The NAM released four reports on applying lessons learned from COVID-19 to prepare for seasonal influenza, as well as the next influenza pandemic. The reports provide recommendations on leveraging COVID-19 vaccine technology for influenza vaccine research and development, bolstering the influenza vaccine supply chain, improving global coordination, and effectively using non-vaccine public health measures, such as face masks, physical distancing, and school closures.
An influenza pandemic comparable to that of 1918, which caused an estimated 50 million deaths worldwide, could potentially have worse consequences than the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the reports say. Influenza remains the circulating pathogen most likely to cause a pandemic, and the risk for pandemic influenza may be higher during the COVID-19 era due to changes in global and regional conditions affecting humans, animals, and their contact patterns.
The reports emphasize the need for a preparedness framework. The global cost of responding to a pandemic in a one-year period is estimated to be $570 billion, while investments in pandemic preparedness would cost just $4.5 billion annually, notes the World Bank International Working Group on Financing Preparedness.
The reports also say the global community should provide continuous investment in vaccine technology; invest in supply chain forecasting; build manufacturing capacity in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and be inclusive of their populations in research; and aim to develop 4 billion to 8 billion courses of influenza vaccine to be distributed globally in a timely and equitable manner.
“Seasonal influenza and the next influenza pandemic could emerge at any time. Preparedness has to be an ongoing commitment — it can’t be year to year, or crisis to crisis,” said Victor J. Dzau, president of the National Academy of Medicine. “COVID-19 has enabled the emergence of new capabilities, technologies, collaboration, and policies that could also be deployed before and during the next influenza pandemic. It’s critical to invest in science, strengthen health systems, and ensure trust in order to protect people from the health, social, and economic consequences of seasonal and pandemic influenza.”
The four reports are titled:
- Countering the Pandemic Threat through Global Coordination on Vaccines: The Influenza Imperative
- Globally Resilient Supply Chains for Seasonal and Pandemic Influenza Vaccines
- Vaccine Research and Development to Advance Pandemic and Seasonal Influenza Preparedness and Response: Lessons from COVID-19
- Public Health Lessons for Non-Vaccine Influenza Interventions: Looking Past COVID-19
and can be downloaded for free at the links above.