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Negotiators for the global pandemic treaty couldn't meet their deadline

View of vials on a production line at the factory of British multinational pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in Saint-Amand-les-Eaux, northern France, on December 3, 2020, where the adjuvant for Covid-19 vaccines will be manufactured.
Francois Lo Presti
/
AFP via Getty Images
View of vials on a production line at the factory of British multinational pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in Saint-Amand-les-Eaux, northern France, on December 3, 2020, where the adjuvant for Covid-19 vaccines will be manufactured.

The two-year effort to produce a global pandemic treaty did not meet its deadline.

On Friday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, announced that the negotiators – from the group’s 194 member nations – couldn’t find consensus in time for the World Health Assembly that starts next week.

The goal had been to draw up a document that could be adopted at the meeting and then sent to countries for ratification. But the sticking points – including the willingness of richer countries to share vaccines and treatments with less well-off countries in the Global South – could not be resolved in time.

Nonetheless, Tedros holds out hope.

“The world still needs a pandemic treaty. Many of the challenges that caused the serious impact during COVID-19 still exist,” said Tedros. “So let's continue to try everything.”

Experts in global health expect that WHO will grant another six to 12 months for negotiators to complete their work – and resolve the sticking points.

“It was a huge disappointment,” says Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University, after learning about the delay. “But there is a strong appetite to carry on.”

In the U.S., lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have sought to ensure that any agreement would not infringe on a pharmaceutical company’s proprietary information or stifle investment in drug development. A number of Republican governors have also raised concerns about whether the pandemic treaty could grant the WHO too much authority in a public health emergency.

Roland Driece, a top official in the negotiations, says that such concerns reflect disinformation about the treaty that has been circulating. He says that false claims include that WHO would have the ability to require lockdowns and mandate vaccinations.

The idea of a treaty was born at the height of the COVID pandemic when glaring gaps in the world’s collaboration and coordination became apparent – and many lives were lost as a result. By one count, more than a million people died because dozens of poor countries had next to no vaccines while some wealthier nations were giving out boosters.

“It was a very desperate situation,” says Hadley Sultani Matendechero, deputy director general for health in Kenya. “[Vaccines] in our minds were the only antidote to this catastrophe, but we were not able to access them.”

Copyright 2024 NPR

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Gabrielle Emanuel
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
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