WHO reports early failings  on pandemic

Published January 23, 2021, 11:55 PM

by Manila Bulletin

With many countries beginning mass vaccinations against the COVID-19 pandemic,  the World Health  Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland, and many other organizations  that found themselves in the middle of it all have started to take stock of that  damage and the losses it has caused around the world.

An interim report, describes how  so many governments and public health organizations responded slowly and ineffectively  at the start of the pandemic, despite  years of warnings. It included missteps by  the  WHO itself.

“We failed   in our collective  capacity to come together in solidarity to create a protective web of  human security,” said the report, written by an Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, led by former prime minister Helen Clark of New Zealand.

Governments failed to obtain protective equipment and do widespread contact tracing, the panel said. Investigators, it added,   could not understand why a WHO committee  waited  until  January 30 to declare an international health emergency.

There had been decades of predictions that a viral epidemic was inevitable but the WHO itself failed to enact  fundamental  changes despite the warnings,  the report said. Public health authorities around the world also  responded slowly to the warnings.  In far too many countries, the  danger signals were   ignored.

In New York City, United States,  an analysis by Pro Publica, a nonprofit news organization,  said that by June in 2020, about 200 nurses  nationwide had died from  the  coronavirus  and 67 of them were Filipinos.  Filipino-American nurses have been  in New York City hospitals  for decades . especially  in the 1980s when  staffing shortages were  exacerbated  by the AIDS epidemic at that time, the report said.

In the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Filipino- American workers have suffered some of the most staggering losses, Pro Publica said. One of the largest Filipino enclaves on the East Coast  is in Queens, New York City, and  northern New Jersey, and  nearly a quarter  of workers in hospitals and other medical fields there are of  Filipino ancestry.

The pandemic is far  from over in the world, and certainly  not in the US, where its spread may have been abetted by a federal administration that  in the beginning had called it a hoax being perpetrated  by  the political opposition.  But the US was not alone in failing to act decisively on the  threat. To this day, the virus continues to spread in many countries. The  vaccines now being used have only emergency use approval as they have yet to complete their final human tests which normally takes years.

But this early, the WHO is preparing its report on the difficulties faced by the frontline  doctors, nurses, and medical technologists – so many of whom  were Filipinos — who lacked enough personal protective equipment for themselves along with medicine and facilities for their patients.  The report,  WHO said,   will serve as a blueprint  for  reforms that will later be carried out so  the world will be better prepared for the next pandemic.