How Do We Prepare For The Next Pandemic?

As we mark the fourth year since the COVID-19 virus upended our lives, it seems appropriate to ask: are we better prepared for a pandemic now than we were in early 2020? What lessons did we learn, and how can we be prepared for the next one?

With the benefit of hindsight, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic was remarkable. Yes, in the early days there was a lot of confusion and conflicting information. No doubt, there was trauma that still persists to this day.

Of course, that is unavoidable with something that spread so quickly and proved so deadly. However, the speed at which the scientific community determined how the virus was spread was remarkable. Even more remarkable was how quickly an effective vaccine was created and distributed.

While much remains unknown, one thing that is certain is that this pandemic will not be the last one we will experience. Over the last century, we have seen multiple pandemics, from the Spanish Flu about 100 years ago, to AIDS/HIV, to COVID-19 (and others as well). It seems likely that climate change will increase the likelihood of new infections. There is also the potential for antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

With that in mind, it makes sense for us to be prepared for the next outbreak. What did you, personally, learn from the experience with COVID-19? What did our local, state, and federal governments learn? The international community?

Pandemic fatigue is real, and it effects us all, to varying extents. However, the next outbreak is a matter of when and not if, so it makes sense to think about what we can do to be ready when it does eventually happen.

Related questions: COVID-19? How do you want this to change you? How do you evaluate risk? Will technology save us?

1 thought on “How Do We Prepare For The Next Pandemic?”

  1. First, I want to restate two points made in the context of this question: “The speed at which the scientific community determined how the virus was spread was remarkable … and even more remarkable was how quickly an effective vaccine was created and distributed.” Second, I would add that the massive public response was incredible. Millions of Americans followed public health advice to stay at home during the pandemic’s early days and mask up when back in public settings.

    That said, to date, nearly 7 million people have been hospitalized due to COVID-19, and we’ve witnessed over a million deaths because of the virus.

    There is a lot to applaud in this country’s response, but we could have and still can do more to prevent the pandemic’s spread. For example, when people are masking up, most are doing so inappropriately. Surgical masks and handkerchiefs don’t cut it. We should wear the N95 masks if we decide masking up is important in certain settings, and we should all stay current on our vaccinations.

    I know this question is about preparing for the next pandemic, but to prepare for a future response, we need to take stock of our past and current steps to avoid COVID-19’s spread. Despite the successes, many of us are not listening to what scientists and public health officials are advising.

    So what about the future? The primary thing we could all do is learn more about how science progresses and then respect the tangible advice public health officials present to us. Have there been scientific errors and overreactions in response to COVID? Absolutely. But science works through experimentation, with some mistakes initially. Then, reliable answers follow as the scientific community hones in on appropriate, well-tested responses, which are tangibly communicated through public health officials.

    To make this happen, commissions, public health officials, schools, and the media need to tell in-depth stories of what went well in the COVID-19 response, how the scientific community learned things as time passed, and how and why we need to respect what the scientific and public health community tell us about the next pandemic we will undoubtedly face.

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