Lessons From the COVID-19 Pandemic
The experience of the United Kingdom may be instructive to the rest of the world, considering the lessons learned and possible comparisons with current flu pandemic planning. Although lessons learned from the United Kingdom pandemic may vary, there are certain commonalities. Costs, effectiveness, and a realistic end point all point to lessons that can be learned from this historic experience. Read on for more.
Possible lessons for us
In the wake of the recent COVID outbreak, there are possible lessons for us from the UKs experience. The UK is a country with high levels of income and job insecurity, often compounded by racial inequality. Despite budget protections, the NHS is under unprecedented pressures and has little capacity to expand its services in times of crisis. Since the 1980s, the UK has faced tougher cuts to public health, including budget cuts of up to 22 percent. Cuts have left the UK health service with limited capabilities, including track and trace capability, advice to national government and engagement with local communities.
In addition to the lack of resources, the UK faced systemic policy failures in its response to the recent outbreak of COVID. Neither the United States nor other countries were adequately prepared for this type of outbreak. The result was complacency and a lack of preparedness that cost lives and livelihoods. The lessons from the UK pandemic are relevant to the United States as well.
One possible lesson from the UK’s COVID-19 response is that preventing the spread of the virus requires a coordinated approach. Public servants must be aware of the potential risks of being exposed to the virus. The World Health Organization could have done more to prevent the outbreak, but punted on the decision after Jan. 23. In a week, 18 countries had been infected with the virus.
Possible comparisons with current flu pandemic planning
One way to compare recent and current flu pandemic plans is to look at the health systems involved. Developing and activating pandemic plans is crucial. The plans should include interventions to reduce the disease burden, contain infection and ensure the availability of essential services and resources. The plans should also include guidance for the relevant authorities at subnational and national levels. The plans should provide guidance on the need for additional resources and interventions, including the use of emergency powers.
The Influenza Risk Assessment Tool was developed by the CDC in 2010 to guide strategic decisions regarding influenza pandemic planning. The tool evaluates the probability of a new influenza pandemic in different parts of the world based on ten characteristics. The characteristics include antiviral susceptibility, disease severity and global distribution among animal species and humans. If the virus has any of these characteristics, it is considered to be a threat.
WHO recommends different types of action during each phase. It categorizes them into five categories and outlines the actions to be taken at each phase. The extent to which these plans are implemented depends on available resources and the current understanding of the disease. Some plans address influenza alone while others address many other health emergencies. It is important to consider the differences between these two types of plans and how they compare with current planning.
Another comparison can be made between current planning and past plans. Current plans are often more comprehensive than those that were developed before the current pandemic. A WHO pandemic plan defines phases of disease progression and prescribes specific actions for each phase. It also addresses challenges posed by limited human infections of new influenza subtypes. It also aims to improve international coordination and transparency of recommended national measures. It also outlines the necessary steps and actions in preparing for a pandemic.
Preparing for and fighting another pandemic could cost as much as US$1 billion over five years. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI) has identified potential pandemic viruses and is working to develop vaccine candidates against those pathogens. By building production facilities and technology platforms, CEPI has already accelerated the vaccine response for known pathogens. These efforts would cost more than US$1 billion a year if they failed.
While early-phase public health efforts to contain and limit an outbreak require significant human resources, they may not fully address the costs. Aside from the human costs associated with human resources, there are the additional costs related to building new facilities for handling infectious cases. Consumables would also have to be purchased. Overall, these costs could quickly escalate. In the long run, universal healthcare is a worthwhile goal, but in the short term, pandemic preparedness efforts can help ensure that health systems are prepared for any eventuality.
The risk of pandemics continues to increase as population growth, urbanization, and habitat loss are increasing. With global population expected to reach nine billion by 2050, these factors increase the likelihood of a pandemic outbreak. Furthermore, increasing travel and trade are intensifying public health systems. It’s imperative that public health systems be prepared to face any situation. And the sooner we begin to plan, the better.
The costs of fighting another pandemic are high. The COVID-19 pandemic could cost more than $16 trillion – many times more than the projected costs of preventing pandemics. But if we invest in prevention, the cost of fighting another disease may be minimal. In fact, investing in prevention could be the best insurance policy for human health and the global economy. Emerging pathogens are caused by a variety of factors including the destruction of tropical forests, the wildlife trade, and urbanization.
For example, the 2014 West Africa Ebola epidemic resulted in more than 10,000 additional deaths, despite the fact that the affected countries only had about thirty percent of their childhoods immunization rates. Moreover, the severe 2009 influenza pandemic resulted in statistically significant increases in mortality rates, including acute myocardial infarction and stroke. Consequently, the cost of fighting a pandemic today could be even greater than in 1918.
If we’ve learned anything from the COVID-19 Pandemic, it’s that fast action is key. In the winter wave that peaked in Scotland last January, 65 people died per day. Nine out of ten adults have had a single dose of the coronavirus vaccine, and more than seven in ten have received both. In spite of these numbers, the United Kingdom is one of the most well-protected major nations in the world.