BELGIUM – The European Union has set up a new authority to prevent and rapidly respond to health emergencies based on the lessons learned from the coronavirus crisis.
About 30 billion euros ($35.3 billion) has been commissioned to the body, which is expected to coordinate expenditure in preparation for a future pandemic.
The health crisis body dubbed, “The European Health Emergency preparedness and Response Authority” (HERA), will detect health crises and other potential threats for the healthcare system by gathering information and developing forecasts.
If a new health crisis struck, it would activate emergency funding and help coordinate monitoring, procurement and purchase of medical equipment or treatments.
The EU body will also be responsible for building up capacities and ensuring the delivery of medicines, vaccines, or other medical equipment in case of health emergencies.
HERA will support scientific research and innovation in the medical field, and will coordinate with the pharma industry to prevent supply shortages.
The authority was granted a €6 billion (US$7 billion) budget for the period of 2022-27. HERA is expected to operate at full capacity as of next summer.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen promised to set up an EU body to prevent health crisis during her State of the Union speech last September when she drew lessons from the coronavirus crisis.
The authority is partly designed to avoid a repeat of the ad hoc measures taken by individual EU countries at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, some of them inefficient, others coming at the expense of other EU members.
The new body will supplement other EU health agencies – the European Medicines Agency and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas said both agencies had been strengthened, but that alone was not enough.
“Both agencies have a very important role to play but mainly after the pandemic hit us,” he told a news conference.
In the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, EU countries had to face shortages of medical supplies, including masks, gloves, ventilators, and certain drugs. This establishment will prevent such occurrences in the future.