A new report from the Council on Foreign Relations says that while pandemic threats are inevitable, the US and global response failures that contributed to the spread of coronavirus are not.
The report, released this week, was compiled by a 22-member task force led by Sylvia M. Burwell, the US Health and Human Services secretary during the Obama administration, and Frances Fragos Townsend, who led the US Homeland Security Council during the Bush administration.
It says the US and other governments failed to adequately invest in prevention, detection and response capabilities to protect populations. There was an “illusion — but not the reality — of preparedness,” the report says, and while the World Health Organization had the expertise to lead a global response, “it is beleaguered, overstretched, and underfunded.”
The US response, the report says, was “deeply flawed” and too slow. Health systems were underfunded, and leaders — including President Donald Trump — failed to communicate clearly or defend public health leaders.
"The United States testifies to the consequences of a failure in political leadership," Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote in the report.
The task force recommended improvements in US and global pandemic responses by encouraging officials to:
- Deliver clear, science-driven communications on public health matters;
- Create a nationwide US strategy and capacity for testing, tracing, and isolation;
- Adopt policies to improve the resilience of global supply chains for essential medicines and equipment; and
- Establish a global framework to ensure the equitable allocation of vaccines.