Infectious disease researchers at the World Vaccine Congress expressed alarm that the nation will not be able to prevent another pandemic unless public health officials promptly take concrete steps to prepare, which includes the development of at-home tests.

“This pandemic is not a one-off. It’s not a once-in-a century event,” says Jennifer Nuzzo, DrPH, SM, Professor at Brown University School of Public Health and presenter at the 2022 World Vaccine Congress, an international gathering of over 1,500 of infectious disease experts. “The likelihood of new pathogens emerging means we should expect a future filled with infectious disease threats that we must be ready to fight.”

The World Vaccine Congress observed the importance of taking preventive measures following the significant progress made in vaccinating Americans against COVID and slowing its spread.

Nuzzo said local, state, and federal governments must treat this as a fundamental threat to the nation’s peace and prosperity, so that America’s entire health system focuses on strategies including building a more robust public healthcare workforce and developing plans for more efficient testing, contact tracing, and vaccine development.

“The progress made during COVID-19 must not be followed by quiet time in which we forget rather than work hard to prepare for the next one,” says Nuzzo. “We went through this hideous experience and failing to strengthen our readiness is the biggest mistake we could make.”

Home testing kits were clearly beneficial in detecting and fighting COVID, and would be extremely valuable if we developed them for other infectious diseases, such as strep throat and influenza, Nuzzo says. Home testing for those illnesses could help the public understand when and for how long they need to isolate themselves.

To better learn the lessons from the nation’s COVID response, Dr. Nuzzo and her colleagues will launch the Pandemic Preparedness and Response Center at Brown University School of Public Health to study how to better address social and economic factors that hinder our ability to stop the spread of disease.

“I think in some ways we will be better prepared for the next pandemic, but that is partially shaped by education and awareness,” she says. “I am optimistic. There’s a tremendous number of things that we can do, and we are at that moment.”