Avoiding Pandemic Fatigue: Financing Pandemic Preparedness and Response
Pandemic fatigue is avoidable but inevitable. Existing mechanisms for financing pandemic preparedness may not be sufficient in the event of a pandemic outbreak especially with health security threats emerging from a lethal SARS-related novel coronavirus in the Middle East and an H7N9 outbreak in China.
At the global level, there is the WHO Pandemic Influenza Preparedness (PIP) Framework which includes ‘sustainable and innovative financing mechanisms’ to compensate the lack of donations to the WHO PIP vaccine stockpile. Since 2012, organisations, including influenza vaccine, diagnostic and pharmaceutical manufacturers using the WHO Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS) have contributed USD 18 million to the WHO through a partnership contribution mechanism under the framework. In December 2012, the WHO signed an agreement with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to ensure the availability of pandemic vaccines and antivirals to developing countries in real time (10% of vaccines as they come off the production line and 10 million treatment courses of antiviral medicine). Funding for the WHO’s operations however, has been drastically cut for the past two years due to budget reductions in donor countries, forcing massive lay-offs of WHO staff in its headquarters and in key global health hubs. Sending a WHO team to China to monitor and assess the H7N9 outbreak, for example, was hampered because of budget limitations.
At the regional level, there is the nascent ASEAN Multi-sectoral Pandemic Preparedness and Response Framework Action Plan which embeds pandemic response into the region’s disaster and emergency management platform – the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER). This came about with the financial support of the USAID Technical Assistance and Training Facility (TATF) for ASEAN which amounted to USD26million dollars (from 2007-2012). As of writing, no new funding has been announced for the further operationalisation of the action plan. In addition, there is the ASEAN Regional Stockpile of Antivirals against potential pandemic influenza for ASEAN. The USD58.85 million earmarked for the regional stockpile from 2006 to 2013 was granted by the Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund (JAIF) and later on by the Japan Trust Fund on Health Initiative.
Notably, most of the relevant funding have either ended in 2012 or are closing this year. Thus, a new stimulus may have presented itself with the threats of H7N9 and the novel coronavirus but a new surge for funding would be critical if the frameworks, action plans or stockpiles are expected to adequately function and meet the demands for pandemic response. One solution is to tap into the resources of global foundations and multilateral initiatives which can offset bilateral assistance gaps, if not further support pandemic preparedness and response in the region. The Rockefeller Foundation for example has already funded a number of initiatives for such objective, including a disease surveillance network initiative to increase the capacity of the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (2007-2011) amounting to USD 280,000. Donors and national governments however need to have an integrated and coordinated strategy. Surge in funding would not matter if objectives overlap and when local health infrastructures are compromised when comprehensive programs are sacrificed for disease-specific programmes to meet donor priorities. Ensuring the effectiveness of current aid for pandemic preparedness and evidence-based interventions can help lay out how funding can be more consistent in the long term.
This blog post has been written by Gianna Gayle Amul. She is a Research Analyst at the Centre for Non—Traditional Security (NTS) Studies in the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS).
Last updated on 15/05/2013