Sunday, March 27, 2011

Pandemic Preparedness

The nations of the world are not well prepared for a truly serious pandemic, according to a draft report by a committee of independent experts who studied the World Health Organization (WHO)’s response to the swine flu pandemic of 2009. Fortunately, swine flu turned out to be rather mild, but we may not be so lucky the next time around.

The report found that the production of vaccine took too long to have been of much help if the outbreak had turned out to be really severe. Not surprisingly, rich countries tended to get the vaccine first. Later, when it became apparent that rich countries had stockpiled more vaccine than they would need, millions of doses were donated to poor countries, but they went unused because of liability concerns by vaccine-makers. Some countries panicked, closing their borders to travel or needlessly restricting trade in certain items (such as pork). And the World Health Organization produced too many documents and not enough clear communication and guidance, according to the report.

The report will be discussed at a meeting of the committee this week.

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