Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety
Preparedness and response
Preparedness planning aspects
Generic preparedness planning
The Commission's generic preparedness planning (Nov. 2005) addresses public-health threats and emergencies that affect or are likely to affect public health in more than one EU country. It provides a foundation on which national authorities can build their own generic or disease-specific plans, highlighting the main elements that need to be addressed.
The document "Strategy for Generic Preparedness Planning; technical guidance on generic preparedness planning for public health emergencies " sets out recommendations and check lists for all types of health threats. Training and exercises
Commission staff regularly undergoes training so they are prepared in the event of a crisis.
The Commission also organises regular exercises to test EU and national preparedness plans, in particular whether national authorities and institutions are able to work together with the Commission and each other to share information during a fast-evolving health threat that cuts across departmental responsibilities.
Mathematical models are used to analyse the spread and control of hazardous agents/situations and help decision-makers take adequate preparedness and prevention measures.
The EU's Joint Research Centre (JRC) applies such models to assess the public-health impact of infectious disease epidemics and pandemicsthe spread of chemicals and radio-nuclear agents, and the effects of climate change.
Pandemic influenza is an area where a lot of work has already been done. An influenza pandemic can occur whenever a new flu virus appears against which humans have no immunity. Pandemics can be severe and require a high level of preparedness.
Influenza pandemic preparedness is a priority in the EU's network for communicable diseases . The Commission has established this network to help EU Member States better coordinate their prevention and control measures for pandemic influenza.
Specific plans are in place at both EU and national level. The EU's preparedness plan identifies roles and actions for players at EU and national level for each stage of a pandemic. The plan is continuously kept under review to incorporate the latest scientific developments and emerging issues. Pandemic Influenza H1N1 in 2009/2010 has been thoroughly evaluated and lessons learnt from this pandemic will help improving pandemic preparedness planning for future pandemics.
Assessment of national preparedness
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), in collaboration with the Commission and the World Health Organisation (WHO), has assessed the national pandemic preparedness plans.
See the technical report for details
Exchange of best practices
A number of conferences have been held with all 27 EU countries and the 53 countries of the WHO European region to identify essential elements of pandemic planning, exchange best practice and identify gaps and ways forward.
Commission's role in the event of a pandemic
In the event of an influenza pandemic, the Commission takes the lead in EU coordination through the early warning and response system (EWRS) , which requires the national authorities to notify each other of measures taken or intended. The Commission is also in permanent contact with key partners such as ECDC, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the WHO and the Global Health and Security Initiative (GHSI).
The Commission may consider a simplified fast-track procedure for granting marketing authorisation for pandemic influenza vaccines.
Based on the lessons learnt of Pandemic H1N1 the Commisison is currently in close cooperation with EU Member States taking provisions for better availability of pandemic preparedness vaccines in a future influenza pandemic.
Chemical, biological and radio-nuclear (CBRN) threats
CBRN threats ranging from natural disease outbreaks to deliberate attacks, have demonstrated the need to be properly prepared for large-scale public health emergencies. Protective measures include coordinating emergency planning, preparedness as well as the availability of appropriate treatment, vaccines and decontamination.
Bridging health and security
In case of emergencies with possible health effects, it is important to have already existing cooperation between public health, law enforcement and civil protection authorities within and between EU countries, for example on possible CBRN incidents.
In 2009, the Commission adopted a Communication on CBRN security in the EU. An action plan was annexed to the Communication, presenting a series of national and EU measures to tackle these threats.
In 2010 the Internal Security Strategy established a four year strategy to help increase Europe's resilience to crises and disasters, including hostile or accidental releases of disease agents and pathogens.
In the field of civil protection the EU Civil Protection Cooperation Mechanism helps to better protect people, their environment, property and cultural heritage in the event of major natural or man made disasters occurring both inside and outside the EU.