Thaddeus Swanek Thaddeus Swanek
Senior Writer and Editor, Strategic Communications, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


June 25, 2021


This week’s Path Forward event featured Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Program, in discussion with U.S. Chamber President and CEO Suzanne Clark.

The Path Forward, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation event series, helps business and community leaders find the answers they need to execute a responsible reopening strategy for a post-pandemic world.

What happened?
During the discussion, Dr. Ryan shared why it’s important to vaccinate against the pandemic globally, why public health experts are so focused on the virus’s origins, and why it’s vital to not rely on vaccines alone to combat the pandemic. He also highlighted the importance of the private and public sectors working together to stop the spread of the virus and shared why he thinks that the pandemic is “not nearly over.”

What the experts are saying:

“In the U.S., we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel—but deadly surges around the world and the emergence of a new, more transmissible variant of the virus are sobering reminders that the pandemic is far from over.” – Suzanne Clark, president and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

“This first generation of vaccines may not get us to full disease eradication, unless we get to extremely high vaccination coverages and continue to match that with surveillance, testing, quarantine, isolation…It’s not going to be [eliminated] by vaccination alone.” – Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director, World Health Organization (WHO).

“If you have large pockets of under-vaccinated people they can sustain transmission forever.” – Dr. Mike Ryan

“We need to understand that animal-humans species barrier and how that barrier was breached… We need to investigate each and every time we have a species [to-species] breach, we need to find out how and when that occurred.” – Dr. Mike Ryan

“People make an honest assumption: ‘If I’m vaccinated, I’m protected.’ Yes, you are protected against becoming severely ill, being hospitalized, or dying very significantly. But it doesn’t mean—especially with the new variants—that you are protected from having an infection itself.” – Dr. Mike Ryan

“The [healthcare] system has got to work and that’s the problem in many developing countries. The systems just aren’t strong enough…If we look at Africa, we need to shore those systems up now and we’re desperately trying to do that with our public and private sector partners.” – Dr. Mike Ryan

“We need the private sector to continue research and innovation and bringing new products to bear. Be it better vaccines or diagnostics, adapting equipment so that it can be simplified and used in less-resourced settings. So, there’s a tremendous amount that the private sector can do in the research and innovation side.” – Dr. Mike Ryan

“This pandemic is not over, is not nearly over…The appearance of normality is returning in many Northern, high-income economies…Collectively, we have not found a complete solution for ending the pandemic in terms of infections. I believe we will.” – Dr. Mike Ryan

“We can bring our economies back on line, we can take the pressure off our healthcare systems, if we distribute the commodities that are available equitably around the world. We need to continue to do surveillance, we need to continue to do and expand testing, and isolate ourselves if we’re sick. We can’t just rely on the vaccines to do everything.” – Dr. Mike Ryan

What you can do:
Please consider joining the Rally for Recovery Commitment, a U.S. Chamber-led program encouraging every company and organization to take three basic, but important, steps to get the country back to health and American workers back to work.

And if you’re looking to get vaccinated, visit to find a vaccination site near you!

Up next:
Please join future Path Forward events to learn how to better protect you workers, customers, coworkers, and friends from the spread of coronavirus.

Additional resources:

About the authors

Thaddeus Swanek

Thaddeus Swanek

Thaddeus is a senior writer and editor with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's strategic communications team.

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