With COVID-19 Still Present, Secretary-General Urges Better Virus Surveillance, Health Systems, Vaccine Equity, in Message for International Day of Epidemic Preparedness

Following is UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ message for the International Day of Epidemic Preparedness, observed on 27 December:

COVID‑19 is no longer the international public health emergency it was, but it is still circulating, and its devastating effects are still with us.  Economic damage inflicted by the pandemic endures.  Many health-care systems are struggling.  Millions of children are threatened by disease after missing out on routine childhood vaccinations.  And three years after the first COVID‑19 vaccines were developed, billions of people remain unprotected — overwhelmingly in developing countries.

When the next pandemic arrives, we must do better.  But we’re not yet ready.  We must prepare and act on the lessons of COVID‑19.

Working together, the world must improve surveillance of viruses, strengthen health systems, and make the promise of universal health coverage a reality.  We must renounce the moral and medical disaster of rich countries hoarding and controlling pandemic health-care supplies, and ensure everyone has access to diagnostics, treatments and vaccines.   And we must strengthen the World Health Organization’s authority and financing.

These efforts are making progress.  The high-level meeting on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response in September agreed a robust political declaration.  This complements the negotiations on a pandemic accord in Geneva.

On this International Day of Epidemic Preparedness, I urge countries to build on this momentum by delivering a strong, comprehensive accord, focused on equity, by next year’s World Health Assembly in May.

Together, let’s act on the lessons of COVID‑19, prepare, and build a fairer, healthier world for all.

For information media. Not an official record.