To help countries better prepare for future pandemics, WHO launched a new initiative that provides guidance on integrated planning for responding to any respiratory pathogen such as influenza or coronaviruses.

The new Preparedness and Resilience for Emerging Threats Initiative, or PRET, incorporates the latest tools and approaches for shared learning and collective action established during the COVID-19 pandemic and other recent public health emergencies. 

Mode of transmission

Through the initiative, WHO will use a mode of transmission approach to guide countries in pandemic planning, given that many capacities and capabilities are common among groups of pathogens. PRET answers the call for technical guidance and support for promoting and strengthening integrated preparedness and response, as outlined in World Health Assembly resolutions. 

The COVID-19 pandemic and other health emergencies have shown that countries need to be operationally ready to respond to infectious disease threats, with tailored preparedness plans in hand and better coordination and collaboration with other sectors such as agriculture. 

“Preparedness, prevention, and response activities must not be the province of the health sector alone,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Just as health emergencies have impacts across many sectors, so must our preparedness and response efforts span sectors, disciplines and pathogens. It is critical, too, that community engagement and equity are the centre of our efforts, especially for those populations that are marginalized and most at risk.”

PRET is an evolution in WHO’s approach to pandemic preparedness through the application of a mode of transmission lens, rather than a focus on specific diseases. WHO will continue to develop and disseminate guidance on specific diseases as needed. 

Defining the path forward

The launch of the initiative is taking place on the last day of meetings with more than 120 individuals representing member states, partners, and the WHO secretariat. They will define the path forward for PRET, including the development of a global implementation roadmap for respiratory pathogen pandemic preparedness.

The PRET Initiative’s first module focuses on respiratory pathogens, including influenza, coronaviruses, and respiratory syncytial virus. Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the possible threat of avian influenza, this module will enable countries to critically review, test, and update their respiratory pandemic planning efforts to ensure they have the functional capacities and capabilities in place.

A process is underway to identify the next group of pathogens, such as arboviruses, to be addressed under this initiative. This will follow priorities identified through the 10 proposals to strengthen the global architecture for health emergency preparedness, response, and resilience (HEPR). 

Pandemic Accord

The PRET Initiative ushers in a new era for pandemic preparedness and represents an evolution of WHO’s core activities to support all member states in strengthening health emergency preparedness, prevention, and response capacities and capabilities. The initiative can also serve to operationalize the objectives and provisions of the Pandemic Accord, which is currently being negotiated by WHO member states.

Following inputs and discussions among meeting participants, WHO invites stakeholders to this global call to action to advance respiratory pathogen pandemic preparedness.

To read more, including the full call to action, visit the World Health Organization.

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