Following the first policy statements proposed during August by the European Commission on public health measures for influenza H1N1 2009, the Commission adopted on 15 September a strategy paper supporting Member States in their efforts to respond efficiently to the pandemic. The document identifies key strategic strands to strengthen coordination and emphasises support to the Member States that are in a less favourable situation.
*Update* EU health ministers gather for an extraordinary Council meeting to discuss the pandemic
On 12 October 2009, the EU health ministers gathered in Luxembourg for an extraordinary Council meeting. After discussing the EU Strategy on H1N1 2009, the Council held an exchange of views on the current situation of the pandemic.
The ministers adopting conclusions focused on the following key issues that should be part of an EU coordinated approach: availability of vaccines, vaccination strategy, the regulatory process including a thorough risk-benefit analysis, public communication, global cooperation and multi-sectoral emergency preparedness.
Ministers, in general, stressed the need to coordinate the information and communication on influenza H1N1 in the EU, in particular against the background of a possible second wave. In order to ensure the most efficient protection of the citizens, the information given to the public should be framed by common strategic lines, based on scientific evidence and adapted to the national circumstances. Ministers also highlighted the need for global cooperation in the field of the current and future possible pandemics.
Finally, ministers shared the view that the impact of influenza H1N1 could go beyond the health sector, touching other key sectors such as transport, energy and communications. They expressed their support for the deepening of information-sharing on the pandemic preparedness in such sectors.
European Commission adopts strategy on pandemic influenza H1N1
The Commission leads the EU coordination on the pandemic through established structures such as the EU Health Security Committee, WHO, and with the scientific advice provided by EU Agencies. In order to minimise the negative impact of the pandemic, the Commission highlights the importance of close coordination between EU Member States in all related sectors affected by the pandemic.
Vaccination remains one of the most effective means of preventing the spread of the pandemic and attention is centred on vaccine development and vaccination strategies as well as supporting Member States in procuring vaccines. To face this challenging but manageable situation, an adequately planned vaccination strategy is required: clear, coherent and targeted messages on preventive measures, including vaccination, to the public, are needed.
Moreover, the Commission is committed to supporting third countries to respond to the pandemic. To this effect the Commission will examine issues relating to the availability of and access to vaccines, strengthening healthcare capacities and reinforcing general preparedness, while respecting the principles of aid effectiveness and countries ownership. In this regard, a common approach has been adopted by the G7 countries plus Mexico.
The EU strategy on Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 and its five associated working documents (vaccine development, vaccination strategies, joint procurement, communication to the public and support for the third countries) will form the basis of discussions at the Extraordinary Council meeting of EU Health Ministers on 12 October 2009.
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