The Covid-19 pandemic and emerging threats such as Monkeypox have demonstrated the need for global cooperation on public health

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has underlined the fact that health emergencies do not respect borders. Global cooperation has been an essential element of the pandemic response, as well as highlighting the international dimension and geopolitical impact of EU health policy.

Indeed, cross-border coordination was at the heart of the EU Vaccine Strategy.

In her opening remarks to the Employment, Social Policy, Health & Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) in June, Stella Kyriakides, commissioner for health and food safety, said the strategy is a “remarkable achievement and we all take pride in it”.

“It is a success we must protect and cannot take for granted. It is emblematic of everything that has changed in EU health policy in the last three years,” she added.

“Through this strategy, we have secured enough vaccines for all our citizens, at the same time and with the same conditions, no matter where they live in the EU.”

Vaccine access and supply

However, with vaccine supply exceeding demand for the first time, Kyriakides said the EU has been able to modify its agreements with BioNTech-Pfizer and Moderna to better align doses with current needs, reducing potentially discarded doses, while securing access to vaccines to deal with a possible deterioration in the epidemiological situation in the autumn.

“Let us not forget: the pandemic is not over, and vaccines are our best defence. We do not know what is ahead, but we must be ready,” she added.

“We need solutions to secure early access to the latest generation of Covid-19 vaccines – should they be needed – in quantities needed to vaccinate our citizens and keep them safe from the virus in the coming months.”

But Covid-19 is by no means the only public health challenge we face. Since early April, there has been an increase in hepatitis cases of unknown aetiology in children, with more than 400 incidents recorded in the WHO European region.

21 EU and EEA countries have reported cases of monkeypox

Speaking at the ESPCO Council, Commissioner Kyriakides said that dealing with these emerging health threats will require a “coherent, well-coordinated European approach”.

The Health Security Committee is supporting the exchange of information rapidly in order to coordinate measures and messages. She also called on Member States to regularly provide data to the European Centre for Prevention & Disease Control to aid the monitoring
of both outbreaks.

“We need to ensure that medical countermeasures are quickly available and accessible, aligned with the necessary regulatory flexibilities, wherever applicable,” Kyriakides said.

“We acted fast, and today we signed an agreement to purchase over 100,000 doses of monkeypox vaccine for Member States.”

“This means that, EU4Health, our new health programme, is being used to respond to a health emergency and to procure medical countermeasures for the first time. The Commission, via its Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority, has purchased vaccines for monkeypox at wholesale prices and will donate these to you. However, for the doses to be successfully delivered, we need you to grant Emergency Use Authorisation at national level. The European Medicine Agency stands ready to assist.”

EU4Health is the EU’s largest-ever health programme, with €5bn to be invested to 2027 to create a stronger, healthier and more resilient “Health Union”.

The programme aims to:
• Improve and foster health in the EU.
• Protect people in the EU from serious cross-border threats to health.
• Improve medicinal products, medical devices and crisis-relevant products.
• Strengthen health systems.

Transatlantic coordination

An important milestone in international cooperation on health was reached in May, when the EU Commission and the US Department of Health & Human Services signed an arrangement to work together to strengthen cooperation on preparedness for and response to public health threats.

Commissioner Kyriakides said: “[This] first transatlantic arrangement on cooperation in the area of health is an important step in our already close working relationship with the US to counter Covid-19. We share broad mutual interests in the control and prevention of infectious diseases globally. Today we put this cooperation on new footing, to jointly identify health threats, work together on procuring medical countermeasures and prepare for health threats together. As the pandemic has shown us, joining forces will enable us to better deal with future health crises and better protect citizens across Europe and globally.”

By facilitating information, knowledge, and data sharing, the arrangement will reduce duplication and ensure strong synergies in preparedness and response efforts. In particular, the European Commission and the US will strengthen cooperation on:

• Reviewing joint threat assessments with the goal of identifying at least one most relevant public health threat per year on which to collaborate on.
• Sharing secured data for global cooperation and surveillance for the early detection of emerging health threats.
• Supporting procurement activities, including the assessment of vaccine platforms and exchange of best practices on vaccine arrangements.
• Coordinating support for the research and development of innovative medical countermeasures.
• Supporting third countries on preparedness and response to public health threats.
• Tackling mis- and disinformation on health threats by exchanging good practices and initiating joint actions.

A Global Health Strategy

The EU-US deal is part of an attempt to build a “global health architecture”.

The EU is currently working on a Global Health Strategy that will provide a political framework of priorities, governance and tools to promote health around the

The strategy has three starting points:
• The need for effective multilateralism that delivers, helped by stronger international health regulations and agreement on pandemic preparedness and response.
• Partnerships that help those most in need.
• Harnessing the many initiatives, actors and financing streams to support our key priorities.

The EU Commission aims to adopt the strategy by the end of the year.





Articles by Sandra Gallina, Director General, Directorate General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE), European Commission.

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