“As early as 2014, the former Swedish Minister of Health, Bo Könberg, wrote a report for the Nordic health ministers that highlighted the importance of combating antibiotic resistance. His finding is no less relevant in 2021,” says Bertel Haarder, President of the Nordic Council. Pointing out that antibiotic resistance is one of the priorities outlined in the programme for the Danish Presidency of the Nordic Council in 2021, he describes the proposal as an obvious one for the Presidency to support.
“The Danish Presidency supports the call, which I believe should kick-start debate on antibiotic resistance and the options for a Nordic action plan. It will benefit the 27 million people in the Nordic Region and potentially act as a safeguard against a new and perhaps far worse health crisis than the current pandemic,” he says.
The Danish Presidency supports the call, which I believe should kick-start debate on antibiotic resistance and the options for a Nordic action plan
Still time to react
The call for Nordic parliamentarians to push antibiotic resistance higher up the political agenda was prompted by the Committee for Welfare in the Nordic Region, which has supported closer Nordic parliamentary co-operation in combating this serious challenge for several years. It is a challenge that cannot be underestimated, according to the committee chair, Bente Stein Mathisen.
“As chair of the Committee for Welfare in the Nordic Region, I urge Nordic parliamentarians to take antibiotic resistance very seriously. This initiative is designed to spark debate on tangible initiatives – both in the short term and in the slightly longer term. The consequences of not reacting now may be devastating for world health. Fortunately, interdisciplinary Nordic collaboration will allow us to react with tangible preventive measures and develop new antibiotics.
The consequences of not reacting now may be devastating for world health. Fortunately, interdisciplinary Nordic collaboration will still allow us to react
Antibiotic resistance has been on the Nordic Council ever since Bo Könberg submitted his report on Nordic co-operation on health to the Council of Ministers in 2014. The very first piece of advice he gave was that the Nordic countries had to do more to combat the rise in antibiotic resistance. Closer Nordic co-operation on health is now more important than ever. COVID-19 has shown us how vulnerable we are to serious pandemics.
Important priorities in “The Nordic Region – towards being the most sustainable and integrated region in the world: Action Plan for 2021 to 2024” include innovation in health, welfare and combating antibiotic resistance. It also underlines the importance of research, innovation and sharing knowledge.
The Nordic Region and its population of 27 million are well set when it comes to research, development and the production of new medicines and vaccines. We have highly skilled professionals, good health registers and robust economies. It is all a matter of political will.
The pandemic has shown how important it is to combat bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. Many of those who have caught the COVID-19 virus also suffered from secondary health problems like pneumonia, which makes antibiotics a lifesaver!
Antibiotic resistance is often called “the health service’s climate crisis”. According to the WHO, at least 700,000 people die each year from diseases resistant to antibiotics. Without new types of antibiotics, resistance will grow, and the number will increase dramatically. It is a “silent pandemic” that could have far worse consequences than COVID-19.
It is important to plan ahead for new pandemics and health crises. Risk assessments and plans need to be drawn up. Closer co-operation and a Nordic action plan would help.
We know that the question of a Nordic action plan against antibiotic resistance has been raised before. The response by the Council of Ministers in 2019 was that it would not add value to the existing national ones or those of the EU and WHO.
However, the world has changed dramatically in the last year. Perhaps the time has come to reconsider recommendation no. 12 in the Nordic Council White Paper?
It is all about being better placed to deal with new epidemics, using medicines and vaccines to save lives.
The Committee for Welfare in the Nordic Region has decided to ask the same question of the health ministers in the Nordic countries.
Will you follow up on the recommendations in the Nordic Council White Paper on a Nordic action plan to combat antibiotic resistance?