stakeholders and initiatives of the G7 in order to better coordinate what we are doing, to better align, and to create synergies. It is not about duplication, but about the political process.” Bayer also pointed out that trusted communication is key to health literacy. And health literacy is definitely needed to make decisions. He also said that the G7 committed to support collectively 100 low- and middle-income countries to strengthen their core capacities on the International Health Regulations until 2027. As a next step, the G7 will discuss on a Roadmap for the Implementation of the Compact for Pandemic Readiness.
Evidence-based information and insights about decision making are key
Inaugurated in 2021, the WHO Hub in Berlin aims to drive innovation to increase availability of key data, develop analytic tools and predicative models. To achieve this, it plans to gather leading intersectoral expertise, link communities of practice around the work and provide policy makers with evidence-based information. Dr Oliver Morgan, WHO: “Every month we detect 4,500 events we worry about. There are outbreaks which are monitored nationally, but the WHO Hub can give support, when there is a capacity gap in monitoring these events.” Morgan addressed the human resource capacity especially in analytics that is needed. A further challenge is to turn data and analytics into good decisions, which is a very complicated process and lacks good structure currently. There is not a much practiced experience in sharing information in the One Health space. He pointed out that there is a big opportunity for the G7 countries, which have a lot of resources and also a lot of experience, to embrace a collaborative approach. This approach could also reveal helpful insights about decision making. “Germany is doing a great job with the G7 presidency and providing clear focus on collaborative surveillance and effective rapid response. I would like to see these themes continuing in the next presidency with Japan and beyond”, he said.
Better connection between the human and animal sectors is needed
Most newly identified infectious diseases as well as existing ones have zoonotic origin, meaning that they have been transmitted from animals to humans. Dr Karoline Schollmeyer, Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture pointed out: “Zoonotic diseases from livestock are still causing majority of human infection today. […] we should not focus on new, but also continue to pay attention to classical diseases, like Tuberculosis, Brucellosis and Rabies.” Moreover, she underlined that much more needs to be done on the challenge to connect the animal with the human health sector. As Federal Research Institute for Animal Health, the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut (FLI) addresses these issues on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture on an international, European and global level.
Interdisciplinary dialog is important
The recently founded Helmholtz Institute for One Health (HIOH) in Greifswald conducts research at the interface of humans, animals and the environment. Prof Dr Fabian Leendertz summarized his idea for the G7 on how to implement this innovative research approach of One Health: “We have to learn to listen again – to other disciplines and to people on the ground (…) and we have to think globally.” He pointed out that experts on One Health are necessary. Moreover, the Global North could also learn from the experience of African countries, with Nigeria having a national One Health-Strategy for example. We need good examples to operationalise One Health in order not to fail with the concept. He also underlined the importance of networking before a crisis.
Our joint responsibility to keep this topic high on the agenda
One participant mentioned that One Health is quite an abstract word and the experts answered that it is up to us to focus on concrete outcomes therefore. Substantially increasing global pandemic readiness is a long-term task. It is a task for a decade or even for a generation. The experts agreed on the final remarks of Dr Christophe Bayer, who summarized that with the current global situation given, there is a substantial risk of falling back in the cycle of panic and neglect. This might be even further triggered with the increased burden on the funding available and the current economic situation on the horizon. Bayer said: “It is our joint responsibility to keep this topic high on the agenda. We also need to work on concrete improvements and outcomes.”