Learning from COVID -19 Pandemic and Analysing Lancet Commission Report
The Lancet COVID-19 Commission consisting of 28 commissioners was constituted in July 2020, and entrusted with four main themes: developing recommendations on how to best suppress the epidemic; addressing the humanitarian crises arising from the pandemic; addressing the financial and economic crises resulting from the pandemic; and rebuilding an inclusive, fair, and sustainable world.
The 28 Commissioners were global experts in public policy, international cooperation, epidemiology and vaccinology, economics and financial systems, sustainability sciences, and mental health.
It is noteworthy that the Commission was not an investigative group, nor a body of biomedical specialists in key fields such as virology, vaccine development, and medicine. The Commission's focus is on science-based policy, global cooperation, and international finance.
The commission's final report was published on 14 September 2022 in Lancet. The commission highlighted a number of international failures during the management of the pandemic and also suggested many ways to avoid a repeat of the same.
Dr S K Gupta analyses the salient features.
COVID-19 has blatantly pointed out global health inequities. The stark truth stares straight into the eyes yelling "everyone is unsafe till anyone is unsafe.
It exposed the hollowness of agencies like the Global Health Security Index, which turned out to be nothing more than a false sense of security to some nations and false criticism of others, especially low-income countries. The tiny contagion has proved the equal vulnerability of all.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the world witnessed unprecedented global collaboration and cooperation resulting in sharing of genome sequencing, the development of diagnostic tests and kits, and then the quickest vaccine development in history. All this was possible because of the multilateral approach. However, this multilateralism was fear-driven rather than instinctive and hence lasted shortly. Once the vaccines were ready the self-centric nationalism kicked in pushing multilateralism to the back seat.
In the beginning, the self-centric approach affected the supplies of protective equipment, PPE kits, sanitation supplies, diagnostic materials, and lately the crucial raw materials required in the process of vaccine development. The suppressed desire to capture the lion's share of the booty became utterly manifest once the harvest -the vaccines were ready. And the result was inequitable rollout and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines across the world, with little share left for low and middle-income countries. The vaccination difference between the low-income and high-income countries even today stands out more than ten times.
WHO kept yelling but no one bothered. Some politicians like Narendra Modi who dared to share some vaccines with friendly neighboring nations were meted with tough opposition from the rival political factions. There is Hindi proverb Ek anaar, sau bimaar! Literally meaning: Pomegranate one, and a hundred sick! and figurative meaning: Supplies limited, but demands unlimited.
When survival is at stake emotions carry little meaning. The world is going to witness the repeat in a case similar conditions prevail again. But we need to learn from what happened and build resilience for the future.
The key question now should be to prevent a repeat of such a situation in the future. And it is not going to come thru just the governments working together. The world needs to develop an ecosystem using multi-stakeholder partnerships with major public-private investment initiatives. Enhanced coordination with smooth flow arrangements between financial institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and local/regional development banks need to be charted out with a binding framework. International organizations like WHO need to be given more might in implementation. A pandemic watchdog may be considered with powers to integrate national, regional, and global surveillance capabilities, and share the information and prevail during controversies. The role of civil societies and the private sector can't be undermined, they need to be incorporated into the decision-making.
Situations might seem difficult but not impossible. Afterall UN also came into existence after huge catastrophes threatened the existence of Mankind.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are of the author and not of the Medical Dialogues. The Editorial/Content team at Medical Dialogues has not contributed to the writing/editing/packaging of this article.
Dr. S K Gupta has an MBBS and MD degree from the Maulana Azad Medical College, University of Delhi, and has been a Consultant Physician at Max Hospital. In addition, he has been conferred upon Fellowship of Indian College of Physicians by the Association of Physicians of India. He was Nominated as 'Delhi Healthcare Ambassador' by Delhi Medical Association and was awarded 'Chikitsa Ratn' by Indian Medical Association. Dr. S K Gupta is also an author and has written the Book "Journey of Covid in India- A Doctor's Perspective."