Global health experts have been saying for years that another pandemic whose speed and severity rivaled those of the 1918 influenza epidemic was a matter not of if but of when.
We need to invest in disease surveillance, including a case database that is instantly accessible to relevant organizations, and rules requiring countries to share information. Governments should have access to lists of trained personnel, from local leaders to global experts, who are prepared to deal with an epidemic immediately, as well as lists of supplies to be stockpiled or redirected in an emergency.
We need to build a system that can develop safe, effective vaccines and antivirals, get them approved, and deliver billions of doses within a few months after the discovery of a fast-moving pathogen. That’s a tough challenge that presents technical, diplomatic, and budgetary obstacles, as well as demanding partnership between the public and private sectors. But all these obstacles can be overcome.
Governments and industry will need to come to an agreement: during a pandemic, vaccines and antivirals can’t simply be sold to the highest bidder.