WHO South-East Asia Journal of Public Health
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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 9  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 43-49

Pandemic influenza preparedness in the WHO South-East Asia Region: a model for planning regional preparedness for other priority high-threat pathogens

World Health Organization Health Emergencies Programme, World Health Organization South-East Asia Regional Office, New Delhi, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr Pushpa R Wijesinghe
World Health Organization Health Emergencies Programme, World Health Organization South-East Asia Regional Office, New Delhi
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DOI: 10.4103/2224-3151.282995

PMID: 32341221

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Pandemic influenza preparedness has contributed significantly to building, strengthening and maintaining countries’ core capacities to prepare for health emergencies. The Pandemic influenza preparedness framework for the sharing of influenza viruses and access to vaccines and other benefits (the PIP framework) was adopted by the World Health Assembly in 2011. The experiences and lessons learnt from the implementation of the PIP framework have provided insights that can be used to strengthen preparedness for epidemics of other priority high-threat pathogens in the World Health Organization (WHO) South-East Asia Region in line with obligations under the International Health Regulations, 2005 (IHR). Implementation has established policies, strategies, action plans, strengthened systems and operational readiness to promptly diagnose influenza virus strains with pandemic potential and ensure timely event notifications and management in compliance with the IHR. WHO collaborating centres and the annual bi-regional meeting of national influenza centres and influenza surveillance have strengthened the influenza laboratory diagnostic knowledge network in the region. After action reviews following influenza outbreaks have documented best practices, strengths, constraints and areas for improvement in pandemic preparedness. The pandemic in 2009 and recent seasonal influenza outbreaks have offered real-life scenarios for testing national pandemic influenza preparedness plans and deploying vaccines. The successful implementation of the PIP framework, along with strengthening of health systems and operational procedures and continued technical collaboration with global centres of excellence, should be tapped into to strengthen preparedness to respond to epidemics of other high-threat pathogens based on the influenza model. The political commitment reflected in the Delhi Declaration on Emergency Preparedness, signed by all ministers of health in September 2019 and supported by the Five-year regional strategic plan to strengthen public health preparedness and response – 2019-2023, should be a catalyst for guidance and support in developing a broad, long-term strategic plan for preparedness and response to high-threat pathogens in the region.

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