- An EU Emergency Response Mechanism to be set-up to declare an emergency independently and more quickly.
- Stronger role for the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)
- New pharmaceutical strategy to be published 24 November based on input from Parliament
A strong European Health Union is needed to improve crisis preparedness and response for current and future health crisis, say public health MEPs in a debate with Commissioner Kyriakides.
On Monday, the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety quizzed Stella Kyriakides, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, on the recent Commission’s proposal for building a European Health Union. The debate came only days after Parliament adopted its mandate on “EU4Health”, the new European health programme.
Commissioner Kyriakides presented the new proposals and stressed that building a strong European Health Union for EU citizens is an opportunity not to be missed. She assured that member states competence in the area of health is fully respected and added that the Commission’s proposals are very much built on Parliament’s suggestions for a stronger EU role in the area of health. The Commissioner also highlighted the new rules proposed to set-up an EU Emergency Response Mechanism enabling the EU to declare an health emergency independently from the WHO’s declarations of Public Health of International Concern (PHEIC) and enabling the EU to act more quickly.
Many MEPs took the floor and welcomed the proposals from the Commission underlining the importance of stepping up efforts to counter serious cross-border threats to health. The Commissioner also presented the proposal to strengthen the mandate and role of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), which she stated had both played a major role in managing the current pandemic. Member states should be obliged to report data to these agencies, including data resulting from stress tests in national health systems, to enable better monitoring, crisis management and ensure a more coordinated response across the EU.
Commissioner Kyriakides also highlighted the main elements of the forthcoming Pharmaceutical Strategy, scheduled to be published on 24 November, including actions to improve affordability of medicines, build competitiveness and innovation as well as pursue strategic autonomy to ensure medicines supply and address the root causes of shortages. In September 2020, Parliament called for the EU to step up efforts to tackle medicine shortages, which has increased during COVID-19.
As far as COVID-19 is concerned, Commissioner Kyriakides said that in order to deal with increased fake news and COVID-19 fatigue among EU citizens, a common European voice is needed. While there are positive developments in terms of developing effective vaccines, it will take time until these vaccines are approved and distributed, so it is crucial that citizens continue to follow rules. Questioned on the status of the Commission’s negotiations with Moderna on their COVID-19 vaccine, the Commissioner replied that negotiations are ongoing but that a contract has not yet been signed.
You can watch a recording of the debate here (starts 14:18:30).
COVID-19 has revealed a number of shortcomings in the EU’s health crisis response. It also showed that there is a strong need to increase cooperation and coordination in the field of public health. On 11 November, the Commission published a package of measures, establishing the first building blocks of a European Health Union.