70th World Health Assembly intervention, Agenda Item 12.1
Research and development for potentially epidemic diseases – a blueprint for research and development preparedness and rapid research response
Speaker: Rohit Malpani
The deaths of more than 11,000 people in West Africa during the Ebola outbreak beginning in 2014 were a wake-up call for the world. We had no approved drugs or vaccines. As one health worker put it, we were ‘fighting a forest fire with spray bottles’.
MSF supports WHO having a leading role in efforts to improve R&D for potentially epidemic diseases, including through implementation of the Blueprint. As a medical humanitarian organisation, we hope the Blueprint can help deliver the tools needed to respond to future epidemics.
We welcome WHO’s commitment to policy coherence across R&D work. As such we ask WHO to provide greater transparency on how plans to develop new medical tools for MERS and Zika will ensure these are affordable and accessible, and how intellectual property and data will be shared and managed in line with GSPOA and CEWG and building on lessons from the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework.
Efforts to establish a ‘Global Coordination Mechanism’ and formulate principles and practices collaboratively with other entities, including MSF, are welcome. We stress that such efforts must ultimately derive from a transparent and inclusive intergovernmental process, and align with the principles committed to at WHO, including those introduced under the CEWG. Governance of such a GCM must be led by WHO and Member States, not non-State actors, foundations or think-tanks.
Finally, the commitment to policy coherence must extend to all R&D initiatives where WHO is involved, including as an Observer, for example through the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). MSF has several concerns with CEPI’s transparency, pricing and access policies. WHO should continue insisting that CEPI improve its policies and practices, particularly since WHO is formally involved with the initiative as an Observer.
A full list of briefing documents and interventions for the 70th WHA can be found here.