Home » Infectious Diseases » Predicting the unpredictable: How to prepare for a pandemic

Marc Lacey

Global Pandemic Head, CSL Seqirus

Pandemics have wide-reaching effects, restricting a nation’s success and happiness. Preparedness is the strategic process of protecting a nation’s health, and wellbeing.

As of February 2023, COVID-19 is on the death certificate of over 218,000 people in the UK. Furthermore, anxiety and depression increased by 25% in the first year of the pandemic. Last year, it was estimated that the cost of UK government spending due to COVID-19 was £376 billion.

The value of pandemic preparedness

Pandemic preparedness, at its core, is the surveillance and risk assessment of pathogen threats supported by rigorous planning. CSL Seqirus’ preparation is driven by the ‘100-day mission’, an industry-wide goal which aims to make vaccines available for novel infectious diseases within 100 days of pandemic declaration.

However, preparation is different from implementation. In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic was declared. The first COVID-19 vaccine was approved 285 days later. By contrast, in 2009, only 111 days were needed for EMA approval of a vaccine targeting swine flu. This is thanks to the preparation afforded by a ‘mock-up’ licence.

By collaborating with public health teams, we can lead vaccine advances.

Each day past ‘Day 100’ without a vaccine demonstrates the importance that planning and preparedness play in protecting populations from pandemics.

Recently, attention has turned to the threat of avian influenza. Across industry, this has put a ‘One Health’ approach at the forefront of activity. Global research must remain vigilant and prepare for an overlap between animal and human infection. The latest warnings from health groups on the dangers of mammalian spill-over of avian flu show that being ready to act is essential.

Collaboration to produce vaccines

By collaborating with public health teams, we can lead vaccine advances. Exciting partnerships between health organisations and vaccine manufacturers can identify viruses and strains presenting the greatest risk. This enables us to learn how ‘manufacturable’ a vaccine is before that virus poses a threat.

We have an opportunity to collaborate and make the unpredictable, predictable. We must work together on the front line to anticipate what threat might be just around the corner.

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