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As vote nears, world leaders vie over roles and rules for stopping next pandemic

By Nicholas Gerbis
Published: Thursday, December 14, 2023 - 4:47pm
Updated: Friday, December 15, 2023 - 8:27am

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Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 bivalent omicron booster vial
Tim Agne/KJZZ
A vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

The COVID-19 pandemic saw many abuses of the legally binding International Health Regulations (IHR).

Now, with a vote on IHR amendments looming this March, some fear that world leaders aren’t doing enough to guard against future pandemics.

The vote concerns both a new treaty on pandemics and a proposal to amend the IHR.

Despite a nonbinding UN political declaration, negotiations have stalled, as lingering distrust and philosophical differences put low- and middle-income countries at loggerheads with their high-income counterparts.

A JAMA Health Forum paper calls for more concrete reforms, including: easing global access to science and medicines; increasing drug and vaccine capacity; funding the World Bank’s Pandemic Fund; creating enforcement mechanisms; and dealing with upstream drivers of pandemics, such as deforestation, wildlife trade and climate change.

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