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ESMO Calls for Secondary and Tertiary Health Care Services for Cancer Patients to Be Prioritized in the WHO Pandemic Accord

24 Jul 2023

ESMO delivered a statement during the first joint meeting between the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) and the WHO International Health Regulations Working Group, requesting that the inclusion of wording on access to secondary and tertiary healthcare services - already included in the text of the International Health Regulations (IHR) - also be included in the ‘Pandemic Accord’ (WHO CA+).

During the meeting, ESMO welcomed the opportunity to provide its view to promote coherence and complementarity between the WHO CA+ and the International Health Regulations.

ESMO noted that given estimations that one in five people will develop cancer at some point in their lives, it is crucial that both the WHO CA+ and the IHR specifically include reference to access to secondary and tertiary healthcare services to avoid leaving millions of patients behind, both during and beyond pandemics.

While the current amendments to the IHR refer specifically to ‘secondary’ and ‘tertiary’ care, the WHO CA+ (Convention Agreement + - commonly referred to as the ‘Pandemic Accord’), does not.

Therefore, ESMO urged the negotiating parties to align the WHO CA+ accordingly, and include specific wording on ‘secondary’ and ‘tertiary’ care into the final text.

ESMO also noted that other WHO health-related documents include wording on access to secondary and tertiary healthcare services, and for consistency request the WHO CA+ do the same.

ESMO stated its availability to assist WHO and its Member States’ invaluable efforts to prepare for, and respond to, health emergencies.

Earlier this year, during the World Health Assembly in May 2023, ESMO also called for access to secondary and tertiary healthcare services to be included in the United Nations Political Declaration on Universal Health Coverage to be adopted on 21 September 2023.

The Pandemic Accord and the updated WHO International Health Regulations will be presented for adoption at the 2024 World Health Assembly.

About the WHO Pandemic Accord and WHO International Health Regulations

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 194 Member States of the World Health Organization are negotiating a convention, agreement, or other international instrument (generally referred to as the ‘pandemic accord’ or ‘CA+’ – Convention Agreement +) to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response and increase health security. 

Under the coordination of WHO, the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) composed of WHO Member States is leading this process. The content of the pandemic accord is crucial as it will regulate health globally and Member States will decide its terms, including whether any of its provisions will be legally binding under international law.

In addition, the WHO is coordinating the update of the 2005 International Health Regulations (IHR), which are legally binding, unless a state proactively files rejections or reservations within a 10-month period after their adoption.

Both documents are intended to regulate a coordinated global effort for national and international responses to health emergencies. Key components are strengthening the role of WHO, increasing the resilience of health systems, and uniting collective action around the principles of equity, inclusivity, and coherence for worldwide assistance and distribution of essential medical goods, including vaccines to promote international health security.

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