Interview: Expert says post-pandemic global public health needs enhanced U.S.-China collaboration

2021-05-14 02:36:01 GMT2021-05-14 10:36:01(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

WASHINGTON, May 13 (Xinhua) -- Global public health challenges call for enhanced international cooperation, in particular China and the United States working with each other, in a post-pandemic world, a U.S. expert has said.

"Collaboration and coordination between the U.S. and China in public health will be crucial for the economies of the two countries and also for the global economy, " Zhuo Chen, associate professor on health policy and management at the University of Georgia, told Xinhua in a recent interview.

Given the United States and China are the two largest economies in the world, the flow of goods and people will "have to be revitalized at some point, even if not at a pace on a par with the pre-pandemic level," said Chen.

Chen has co-penned an opinion piece "US-China health exchange and collaboration following COVID-19," published by The Lancet in April together with experts including Jeffrey P. Koplan, former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and vice president for global health at Emory University.

One lesson learned from the COVID-19 pandemic is that international collaboration and coordination is critical to any mitigation and containment efforts, said Chen.

"We live in a world where extensive and long-distance population mobility is enabled by technology and infrastructure and necessitated because of unprecedented levels of trade and tourism," he said.

"Viruses have no respect for national boundaries. A pandemic is under control only if the pandemic is under control in every country in the world," Chen said.

Viewing as "encouraging news" the WHO's approval for emergency use of a COVID-19 vaccine from Sinopharm on May 7, he said Sinopharm vaccine may provide low-and-middle-income countries access to a vaccine that is less demanding in logistics.

"China's manufacturing capability may also increase the availability of vaccines worldwide. This, coupled with the position on vaccine patent of the Biden administration, shows a sign of the positive direction the global powers are heading into," he said.

The expert noted that the U.S. CDC has participated in the China CDC's field epidemiology training programs for nearly two decades, providing technical assistance.

Many of the trainees have played a critical role in the containment of the COVID-19 pandemic by applying and advancing the science and best practices of field epidemiology.

The United States and China have also collaborated in helping the Africa CDC and in containing the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, providing examples of international cooperation in public health for the benefits of humanity.

However, the expert also pointed out that "political factors do appear to be a hurdle for furthering the U.S.-China public health cooperation, although there are signs of improvement in bilateral governmental collaboration in public health."

The reduced movement of goods and people is also a major barrier to collaboration between any countries, not just to the U.S.-China cooperation in public health, he said.

"An ensuing concern is the disruption of scientific and cultural exchanges because of the political factors and the pandemic, leading to the spread of misinformation and thus misjudgment," he added. Enditem