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The first COVID-19 vaccine doses arriving in Benin through the COVAX shared vaccine procurement program
Rich countries have been criticized for hoarding vaccines while poorer countries face long delaysImage: Séraphin Zounyekpe

World leaders back plan to prepare for next pandemic

March 30, 2021

COVID-19 will not be the last pandemic. Global leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, want to be better prepared for the next one.

https://p.dw.com/p/3rMHB

Leaders from 23 countries, the World Health Organization and the EU called for a new international treaty to better prepare for future pandemics in an op-ed published on Tuesday.

The signatories of the op-ed — published in major newspapers worldwide — were global leaders from five continents and included Germany's Angela Merkel, Britain's Boris Johnson, France's Emmanuel Macron, South Korea's Moon Jae-in and South Africa's Cyril Ramaphosa.

"We believe that nations should work together towards a new international treaty for pandemic preparedness and response," the op-ed said.

"Such a renewed collective commitment would be a milestone in stepping up pandemic preparedness at the highest political level."

Better cooperation next time

The idea was first floated by President of the European Council Charles Michel at a G20 summit in November last year.

The need for international cooperation was made clear by the COVID-19 pandemic that has ravaged global health services and economies.

It is hoped that a treaty would ensure universal and equal access to vaccines, medicines and diagnostics for future pandemics.

"There will be other pandemics and other major health emergencies. No single government or multilateral agency can address this threat alone," the op-ed said.

Need to overcome international divisions

Leaders from the US, China, Russia and Japan were conspicuous by their absence among the signatories.

It is expected that any successful international treaty will be the result of a long period of political wrangling.

The coronavirus pandemic has seen governments and national leaders trade accusations over each others' handling of the outbreak.

At the same time, rich countries have been criticized for hoarding vaccines at the expense of a global equitable distribution.

The sentiment was not lost on the signatories which included leaders from the EU and the UK who have been involved in a row over access to AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses.

"At a time when COVID-19 has exploited our weaknesses and divisions, we must seize this opportunity and come together as a global community for peaceful cooperation that extends beyond this crisis," the op-ed pleaded.

ab/nm (AFP, Reuters)

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