Detailed planning is essential to ensure a coordinated response to an influenza pandemic, both at the national and international levels. Should schools be closed to prevent influenza from spreading? What about hospital capacity in case of a severe pandemic? How can we track the pandemic virus as it spreads? How and to whom will the stockpile of antiviral drugs be distributed? Who will be vaccinated first and with which vaccine? How to deal with disruption of social and economic life? These are but a few of the questions that must be answered or at least be anticipated in a pandemic preparedness plan. The final goal of all pandemic preparedness plans should be to minimize the disease burden, the number of deaths and societal disruption. National governments are responsible for the planning and management of a pandemic in their country. In 1999, the WHO launched its first advice to member states to develop influenza pandemic preparedness plans, clarifying the specific roles and responsibilities of the WHO and those of national authorities in preparing for the management of such a disaster. It provided guidelines to assist governments in national and regional planning. It recommended that all countries should:
- Establish an effective management process and an agreed chain of command.
- Decide on a vaccination and treatment strategy, laying out the extent of vaccinations possible in the event of a pandemic and bearing in mind their likely shortage.
- Develop stockpiles for antiviral treatment.
- Plan an overall communication strategy for a pandemic response, including the supply of information to physicians and the public about the outbreak.