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“We are standing at a critical juncture for public health.”

Statement from José Luis Castro, President & CEO of Vital Strategies, on the Pandemic Preparedness Agreement

June 13, 2024 (Geneva) — “More than four years after the outbreak of COVID-19, countries worldwide are still grappling with its enduring effects. The pandemic’s toll has been devastating—millions of lives lost, economies disrupted, and systemic health inequities laid bare. These repercussions were not inevitable but rather the result of fragile health systems and unequal access to treatment and prevention.

It is time for public health to become a priority across societies and sectors, particularly now that the pandemic has awakened the world to the urgent need for robust health systems. 

For the past two years, WHO Member States have been drafting a pandemic preparedness agreement that was expected to be voted on at this year’s World Health Assembly (WHA), along with a package of critical amendments to the International Health Regulations 2005. This represented a monumental global endeavor to improve health emergency response and preparedness worldwide. Unfortunately, negotiations on the pandemic agreement failed to reach a consensus in May and a final version of the agreement was not put to the Assembly. Concrete commitments were, however, made by Member States on June 1 to complete negotiations by the WHA in 2025 at the latest, or earlier, if possible, at a special session of the WHA in 2024. The International Health Regulations amendments were successfully adopted, and we urge Member States to also reach consensus on the pandemic agreement, which is so integral to protecting public health.

We are standing at a critical juncture for public health. Global health systems remain underfunded and understaffed, vulnerable to yet another health emergency.

It’s not enough to address infectious diseases when epidemics such as noncommunicable diseases—accounting for more than 70% of the world’s deaths—continue to upend families and societies. NCDs such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes are not only debilitating on their own, but can also exacerbate vulnerability to infectious diseases like COVID-19.

A pandemic preparedness agreement would support this effort to provide equitable access to health care, such as through diagnostics, vaccines and treatments. Equity has been the driving force throughout negotiations and must continue to guide us in prioritizing equity across health care, social status, income and employment in order to build resilient public health systems. We must collaborate across all sectors, across all decision-making bodies, to make systematic and sustainable change.

Vital Strategies has been at the forefront of reimagining public health, placing public health at the center of global political, social and economic systems. While the world was not prepared for COVID-19, it can and should ready itself for the next pandemic.

We call upon governments and partners worldwide to invest in a bolder, more equitable approach to health that not only shields against future pandemics but also builds with it a healthier and fairer world.”

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies believes every person should be protected by an equitable and effective public health system. We partner with governments, communities and organizations around the world to reimagine public health so that health is supported in all the places we live, work and play. The result is millions of people living longer, healthier lives.

To find out more, please visit or follow us @VitalStrat.

Media Contact

Ally Davis, Deputy Director, PR & Marketing,