Threats being posed by the dreaded Ebola virus, Zika Virus and other infectious diseases have raised a sustained awareness at the World Economic Forum as leaders from different parts of the world converge on Davos this week.
According to the WEF, the “future of health” has now been added to its list of 10 global challenges. The WEF said this last week, and urges public and private entities to collaborate on solutions, reports the Wall Street Journal. The forum also listed infectious-disease outbreaks among the top threats in its Global Risks report released last week.
Officials of international and pharmaceutical as well as government assembled last Thursday to hold a high-level meeting to debate on how to finance the development of vaccines for infectious diseases, which cause epidemics; the WSJ quotes sources aware of the matter.
Presently there are no vaccines available for many of the infectious diseases posing threats to the world. The Middle East is currently being faced with the respiratory syndrome and Zika virus, and this is based on the fact they are far too expensive to develop than what manufacturers stand to rake in terms of making profits.
The Davos meeting is an annual one, and this year’s gathering is aimed at coordinating various efforts being taken or put in place by health officials on ways to overhaul global health governance in light of the Ebola crisis in Africa; which ranks as the biggest health disaster in years.
The World Health Organizations, governments and other health leaders are developing new methods to carry out research during outbreaks and to motivate pharmaceutical companies to come up with vaccines and drugs for which the demand is high, instead of waiting until there is a crisis before there is a response.
The Ebola virus, which recently attacked West Africa, is still a threat after more than two years. This has exposed the world’s weakness in terms of being prepared to contain or respond to outbreaks. Reports revealed that no fewer than 28,637 people were infected with the virus in 10 countries including Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia and a few others, while at least 11,315 died.
“I do think there’s a sense we can never allow this to happen again,” said Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, a charitable foundation in the U.K. that has funded studies on medications for malaria, Ebola and other neglected diseases. “The horror of Ebola has galvanized everyone.”
Perhaps, the biggest challenge being faced by health experts when it comes to global epidemic preparedness is a plodding process for developing medical technologies to deal with the situation, according to health experts. At the time the Ebola virus started spreading across West Africa, only a dozen vaccine and drug candidates were under development. As a matter of fact, there is still no licensed treatment or vaccine, while tests on their effectiveness in humans didn’t get underway until the outbreak started tapering off.
“We need to find a model where we utilize the competitive advantage of different actors—academia, small startups and big pharmaceutical companies,” said John-Arne Rottingen, executive director of infection control and environmental health at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.