Lancet Report Calls for Action to Strengthen Pandemic Response

January 10, 2022

A group of 23 eminent experts in global health and diplomacy serving on The Lancet COVID-19 Commission: Global Health Diplomacy and Cooperation Task Force published their findings in a new report. Among the members is W. Ian Lipkin, director of the Center for Infection and Immunity and John Snow Professor of Epidemiology at Columbia Mailman School.

The authors write that COVID-19 has led to “a crisis in global governance” that “can only be overcome with coordinated global action, and a stronger sense of transnational solidarity in the face of a common threat that does not respect national borders.”

The report enumerates nine lessons learned from the pandemic. Among the shortfalls it cites are the failure of the multilateral system to raise sufficient funds for pandemic relief and give the World Health Organization the mandate and authority to fulfill its role; insufficient response by individual nations; reliance and marginalization of female health workers and caregivers; and the “infodemic” of misinformation. On the positive side, the report praises regional collaboration in Africa, the resourcefulness of NGOs and civil society organizations, and scientific collaboration.

The report offers five recommendations: (1) Empower a global policy response and strategy based on cooperation and coordination, led by an effective multilateral system; (2) build on effective local facilitators between global and national systems; (3) improve international regulatory mechanisms to expedite the evaluation and approval of safe and effective diagnostics, drugs, and vaccines; (4) reform the intellectual-property regime governing access to vaccines and other technologies central to the prevention and elimination of pandemic threats; and (5) explore options to better address global crises, including the development of a Global Health Convention.

“The pandemic revealed the vulnerability of our species to emerging infectious diseases,” says Lipkin. “The task force dissected the factors responsible for this vulnerability and developed specific recommendations that, if implemented, will reduce this risk.”