GLOBAL – State Parties have achieved a significant milestone towards global public health by reaching a momentous agreement on a comprehensive set of amendments to the International Health Regulations (2005). 

These amendments, originating from over 300 proposals post-COVID-19, aim to enhance countries’ readiness to handle Public Health Emergencies of International Concern (PHEICs). 

They are slated to be presented at the upcoming World Health Assembly (WHA), which is scheduled for May 27 to June 1, 2024. Negotiators will reconvene next week to finalize any outstanding matters.

The International Health Regulations (IHR), initially established in 1969 and last revised in 2005, were devised to optimize collective responses to public health crises while minimizing disruptions to travel and trade. 

The Working Group on Amendments to the International Health Regulations (2005) (WGIHR) has steered this amendment process with 196 State Parties, comprising all 194 WHO Member States, Liechtenstein, and the Holy See.

The recent conclusion marks the end of the resumed session of the eighth WGIHR meeting.

Running concurrently, an intergovernmental endeavor to craft an international pact on pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response has been ongoing. 

The draft pandemic agreement, driven by Member States, recommenced on May 20 and will be presented at the WHA.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, remarked, “This is historic. Countries have come together around improved international mechanisms to protect every person in the world and future generations from the impact of epidemics and pandemics, with a commitment to equity and solidarity.”

Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, Co-Chair of WGIHR from New Zealand, expressed satisfaction with the consensus achieved, highlighting the global priority placed on effective preparation and response to epidemic and pandemic threats.

Echoing these sentiments, Dr. Abdullah Assiri, Co-Chair of WGIHR from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, emphasized the critical necessity of bolstering collective defenses against present and future health risks while respecting principles of sovereignty and equity.

The potential new pandemic agreement and revised IHRs will serve as complementary international instruments aimed at enabling countries to better safeguard their populations against future pandemic threats. 

While the IHRs focus on enhancing countries’ capacities to detect and respond to public health events with international implications, the draft pandemic accord centers on coordinated global responses to pandemics, with equitable access to vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics at its core.

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