China's top epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan has called for global solidarity and cooperation to fight against COVID-19 and prevent the next pandemic.
Zhong, a member of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPPR), made the comments during a recent exclusive interview with Xinhua.
He said that, in July 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the establishment of the IPPPR to evaluate the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic under the organization's leadership.
The COVID-19 pandemic could have been prevented, said Zhong, adding that the IPPPR aims to learn lessons from the global health emergency and make suggestions for the future.
On May 12, the panel released a report, pointing out the existing gaps and possible solutions for priority areas in pandemic prevention and response.
Building herd immunity through widespread vaccination is an important link in current epidemic control, said Zhong, but vaccines are not currently distributed fairly.
The report urges making COVID-19 vaccines a global public good. High-income countries should contribute to the COVAX facility, which aims to provide equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines to low-to-middle-income countries, according to the report.
The report also urges vaccine producing countries to provide vaccine licenses and technology transfers to ensure adequate and fair vaccine supplies.
To ensure that mankind can prevent the next pandemic, the IPPPR put forward a series of long-term suggestions, including enhancing political leadership on pandemic prevention and response, advancing global financing and investment for epidemic prevention, improving monitoring and early warning systems, and establishing a tool and supply platform.
Zhong highlighted the proposal of setting up a Global Health Threats Council. "Only by getting the attention of the highest-level political leaders can we ensure that pandemic preparedness and response will not be forgotten or ignored in the future," he said.
He also called for providing sufficient financial support for epidemic prevention and control, establishing a global fair-distribution plan for vaccines, and giving the WHO greater authority.
The report is objective and scientific, Zhong said, noting that global solidarity and cooperation are required to turn the report's suggestions into actions.
Zhong said he hopes the goal of the IPPPR can be achieved, that is, making COVID-19 the last pandemic outbreak faced by mankind.