“Efforts” are still necessary so that covid ceases to be a threat to global public health. This is how it is considered by a group of 386 experts from a hundred countries, who publish this Thursday in the magazine Nature a document with 41 consensus statements and 57 recommendations to governments, health systems, industry and other key players in health matters.
“It will take much more than the declaration of a political leader to end the threat of the virus on our health systems, economies, communities and lives,” says Jeffrey V. Lazarus, a researcher at the ISGlobal health institute, promoted by the Foundation. La Caixa, and main author of the publication. “Moving forward, our global panel recommends far-reaching action across society and governments, as well as other evidence-based actions to stem the disturbing trend of rising health care costs, socioeconomic inequalities and frustration that continues to fuel the covid”, he adds.
To prepare the document they have used a research methodology, called Delphi, which draws consensus on complex issues. The proposals are included in six thematic blocks: communication, health systems, vaccination, prevention, treatments and inequities. These are the 10 that had the highest rating among the participants:
1. Pandemic preparedness and response should adopt a comprehensive approach involving the whole of society, with a variety of sectors and disciplines: civil society, the private sector, engineering, religion, mathematical modeling, the military, the media and psychology, among others.
2. Opinion leaders, scientists and health authorities should collaborate in the creation of public health messages that give confidence to the community and individuals, using the most appropriate means of communication for each population.
3. All countries should adopt a vaccine strategy that includes covid immunization, prevention measures, treatment and financial incentives
4. The response to the pandemic must take into account and help alleviate pre-existing social inequities.
5. Health authorities must go hand in hand with respected people and organizations in the communities to provide accurate and accessible information about the pandemic and appropriate behaviors at all times.
6. Funding from governments, NGOs and industry should focus on developing vaccines that provide long-lasting protection against the multiple variants of SARS-CoV-2
7. Public health professionals and authorities should proactively combat false information with clear, direct, culturally appropriate messages that are stripped of scientific jargon.
8. Preparedness and response systems must adopt coordinated approaches by governments to identify, review and improve the resilience of health systems.
9. Global trade and health organizations should coordinate with countries to negotiate technology transfer, allowing factories in low- and middle-income countries to develop affordable, quality vaccines, tests and treatments.
10. Promote multisectoral collaboration to accelerate the development of new therapies for all phases of covid: from symptoms, to hospitalization or persistent covid.
Lazarus asks governments and society to continue working hand in hand to implement these and other recommendations, instead of downplaying covid, now that life in Western countries has practically returned to normal after two years of restrictions. . “With the harsh winter months just around the corner, the ever-mutating virus may well have other plans for society as we know it. Extremely transmissible variants continue to spread, while surveillance remains generally inadequate. The accumulation of mutations can lead to better evasion of any previous immunity. This problem is compounded by the severe health effects suffered by many who have survived covid,” he warns.
The researcher stresses that persistent covid is becoming a cause for concern and that we still do not know the risks of long-term reinfection. “Low vaccination rates, especially of boosters, may exacerbate this situation when herd immunity goes down again. But this does not have to happen”, says Lazarus, appealing to follow the consensus published in Nature: “No more delays. No more excuses. No more ambiguity.”