From COVID-19 to the Next Pandemic: WHO’s PRET Initiative to Ensure Global Readiness

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched the Preparedness and Resilience for Emerging Threats Initiative (PRET) to provide guidance on integrated planning for responding to respiratory pathogens such as coronaviruses and influenza. Given the common capacities and capabilities among groups of pathogens, this initiative uses a mode of transmission approach to guide countries in pandemic planning.  

The COVID-19 pandemic and other health emergencies have emphasized that countries must be operationally ready to respond to infectious disease threats with tailored preparedness plans and better coordination and collaboration with other sectors, such as agriculture. The new initiative responds to this need for technical guidance and support for promoting and strengthening integrated preparedness and response.  

The first module of the PRET Initiative focuses on respiratory pathogens, including influenza, coronaviruses, and respiratory syncytial virus. This module enables countries to review, test, and update their respiratory pandemic planning efforts to ensure they have the necessary capacities and capabilities. Additionally, a process is underway to identify the next group of pathogens, such as arboviruses, to be addressed under this initiative.  

WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, emphasized that preparedness, prevention, and response activities must not be the health sector’s responsibility alone. He stressed that efforts must span sectors, disciplines, and pathogens and that community engagement and equity should be at the center of these efforts, particularly for marginalized populations most at risk.  

The initiative was launched during meetings with over 120 individuals representing Member States, partners, and the WHO secretariat to define the path forward for PRET. This included the development of a global implementation roadmap for respiratory pathogen pandemic preparedness.  

The PRET Initiative ushers in a new era for pandemic preparedness and represents an evolution of WHO’s core activities to support all Member States in strengthening health emergency preparedness, prevention, and response capacities and capabilities. It can also operationalize the objectives and provisions of the Pandemic Accord, which WHO Member States are currently negotiating.  

The initiative responds to the call for technical guidance and support to promote and strengthen integrated preparedness and response, as World Health Assembly resolutions outlined. Through this initiative, countries will be better equipped to respond to respiratory pathogens and other health emergencies with tailored preparedness plans and better coordination and collaboration with other sectors. WHO invites stakeholders to join this global call to action to advance respiratory pathogen pandemic preparedness. 


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