MassCPR Symposium: Pandemic Preparedness event recap

Politicians and leaders in healthcare, research, and policy gathered for Massachusetts Consortium on Pathogen Readiness (MassCPR)’s Symposium on Pandemic Preparedness on November 14, 2023.

The event kicked off with a keynote discussion with former Prime Minister of New Zealand Dame Jacinda Ardern, Sir Ashley Bloomfield, and Dame Juliet Gerrard, moderated by Dr. Louise Ivers of Harvard Medical School. In their conversation, the panelists discussed how they were able to build trust with the pubic of their country by being transparent about the uncertainties of the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, they compared how working within New Zealand, a much smaller country than the United States in both area and population, necessitated different approaches between the two countries’ pandemic responses.

The first panel, moderated by NEIDL Director Dr. Nancy Sullivan, was on developing capabilities for global pandemic preparedness. The speakers highlighted the need for maintaining vaccine production facilities in peacetimes between pandemics. Vaccine production cannot be started up at the drop of a hat when a new outbreak occurs, they function consistently to produce vaccines efficiently in times of crisis.

The final panel of the symposium, “Communicating in crisis: How to tell people what they need to know, reach a diverse public, and counter outright lies,” included CEID Director Dr. Nahid Bhadelia. A recurring theme in this conversation was building trust in healthcare officials among communities in the everyday so that foundation is there when a public health emergency arises. Additionally, speakers emphasized the need to be proactive in enacting public health regulations to prevent and quickly respond to outbreaks. Part of this effort, Massachusetts Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Robert Goldstein explained, is the state’s vaccine equity initiative, which aims to provide resources to the most vulnerable communities. Dr. Bhadelia echoed the sentiment, saying that vaccines and therapeutics are not enough on their own, they must be used in conjunction with clear communication and proactive public health measures. She likened this combination of efforts to the building codes and manufacturing regulations that support fire departments’ work at fire safety and prevention.

Altogether the event provided an insightful look at pandemic preparedness and brought together though leaders and change makers to share ideas for more effectively responding to future pathogen outbreaks. We have all learned much over the past few years since the emergence of COVID-19, but it is clear there is still much work to be done for future preparedness.


Photo by Jackie Ricciardi for Boston University’s The Brink.