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74th World Health Assembly: India bats for implementation of independent Covid-19 panel’s recommendations

New Delhi, May 25

Days after the independent panel on Covid-19 said the WHO could have sounded the alarm on the pandemic sooner, India late on Monday noted that future decision making on the issue should be informed by the guidance of the panel and of other high-level review mechanisms established over the past year to review global response to Covid.

Chairing the 74th session of the World Health Assembly virtually, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, who is head of the WHO executive board, said, “The Executive Board stressed that the findings of the three review mechanisms – Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, Chair of the Review Committee on the Functioning of the International Health Regulations 2005 during Covid-19 Response, and Chair of the Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee for the WHO Health Emergencies Programme and decided that these should  inform future decision-making and member states needed to play a pivotal role in guiding the secretariat’s translation of those findings into policy action.”

The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPPR) formed last May unveiled its findings on May 12 and said the pandemic was preventable and the WHO could have sounded the Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) alarm sooner.

The panel recommended establishment of a new global system for surveillance, based on full transparency by all parties and for the World Health Assembly to give the WHO explicit authority to publish information about outbreaks with pandemic potential without requiring the prior approval of national governments. The independent panel also said that legally binding International Health regulations (2005) served to constrain rather than facilitate rapid action, the definition of a new suspected outbreak with pandemic potential needs to be refined. Besides, it asked WTO and WHO to convene major vaccine-producing countries and manufacturers to agree to voluntary licensing and technology transfer for Covid-19 vaccines and establish a high-level Global Health Threats Council led by government heads.

Vardhan on Tuesday also emphasised health emergencies saying the WHO executive board engaged in wide-ranging and in-depth discussions on Covid-19 impact on global health and noted the importance of guaranteeing equitable access for all to Covid-19 medicines and vaccines to ensure that they are considered as global public goods.

“The Board recommended that the 74th World Health Assembly must consider the report on mental health preparedness and response for the Covid-19 pandemic and endorse the updated comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan for the period of 2013 to 2030,” Vardhan said.

The WHO board has further recommended that the 74th World Health Assembly adopt a decision to present an implementation road map for the global action plan for prevention and control of non-communicable diseases during the period 2013 to 2030 and draft a global strategy to tackle oral diseases.