The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the opacity of the global personal protective equipment (PPE) supply chain. Dependence on international markets for medical PPE provision has left states vulnerable to price volatility and supply shortages. As the severity of the pandemic fluctuates amidst an ever-present risk of regional and global public health crises, medical PPE market volatility – exacerbated by the lack of accurate, up-to-date, transparent information of PPE international supply conditions – will continue to undermine effective policy responses and the resilience of healthcare systems around the world. This article proposes a WTO/WHO joint initiative to ensure PPE market supply transparency for future pandemic preparedness. It departs from an analysis of the global PPE market, the impact of COVID-19 on PPE production and supply, and the systemic lack of basic PPE supply chain information at all levels. From this, it identifies the need for PPE market supply transparency and thus proposes creating a PPE market supply transparency system at the domestic and/or international level as a viable solution to enhance transparency and cooperation in preparation for the next pandemic.
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