Mike Ryan: 'We need new global rules' to do better in next pandemic

Delegates are meeting in the Swiss city of Geneva at the World Health Assembly to draw up a new global pandemic agreement
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

14.51 27 May 2024

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Mike Ryan: 'We need new global...

Mike Ryan: 'We need new global rules' to do better in next pandemic

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

14.51 27 May 2024

Share this article

We need new rules to respond better to the next pandemic, an executive director of World Health Organisation has said.

Member states have ended intensive negotiations and agreed to submit outcomes of their work for consideration by the World Health Assembly.

Delegates are meeting in the Swiss city of Geneva until June 1st.


Two parallel negotiations are being undertaken to make a series of amendments to international health regulations and to develop a first-ever pandemic agreement.

Executive Director of the WHO's Health Emergencies Programme Dr Michael Ryan told The Pat Kenny Show any new agreement must have several core elements.

"We need to do better at preventing the next pandemic or reducing the risk of it," he said.

"We need to do better at protecting people once it has emerged, especially through the equitable distribution of vaccines and drugs to those who most need them.

"We need to be able to finance that in a way that is sustainable.

"We need new global rules that will allow us to prepare better, respond better and recover more quickly".

A woman performs a Covid-19 self-test at home. A woman performs a Covid-19 self-test at home. Image: Corinna Kern / Alamy

Dr Ryan said the effects of COVID-19 will likely be felt for years to come.

"The true death toll may never be known," he said.

"Certainly the many millions of direct deaths but certainly the ongoing situation we face on two fronts.

"People who experience Long COVID symptoms but also the fact that health system are struggling to recover - and especially when we see the fiscal contractions.

"Many ministries of finance are coming looking for the resources that they put into health during COVID and there's a huge contraction in the health space."

He said this can be seen through immunisation rates dropping and mortality rates rising in many countries.

'Risk that can be managed'

Dr Ryan said while people are understandably worried about lots of other issues "this is one of the risks to our civilisation that we can manage."

"We have technology, we have science, we have cooperation, we have the means to do it.

"We need to agree the rules by which we will do that - this is one risk that can be managed".

Dr Ryan said accurate information is key.

"People don't need to worry about this moment to moment but they do need information on it," he said.

"They certainly don't need the levels of misinformation and disinformation that's been said about vaccines and really about the efforts that people are making to try and improve the way we cooperate.

"Sovereign nations cooperate with each other to find better solutions for all our people; that is the nature of how we work together at the international level.

"It's really been very sad for me to witness the amount of disinformation that's been pushed around the place on this matter".

Dr Ryan said the agreement is close but not quite over the line.

"We've been doing this for the last two years in fact - both negotiating changes to the International Health Regulations and the member states have been negotiating a new accord in preparation for any future pandemics.

"It's been a two years process; [we're] nearly there - it's like extra time in a game and we need to take a breath and try and push on and get this done," he added.

Latest WHO data shows there have been a total of 7,049,376 deaths globally as a result of COVID-19.

Main image: Dr Mike Ryan, the executive director of the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Health Emergencies Programme, speaks to the media during a press conference at Government Buildings in Dublin, 18-12-23. Image: PA Images / Alamy

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Covid-19 Deaths Globally Geneva Global Pandemic International Health Regulations Mike Ryan Misinformation Mortality Rates Pandemic Pandemic Agreement The Pat Kenny Show Vaccines WHO World Health Assembly World Health Organisation

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