Pandemic treaty

Pandemic treaty is a proposed treaty to be better prepared for any future pandemics like the COVID-19.

About the treaty

  • It is to prevent future pandemics and to improve the preparedness and response in case of occurrence of any pandemic. In December 2021, the World Health Assembly at a special session agreed to start the global process to draft the pandemic treaty. It is its second special session since it was founded in 1948.
  • It adopted a decision titled “The World Together”, under which it established an intergovernmental negotiating body (INB) to draft the contents of the pandemic treaty in compliance with Article 19 of the World Health Organization (WHO) Constitution.
  • The pandemic treaty is expected to cover aspects like:
    • Data sharing regarding the pandemic.
    • Genome sequencing of emerging viruses.
    • Equitable distribution of vaccines and drugs throughout the world.

Perspectives of various countries

  • The European Union (EU) wants a ban on wildlife markets to be included in the treaty. This proposal is in the backdrop of the widely-accepted theory that the novel coronavirus may have spread from animals to humans in a wildlife market of Wuhan, China.
  • EU also wants the treaty to be legally binding. However, the U.S., Brazil, and India have expressed reservations about the same. The legal nature of the treaty is not defined.

Article 19 of the WHO constitution

It gives the World Health Assembly the authority to adopt conventions or agreements on matters of health. A 2/3rdmajority is needed to adopt such conventions or agreements.

Need for pandemic treaty

  • The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the shortcomings of global health systems.
  • There was an inequitable distribution of vaccines and drugs during COVID-19. The poorer countries were at the mercy of developed nations to receive medication.
  • Also, most countries gave priority to their citizens and hoarded vaccines, which is not an effective way to deal with a global pandemic.
  • More than 5.9 million people have lost their lives to COVID-19. In India, over 34 million cases have been reported so far and the death toll stands at over five lakh.

On February 24th, 2022, members of the World Health Organization (WHO) held the first round of negotiations towards the pandemic treaty. A progress report is expected to be delivered to the 76th World Health Assembly in 2023, and its outcome will be submitted to the 77th World Health Assembly in 2024 for consideration.

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