A new Pandemic Plan for Switzerland – interview with Anne Iten

© M. Finsterwald

The President of the Federal Commission for Pandemic Preparedness reports on the current revision of the Swiss Pandemic Plan. She talks about the ongoing consultation and her expectations of NRP 80.

The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) and the Federal Commission for Pandemic Preparedness (FCP) are involving stakeholders in the revision of the Pandemic Plan. The Pandemic Plan serves as a basis for the cantonal and federal authorities to prevent a pandemic and to institute measures in the event of an outbreak. The aim is to provide the best possible protection for the population. The FCP's President, Anne Iten, is looking forward to receiving input from stakeholders as part of the consultation.

Ms Iten, why is the Pandemic Plan being revised and what are the main changes to the current plan?

The current Influenza Pandemic Plan Switzerland 2018 sets out measures to prevent and combat the influenza virus. During the Covid-19 pandemic, we felt it would be necessary to expand our measures to cover all pathogens that can trigger a pandemic. However, respiratory viruses remain at the heart of the Plan, as we now believe they have the greatest potential to cause a pandemic.

Another small revolution that is emerging as part of the revision concerns the creation of an information platform as preparation for a pandemic. Thus the Pandemic Plan will no longer be on paper but will take the form of a digital platform. With this change, we want to simplify the use of the plan and the regular updating of its content. The new format will also make it easier to take new scientific findings into account. Moreover, it can be adapted in line with the future legal framework, with projects at the federal level and with organisational changes.

What further steps are currently being taken to successfully complete the revision of the Pandemic Plan?

The FOPH and the FCP have been working on the revision of the Pandemic Plan since 2021 and are in close contact with various actors in this field. We have now widened the circle of stakeholders and have submitted the Plan for consultation. As far as possible, we will take the comments received into account in the new Pandemic Plan, which is to be published by the end of the year.

You attended the annual conference of the NRP 80 in Weggis on 7 and 8 March 2024. What impressions did you get there?

I was impressed by the pertinence of the questions posed by the researchers in their projects. NRP 80 addresses issues that directly affect people. The research groups succeeded in identifying the problems that the pandemic created for the population groups described as "vulnerable” – problems that became manifest during the Covid-19 crisis. NRP 80's contribution will be of considerable value.

What expectations do you have of NRP 80 where the revision of the Pandemic Plan is concerned?

It’s important for us to know whether the Plan is well structured and whether it provides the information that the actors in the areas concerned really need. NRP 80 researchers work closely together with people affected by the proposed measures. Their feedback will be very helpful to us. I would like to stress at this point that the new Pandemic Plan is to be continuously adapted in the future and that the proposed measures may change, depending on the information we receive in the future.