How to handle the next pandemic

Experts agree that it’s not “if” there will be another pandemic, but “when”—and that we should learn from our mistakes during the current one if we want to fare better next time.

In a January 5, 2021, WBUR article, a half-dozen Boston-area public health experts offered their thoughts on top priorities for handling the next pandemic. Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a faculty member in the School’s Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics (CCDD), and William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology and also a CCDD faculty member, were among those weighing in.

Here’s what the experts say we need most:

A good plan. Said Mina, “We should have a strategy and a plan for any kind of pandemic that can come about, so that, should we ever find ourselves in a position again with a president like the one we currently have, we don’t have to rely on the current administration to come up with a whole new plan.”

Germ surveillance. Mina has called for a “global observatory of germs” that would enable experts to forecast potential pandemics.

Better testing. Mina said the country should always be at the ready with testing capacity. “We should just have bunkers of laboratories,” he said. “We should have factories that can make [tests] in the millions, and flip those switches within weeks. We should be treating this like a department of defense project.”

More manufacturing capacity for pandemic-related goods. We should be able to quickly produce plenty of supplies, from ventilators to personal protective equipment, say experts.

Learn the lessons of COVID-19. “We have made a lot of mistakes,” said Hanage. “We have failed to put in place a bunch of no-regrets, forward planning in which we say ‘If these things happen, then we do this.’” He added, “I think that a global state of preparedness for the next pandemic is something we should work toward.”

Read the WBUR article: 5 Things Experts Say We Need Most To Handle The Next Pandemic Better

Learn more

Opinion: Close public health infrastructure gaps before next pandemics (Harvard Chan School news)