Lessons learned for the next pandemic

By all accounts, the United States was the best prepared for a pandemic. Instead, it has suffered 800,000 deaths, one of the highest per capital death rates in the world due to the virus.

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Editorials

December 14, 2021 - 9:35 AM

Healthcare workers on the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic were honored at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

We should have done better. The Global Health Security Index in October 2019 rated the United States as the most prepared nation in the world for a pandemic — a wealthy country with advanced health capacity and capabilities. But, as the new edition points out, those advantages were bungled when the pandemic occurred. This should be a warning to prepare better for next time.

Published for the first time in 2019, the index was created by the Nuclear Threat Initiative and the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, with help from the Economist Impact. In that edition, the United States was rated in the top ranks on such criteria as preventing the emergence or release of pathogens, early detection and reporting of epidemics, rapid response and mitigation, a robust system to treat the sick and protect health-care workers, and financing of public health.

But the United States has so far suffered more than 800,000 deaths in the worst public health disaster in a century after a pandemic response that was a chaotic mess. There was one bright spot, the emergency development and manufacturing of effective vaccines, but much went wrong in the United States during the first year — why?

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