Vaccine mandates, border measures part of updated North American flu pandemic plan

Vaccine mandates, border measures and travel restrictions are on the table as part of an updated human-animal influenza pandemic agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico. 

A report detailing the trilateral North American Preparedness for Animal and Human Pandemics Initiative (NAPAHPI) was quietly released this month detailing the scope and governance of the trilateral agreement. 

NAPAHPI is to be governed by the relevant ministries of each country. In Canada, that is the Public Health Agency of Canada, Public Safety Canada, Global Affairs Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. 

As an updated version of the North American Plan for Animal and Pandemic Influenza, it aims to learn from the COVID-19 pandemic on how to best implement sweeping measures to deal with viral outbreaks, including imposing vaccine mandates and strict border controls.

The new agreement claims to be a “flexible, scalable, and cross-sectoral platform to strengthen regional prevention, preparedness for, and response to a broader range of health security threats that include pandemics of any origin and beyond.”

Under the guise of lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, NAPAHPI promises to bolster regional health security by coordinating “the formulation of proposed laws and other legal administrative provisions.” 

The agreement details powers “to request the participation of sectors such as defence, commerce, transportation, emergency management, wildlife, environment, etc., as appropriate.”

NAPAHPI’s senior coordinating body can “can and should call on private sector stakeholders particularly those associated with supply chains, medical countermeasures, research and development, critical infrastructure, and transportation, among others” to implement pandemic measures, the agreement says. 

“When an emergency call is triggered NAPAHPI will collaborate in discussion on Border measures/travel restrictions, Non-pharmaceutical, public health measures and assessment of their potential economic, social, and emergency management impact, among other responsibilities.”

One of the key objectives of the updated agreement is to assess the implementation of border measures and closures during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“NAPAHPI partners intend to explore the feasibility of conducting an analysis and evidence review of the effectiveness of international border measures/closures during COVID-19 to inform future responses,” the plan reads. 

“The implementation of border health measures at airports, seaports, and land borders such as screening of passengers, vaccination requirements, quarantine, and entry restrictions, etc., should be evidence-based and aimed to slow the introduction or spread of a pathogen in the region.”

Other responsibilities include “joint exercises and training” between the partner nations. 

“There is a need for Canada, Mexico, and the United States to enhance the interface among their respective emergency management/response structures through joint training and exercises conducted through scenario-based, facilitated discussions, workshops, table-top exercises, and/or full-scale drills as needed.” 

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