EFN at a high-level event on EU preparedness and response for health crises

EFN at a high-level event on EU preparedness and response for health crises

Posted on January 29, 2021

The European Commission’s Health and Food Safety Directorate (DG SANTE) organised a high-level event to discuss on the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic for a stronger health security framework, proposed regulations on serious cross-border health threats, the ECDC and the new EMA Regulation. Currently, the Commission is preparing the main elements of the future new EU Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority, to be proposed by the end of 2021.

Taking the first steps towards building the European Health Union as announced by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in her State of the Union address, the European Commission is putting forward a set of proposals to strengthen the EU’s health security framework, and to reinforce the crisis preparedness and response role of key EU agencies, that include creating a pan-European integrated surveillance system, using artificial intelligence and other advanced technological means, and increasing coordination to allow for better preparedness planning and for the adoption of common response measures at EU level.

At the event Stella Kyriakides, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, raised that the EU current proposals to deal with the pandemic and be prepared for the next ones will give the EU a more comprehensive toolbox for preparedness, risk assessment and early response. With stronger legislation in place the European Commission will be able to act and support the EU Member States with serious cross-border health threats when they arise. With the new measures, the response to it will be more coherent as they will use the same scientific basis.

The new EU Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) agency, created in September 2020 and aiming to be an instrument to support better preparedness and response across the EU to further pandemics, will pinpoint the pharmaceutical products that need to be developed, produced and stockpiled in case of adverse events. Also, an EU health task force is to be set up, within the ECDC, with a team of flying experts that could be mobilised and deployed as quickly as possible to the Member States that need it in case of crisis. Finally, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) will be strengthened to monitor potential shortage of medicines and medical devices.

For Wolfgang Philipp, Head of Unit, Health security and Vaccination (DG SANTE), who gave an overview on the COVID situation in Europe, and on some key elements of the EU health response, explaining that one of the lessons learned is that the EU needs more competences and a strengthened coordination, it is key to better anticipate and have better surveillance, better preparedness, better response to the crisis. Agnes Molnar, Deputy Head of Unit, Health security and Vaccination (DG SANTE), added that early warning; risk assessment; health response of the EU agencies; and international cooperation, are other lessons learned and key points for health preparedness and response to cross-border health threats. Therefore, the EU is now proposing a stronger and more comprehensive health security framework for the Union to prepare and respond to health crises. And the new HERA agency is setting out the main elements of the future health strategy – you can provide your input to the Inception Impact Assessment on HERA launched today (Deadline: 24/02/2021).

John Ryan, Director Public Health (DG SANTE), concluded that the European Commission wants to make sure to have a high level of preparedness not only in the EU but also internationally, being fully engaged in the reform of the WHO systems. The European Commission also feels that the international health regulations are the legal foundation for dealing with serious cross-border threats to health.