European “health union”: new strategy and global dimension

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At the end of 2022, Commission adopted some new rules in “health union” and a new EU’s Global Health Strategy to improve global health security and deliver better health for all in a changing world. With the new rules and strategy, the EU deepens its role in the EU-wide public health policy and increases its leadership and responsibility in tackling key global challenges and health inequalities.

The EU has been committed to build a stronger and active European “health union” that is prepared and able to respond to emerging health threats. The COVID-19 pandemic showed both the importance of coordination among European countries and the added-value of a common response in the face of cross-border health threats. However, the dual character of the EU health policy and law only makes the whole issue complicated, i.e. its shared factor (health is vital for all in the Union) and supplemental, that is, health issues are the responsibility of the member states and the EU can only assist the states in emerging difficulties.

The EU’s so-called “joint procurement agreement” offers all participating countries around the world (so far 36 states) the possibility to jointly procure medical countermeasures as an alternative or complement to procurement at national level.
Commission’s Health Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) working closely with the participating countries, identifies and implements priorities for joint procurements in the states. The aim of the joint procurement mechanism is to secure a more equitable access to specific medical countermeasures and to improve the security of supply, together with more balanced prices for the participating EU countries.
More information in the following Commission websites: = Ensuring the availability of supplies and equipment; and =Joint procurement of medical counter-measures.

EU health security framework
The most vital components of the EU’ health union include, e.g. stronger EU rules on serious cross-border threats to health, with the vital activities of such EU bodies as the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and a new Emergency Framework for medical countermeasures. Together with an extended mandate of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the establishment of the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA), the EU has acquired all the necessary tools for a better respond in the event of public health emergency. These new rules and organisations have created, as the Commission noted a “robust legal framework to improve the EU’s capacity in the vital areas of prevention, preparedness, surveillance, risk assessment, early warning, and response”.
For example, stronger ECDC is not only recommended the member states most optimal methods of preparing to health threats, but also represents a new excellence network of EU reference laboratories by establishing an EU Health Task Force for rapid health interventions in the event of a major outbreak.
In order to be effective and operational during public health emergencies, the “emergency framework regulation” a Health Crisis Board is established within HERA; the board will rapidly coordinate at the EU-wide level the supply of and access to medical counter measures. New EU health legislation also enables the activation of the EU recovery facilities, emergency research and innovation plans supported by the EU emergency funding.
More in the following weblinks: = Regulation on serious cross-border threats to health; = Regulation on the extended mandate of the ECDC; = Emergency Framework Regulation; and = European Health Union.

Global health dimension
Urgent global health agenda includes both combating the post-pandemic health threats and envisages the world-wide health issues as an essential pillar of EU external policy; it is a critical geopolitical sector occupying a central place in the EU’s strategic autonomy.
Besides, it is aimed at promoting sustainable partnerships within the Union’s new ambitious Global Gateway program. As the external dimension of the EU “health union”, the global strategy is designed to guide EU action for ensuring better preparedness and radical response to health threats. The “global part’ of the strategy puts forward three key interrelated priorities in dealing with global health challenges: a) deliver better health and well-being for people during their life span; b) strengthen health systems and advance universal health coverage; and c) prevent and combat health threats, including pandemics, applying a “one-health approach”.

More Information in the following Commission websites: = EU Global Health Strategy; = Q&A on the EU Global Health Strategy; = Factsheet on the EU Global Health Strategy; = The State of Health Preparedness report; = Press Release on the State of Health Preparedness report; = Factsheet on the State of Health Preparedness report and HERA Work Plan 2023; = Statement – Towards a new EU Global Health Strategy; = Global Gateway; = Health and demography; = Global health.

New cure for post-COVID syndrome
The Commission’s Health Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) has signed a joint procurement Framework Contract for the supply of Paxlovid (23.xi.2022), a SARS-CoV-2 protease inhibitor oral treatment for patients with COVID-19 at risk of developing severe disease. The contract is signed with the pharmaceutical company Pfizer and will run for an initial period of 12 months.
Thirteen EU and EEA member states and EU candidate countries are participating in the procurement; they will be able to purchase three-five-day treatment courses of the orally managed stuff.
Paxlovid can be used for the treatment of COVID-19 in adults who do not require supplemental oxygen and who are at increased risk of the disease becoming severe. Paxlovid is expected to be effective against the current circulating and dominant strains of the virus.

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