To help countries prepare for future respiratory pandemics, the WHO Regional Office for Europe organized a workshop for senior government and public health officials from the Western Balkans and the Republic of Moldova to present the new Preparedness and Resilience for Emerging Threats (PRET) Initiative to strengthen pandemic preparedness.
The workshop focused on identifying lessons learned from COVID-19 to inform preparedness for future pandemics and introducing new approaches to prepare for future pandemics caused by respiratory pathogens, including flu.
In April 2023, WHO launched the PRET initiative as well as a Global call to action strengthen pandemic preparedness by:
- update national pandemic plans
- increase connectivity between stakeholders, and
- guarantee investments dedicated to pandemic preparedness
Through the PRET initiative, WHO is applying a mode-of-transmission approach to guide countries in planning for a pandemic, given that many systems, capacities and capabilities are common across all agent groups pathogens.
The workshop highlighted the importance for countries to review and learn from their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic to improve their preparedness for a respiratory pathogen pandemic. This includes updating pandemic preparedness plans and building critical capabilities to prepare for the next pandemic, which requires high-level commitment and long-term investments. Participating countries and territories highlighted the need, for example, to digitize health systems, refine supply and supply chains for pandemic-related products, and ensure the involvement of multiple sectors and communities in pandemic planning.
The interest and willingness to embark on revising the National Pandemic Preparedness Plan following the workshop was remarkable. Work is already underway to organize workshops to jump-start this process, with the WHO Regional Office for Europe supporting countries to review their pandemic preparedness plans and build associated capacities to ensure that the preparedness is strengthened before the next respiratory pandemic.