The WHO announced in April 2023 that it was launching a new initiative to equip countries with the “systems and capacities” to accelerate every aspect of their emerging threat management in preparation for the next pandemic. The Preparedness and Resilience for Emerging Threats initiative (PRET) will start with a focus on respiratory pathogens. A meeting from 24th-26th April will “usher in a new era” of preparedness, says WHO.
The importance of preparedness
WHO suggests that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 92 Member States indicated that they had respiratory pathogen (influenza) pandemic preparedness plans. These States comprise 47% of the WHO Member State community. During pandemic many of these plans were adapted to meet the needs of the COVID-19 response. Additionally, the pandemic urged Member States to develop or update their plans, with 176 reporting that they had a COVID-19 pandemic response plan in 2021.
Using lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, PRET incorporates the “latest tools and approaches” for “shared learning and collective action”
“It places the principles of equity, inclusivity, and coherence at the forefront.”
A new approach
WHO suggests that PRET’s focus is on “improving pandemic preparedness for groups of pathogens based on their mode of transmission”. It acknowledges the “three tiers” of systems and capacities for pandemic preparedness:
- Cross-cutting for all or multi-hazards
- Relevant for groups of pathogens
- Specific to one pathogen
“The aim is to strengthen existing systems and capacities, and to fill gaps. This approach avoids siloes, promotes coherence and efficiency, and helps streamline actions at the time of a pandemic.”
As the “ever-present risk” of respiratory pathogen pandemics continues, the first module will look specifically at respiratory pathogens, expanding to further groups in the future. WHO emphasises that each module is a “living document” that incorporates lessons and innovations throughout the timeline.
The technical initiative applies a One Health “lens”, recognising that “most new pathogens originate first in animals”.
“Preventing, preparing, and responding to emerging threats requires multi-sector action.”
PRET will operate under the International Health Regulations (IHR), and WHO states that technical actions in PRET are mapped to the IHR’s “core capacities”. PRET recognises the three tiers previously mentioned for pandemic preparedness. WHO is encouraging countries to develop national action plans for health security to strengthen cross-cutting capacities for all/multi-hazard preparedness.
For more on pandemic preparedness join us at the World Vaccine Congress in Barcelona this October. Get your tickets here today.