Not only the Ministry of Health, but also the Government Office or individual MPs and senators have been flooded with questions about the upcoming Pandemic Convention at the level of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Speculation is then spreading on social networks and some websites that this agreement is already in effect and that the WHO can allegedly order, for example, mandatory vaccinations or ban travel.
Nothing like that is true. The explanation is very simple. First, the convention is still being prepared and will not be voted on until May. Secondly, even in case of approval, it does not result in any mandatory obligations for the Czech Republic.
“Even after the ratification of the agreement, the WHO will not be able to directly interfere in the provision and management of health care in the Czech Republic or make demands on the health status or treatment of the population. This will always be the decision of the Czech Republic,” explains Kateřina Baťhová, director of the Department of International Affairs and the EU of the Ministry of Health.
So how would things turn out in the Czech Republic if we returned to the period of the covid pandemic and the current draft convention was already in effect? Not only us, but the whole world would have much faster and more accurate information about the fast-spreading virus, sharing the capacities of laboratories around the world would work better, and there would already be established mechanisms for distributing protective equipment, medicines or vaccines across the world.
It’s just a proposal for now
As far as the document is concerned, only the draft from this October, which will be discussed further, is ready.
“The assumption is that sometime in May the Pandemic Convention should be approved by the members of the World Health Organization,” explains Deputy Minister of Health Jakub Dvořáček.
The World Health Organization strives for the agreement to be adopted by consensus of all member states. A two-thirds majority is required in the event of a vote.
Even in such a case, however, it does not automatically enter into force. Within 18 months, member countries must start working on its ratification at the national level or inform about the reasons why they will not accept it. Now, it comes into effect when 40 countries finally adopt it. However, if the Czech Republic does not approve the agreement, it is not bound by it.
But now to the individual rumors that have started to spread in some discussions or are the content of chain mails.
Myth: WHO will manage the health care of all countries
Nothing like that is going to happen and such a step is not even possible. Each of the member countries of the World Health Organization is responsible for the functioning of the healthcare system. Nevertheless, even the latest draft of the Pandemic Convention re-emphasizes that all powers are in the hands of states. But the Czech Republic, for example, has been bound by the so-called International Health Regulations for almost 20 years.
In the third point of the proposed Pandemic Convention, it is written that the global spread of diseases is a worldwide threat that requires the widest possible international cooperation, but it specifically emphasizes the “principle of state sovereignty in dealing with matters of public health”.
Myth: WHO mandates mandatory vaccination
The World Health Organization has no such authority, and the new agreement does not grant it. It is important to realize that even within the framework of the negotiations, the WHO itself functions only as a kind of secretariat, since the negotiations are led by the member states.
The World Health Organization only recommends vaccination against diseases that have the potential to spread. Part of the member states is pushing for the central distribution of vaccines to work. This will be possible, but it is only help that will not need to be used. The less developed countries of the world are mainly interested in this, which during the covid period paid the price for the fact that they did not receive vaccines.
Myth: The Pandemic Convention takes effect immediately
Despite the fact that news is spreading on the Internet that the convention has already begun to apply, even after approval it does not enter into force automatically. Even if the Czech Republic signs it, it will not be bound by the agreement until both chambers of the Parliament express their consent to it.
“There is no tool that would force the Czech Republic to do anything we don’t want to do. That’s a fact,” adds Deputy Minister of Health Dvořáček.
Myth: WHO will announce quarantines
This is another misunderstanding of the upcoming agreement. On the contrary, it lays down the principles according to which any closing of borders should occur as little as possible. The biggest problem during the covid pandemic occurred when state borders were completely closed, not only for citizens, but also for goods, i.e. including medical aids.
“The moment supplies of active substances or protective equipment stop working because the borders are closed, a total collapse of all healthcare systems occurs,” adds deputy Dvořáček.
After all, respect for the observance of human rights is enshrined in the draft of the Pandemic Convention in the first place, and the application of the agreement as such should be guided accordingly. The agreement could also help all Czech citizens traveling abroad. For example, a vaccination certificate issued in the Czech Republic should be recognized by every WHO member country in the future.
Myth: The convention is being prepared in secret
Both the most current draft and all other documents are publicly available on the World Health Organization website. By the way, on the same link, she also publishes video recordings of every meeting that deals with the preparation of the document, the last one can be found here, for example.