Thursday 21 October 2021

Enhancing EU’s disease prevention and control capacity

As part of building a European Health Union, the Commission proposed on 11 November 2020 a new health security framework fit for future health challenges, based on lessons learnt from combatting the coronavirus, which includes a proposal to reinforce the mandate of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

• Inclusion of major non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and mental illness
• An EU Health Task Force in coordination with the Union Civil Protection Mechanism
• Reinforced cooperation between EU bodies and national and international counterparts

MEPs want to extend the mandate of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control to better anticipate, prepare for and manage future health threats.

The Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) adopted on Tuesday, with 67 votes in favour, 8 against and 1 abstention, its position on reinforcing the mandate of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). The report is scheduled to be voted on by Plenary in September.

Inclusion of major non-communicable diseases

MEPs propose that, alongside communicable diseases, the ECDC’s mandate should also cover major non-communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, cancer, diabetes and mental illness. The Centre should be tasked with assessing the impact infectious diseases have on health systems in general and the effect of these comorbidities, as observed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Better coordination and involvement of member states

In order to support the work of the Centre, EU countries should develop national preparedness and response plans, and provide timely, comparable and high quality data on the surveillance of communicable diseases, according to MEPs. In addition, the Centre and national authorities should agree on common timelines, case definitions, indicators, standards, protocols and procedures.

According to MEPs, the ECDC should also:

• Develop a permanent EU Health Task Force in close coordination with the Union Civil Protection Mechanism;
• Create a platform to monitor levels of national vaccinations coverage;
• Provide technical and scientific assistance to national authorities to help develop their capacity to sequence the genomes of infectious agents;
• Facilitate consultation with civil society and industry through a new permanent framework for the prevention of communicable diseases;
• Ensure full respect of data protection principles.

Rapporteur Joanna Kopcińska (ECR, PL) said: “I am very satisfied with the balanced outcome of this report, which takes into account how the ECDC sees its own role in contributing to an EU disease prevention framework. I am particularly happy that we agreed to step up analysis and modelling to support member states in the control of outbreaks by collecting and processing more epidemiological data, while upholding the key national competence for health protection. This should guarantee improved health protection for European citizens in the future. Finally, I am satisfied that the EU preparedness plan will be developed through the adoption of national plans.”

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