EU to update flu pandemic plans

Gary Finnegan

Gary Finnegan

September 21st, 2011

Gary Finnegan

‘The European Commission is in the process of updating its guidance to EU member states on how to deal with influenza pandemics. ’

EuA new mechanism allowing joint procurement of vaccines by European governments is expected to form a central part of the new plan which will be published by the end of the year, according to EU Health Commissioner John Dalli.

Addressing the ESWI 4th Influenza Conference in a video message, the Commissioner said he is working closely with national governments and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) “to strengthen influenza preparedness”.

“One lesson we have learned from the H1N1 pandemic is the need to improve access to vaccines for all member states. Several countries faced serious difficulties in obtaining vaccines for their people in 2009. This is why, one year ago, the Ministers for Health of the EU, called upon the European Commission to develop a mechanism for joint procurement of pandemic vaccines,” he told scientists gathered in Malta at the annual ESWI event.

Over the past 12 months, the Commission has developed a voluntary Joint Procurement Agreement which would ensure that all participating countries have equitable access to vaccines, to enable them to cover a minimum proportion of their population.

“I believe such an agreement will greatly improve solidarity within the EU and increase national purchasing power,” said Dalli, adding that he would present the legal foundation for joint procurement in December as part of a wider package on health security.

The Commission’s power in health policy is limited as national governments have responsibility in this area, although Brussels does have a role in coordinating work on cross-border public health issues.

Dalli said policymakers and scientists would have to work together to reduce the burden of influenza throughout Europe. “Science has an important role to play. It is only by combining the latest scientific knowledge with effective policy planning that we will succeed in addressing influenza,” he said.