Pandemic "could have been avoided", experts say

In addition, a report from Oxford University has indicated that mixing vaccines increases mild reactions
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AFP/JEWEL SAMAD  -   Burning pyres of victims who lost their lives to the Covid-19 coronavirus at a cremation ground in New Delhi on 26 April 2021.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused 3.3 million deaths and has infected almost 160 million people. It has also had an impact on the world economy, causing a crisis that will last for years. Moreover, the pandemic has taken a heavy toll on society's mental health. Illnesses such as anxiety or depression have increased during this year, due to fear of the virus, worries or uncertainty.

Now, more than a year after the coronavirus alert was declared, a group of independent experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) claim that the pandemic "could have been avoided". Calling the coronavirus "the Chernobyl of the 21st century", the experts blame International Health Regulations and "slow bureaucratic procedures" for the rapid spread of the virus around the world. The experts also point the finger at world leaders, saying that most "waited to see how the coronavirus spread rather than reacting more quickly".

The experts go back to December 2019, when the first cases appeared in Wuhan. It was in that month that the first errors began to occur, as they believe that the responses to the first outbreak lacked urgency. "The time from notification of a cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown origin in mid-December to the declaration of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern was too long", says the panel, which includes Helen Clark, former prime minister of New Zealand. In this regard, February 2020 was a “lost month” during which many countries could have taken measures to stem the spread of the virus.

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PHOTO/SALVATORE DI NOLFI/KEYSTONE vía AP - Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO)

For future pandemics, which they say "could occur at any time", experts have called for the WHO to have more financial and political independence. They also urge that it be given "guaranteed access rights" in countries to investigate outbreaks. "Preparation was inconsistent and underfunded. The alert system was too slow—and too meek. The World Health Organization was under-powered", said Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former president of Liberia and a member of the panel.

In conclusion, they call for the creation of a strong funding pot that would allow future pandemics to be tackled more quickly and efficiently. "It is clear that the combination of poor strategic choices, a lack of will to tackle inequalities and a poorly coordinated system created a toxic cocktail that allowed the pandemic to turn into a catastrophic human crisis". The group also set out a series of measures to address future health challenges. The experts called for the establishment of a Global Health Threat Council, a new global surveillance system based on full transparency and investment in national pandemic preparedness.

The panel brought the issue of patent release for vaccines back to the table. After Joe Biden's approval to suspend patents, the issue has become the focus of debate in the international community. While countries such as India and South Africa are calling for release, others such as France, Japan and the UK are opposed. Experts have called for the suspension of patents and the donation of vaccines to curb the pandemic in all countries of the world. 

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PHOTO - Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine 90% effective
Mixing different vaccines increases mild reactions

Since the vaccination process began, scientists and laboratories have focused on studying vaccines and their possible side effects to reassure the public. AstraZeneca-associated thromboses have increased scientific studies to look for the main problem with the vaccine, with the aim of not slowing down the vaccination process and to convey calm among the public. One of the most recent studies, carried out by Oxford University and published in the UK's The Lancet, reports that combining the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines increases mild and moderate reactions, but without safety concerns. "It is important that we inform people about these data, especially as these mixed-doses schedules are being considered in several countries", called Com-Cov. 

Spain is one such country where a different second dose has been considered. Ángela Domínguez, coordinator of the working group on vaccination of the Spanish Society of Epidemiology (SEE) has stressed that adverse and serious effects of vaccinating with different doses "are still extremely rare".