Pandemic preparedness

The International Health Regulations Review Committee declared in 2011 that: "The world is ill-prepared to respond to a severe influenza pandemic or to any similarly global, sustained and threatening public-health emergency."

Preparedness at the country level

Pandemic preparedness should be seen as an integral part of preparedness to threats to human health caused by any emergency, e.g. outbreaks of any disease or the occurrence of natural disasters or chemical incidents. This approach is supported by WHO and is also in line with implementation of the International Health Regulations (2005) and the European Union Decision on serious cross-border threats to health.

Pandemic preparedness is a continuous process of planning, exercising, revising and translating into action national and sub-national pandemic preparedness and response plans. A pandemic plan is thus a living document which is reviewed regularly and revised if necessary, for example based on the lessons learnt from outbreaks or a pandemic, or from a simulation exercise.

Preparedness plans put to the test in 2009

Prior to the 2009 pandemic, Member States of the WHO European Region invested considerable resources in developing pandemic plans describing the strategic and operational aspects of pandemic preparedness and response. The 2009 pandemic allowed global and national preparedness to be tested in earnest, revealing critical gaps in preparedness including in risk assessment, surveillance, health care systems, and the pandemic vaccine's deployment and acceptance by the public.

WHO recommends that all Member States update their pandemic preparedness plans based on the lessons learnt from the 2009 pandemic, new evidence on the effectiveness of public health measures that has become available, and an ongoing risk assessment. To date, 16 countries have published revised national pandemic plans since the 2009 pandemic.