EU News

EU NEWS

Q AND A WITH DG SANTE BOSS ANNE BUCHER

DG SANTE will see a new commissioner at its helm this fall — but the top civil servant will stick around. Anne Bucher began as director general of the European Commission’s health department on October 1, making her one of the newest director generals to enter office as Brussels prepares for a change in political leadership this year.

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EUROPE MOST VACCINE-SKEPTIC REGION IN THE WORLD, SURVEY SAYS

Europe is a deep pocket of doubt when it comes to vaccines. Between 10 percent and 22 percent of people in countries across Europe don’t trust that vaccines are safe, a new survey published Wednesday by the Wellcome Trust found.

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HOW TO CONVINCE THE PUBLIC THAT VACCINES ARE SAFE

Populism has entered the realm of public health, with nearly half of Europeans convinced that inoculations can be dangerous to humans. In this installment of Health Care 2024 — a series of symposiums asking leading experts to weigh in on the health care priorities for the next European Commission — POLITICO asks: What can be done to counter vaccine skepticism and convince Europeans that vaccines are safe and beneficial? 

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PRIVACY IN THE AGE OF DIGITAL MEDICINE

Big data has the potential to provide personalized treatment, help researchers tackle the latest diseases and better anticipate epidemics. But it also requires patients to entrust governments and companies with vast troves of personal data.

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STELLA KYRIAKIDES’ NOMINATION PUTS PATIENT ADVOCATE IN TOP EU HEALTH POST

A professional patient advocate is set to take charge of the Commission’s health department.
Stella Kyriakides, 63, is a breast cancer patient, the daughter of a breast cancer patient, and a past president of the Continent’s most prominent breast cancer patient group: Europa Donna. A medical psychologist, she’s also proven to be a savvy and sympathetic political operator, according to people who’ve seen her in action in the Cypriot parliament.

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JUNCKER’S VACCINATION LEGACY NEEDS A BOOSTER SHOT

Jean-Claude Juncker’s tenure as European Commission president will end with an unchecked resurgence of measles — despite his unusual intervention on a health-related matter. On Thursday, Juncker blamed “stupid mistrust” of vaccines, in part, for deaths from preventable diseases in Europe. People who decline immunizations are “playing with fire,” he warned.

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HOW EUROPE CAN BETTER TACKLE RISING CANCER INCIDENCE

Cancer, the second leading cause of death globally according to the World Health Organisation, is responsible for an estimated 9.6 million deaths in 2018. In light of projections that the cancer incidents in Europe will double by 2035, a new survey conducted by Central and Eastern European Cancer Action Group (CEECAG), has identified large differences between Europe’s west and central and eastern countries in handling cancer.

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VACCINE INNOVATION: EUROPE’S CRUCIAL ROLE IN ADVANCING GLOBAL PUBLIC HEALTH

Vaccination is a success story. Over the last century, vaccines have eliminated or nearly eliminated many diseases that were once widespread and often fatal, such as smallpox and polio, writes Nanette Cocero, the Global President of Pfizer Vaccines.

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BETTER ACCESS TO HEALTH INNOVATION IS KYRIAKIDES’ TOP PRIORITY (AND HARDEST TASK)

With increased powers, Health Commissioner-designate Stella Kyriakides is tasked with striking a difficult balance between making sure there is a steady supply of affordable medicines and ensuring that EU pharma industry remains a world leader in innovation.

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CENTER-RIGHT MEPS CALL FOR SPECIAL EU PARLIAMENT COMMITTEE ON CANCER

The European People’s Party (EPP), the biggest political group in the EU assembly, will ask for the creation of a special parliamentary committee to help formulate a new EU-wide plan to combat cancer. EURACTIV.com and EURACTIV.cz report from Strasbourg.

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ROMANIAN PRESIDENCY OF THE EU AIMS FOR COUNCIL CONCLUSIONS ON AMR IN JUNE

The Romanian Presidency of the EU has tentatively scheduled the adoption of conclusions on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) and associated infections for Health Council on the 14th of June. The document will outline joint efforts among the EU member states on this pressing health issue.

According to Romania’s Health Minister, Sorina Pintea, one of the main goals of these Conclusions is to define common approaches between the human, veterinary, and environmental sectors.

MORE ACTION NEEDED TO REDUCE DIGITAL MARKETING OF UNHEALTHY PRODUCTS TO CHILDREN, SAYS WHO/EUROPE

The new WHO/Europe report “Monitoring and restricting the digital marketing of unhealthy products to children and adolescents” highlighted the need for greater monitoring of the digital marketing of alcohol, tobacco and unhealthy food products.

According to the report, although there is scare data on children’s digital lives, children’s time spent online, including on social media, has steadily grown, meaning that their exposure to digital marketing has also increased. The report urgently calls for developing and implementing a set of tools for monitoring the exposure of children to digital marketing.

The full report is available HERE.

EC VICE-PRESIDENT KATAINEN URGES FOR EU GREATER ACTION AGAINST DISINFORMATION ON VACCINATION

The European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, who is temporarily responsible for the Health and Food Safety portfolio following Commissioner Andriukaitis’ resignation, called for greater actions on vaccine confidence.

In an op-ed entitled “Vaccinating Against Misinformation”, Vice-President Katainen stressed the importance of taking immediate EU action against the misinformation epidemic (online and offline): “We have to join forces at EU level and work together to increase vaccination coverage and confidence as well as ensure access to vaccines for all.”

The full op-ed can be read HERE.

NEW EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT COORDINATOR FOR CHILDREN’S RIGHTS

On 11 December, Ms Anna Maria Corazza Bildt (Swedish MEP, EPP) has been appointed by the European Parliament President, Mr Antonio Tajani, as the institution’s new coordinator for children’s rights. She will be the new European Parliament spokesperson on this topic, and will have to promote, respect and safeguard the rights of children and young people in all of the institution’s policies and legislation.

The official press release from the European Parliament can be found here.

NEW EUROPEAN COMMISSION REPORT ON THE STATE OF HEALTH IN THE EU

On 22 November 2018, the European Commission launched the second cycle of the State of Health in the EU with the release of a new report – Health at a Glance: Europe 2018. Developed in cooperation with the OECD, the report focuses on the health status of EU citizens and it analyses the performance of the health systems of the 28 EU member states, 5 candidate countries and 3 EFTA countries.

More information can be found here.

COUNCIL RECOMMENDATION ON VACCINES

During the 7th of December EPSCO meeting, EU health ministers adopted the Recommendation on strengthened cooperation against vaccine-preventable diseases. Although it is not a legally-binding act, the document sets out a number of actions that the EU member states, as well as the European Commission, should take, while respecting their competencies.

Some examples of proposed actions are: strengthening vaccine supply, communication and education activities related to the benefits of vaccination, and the establishment of a European Vaccination Information Sharing system.

The full recommendation can be read here.

ROMANIAN PRESIDENCY OF PESCO AND OF THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION

On 6th of December, Romania symbolically took over the Presidency of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council configuration (EPSCO), in the context in which Romania will hold the Presidency of the Council of the EU from 1st of January 2019.

The Romanian Presidency declared that it has the following health priorities for the next 6 months (the duration of its Presidency): (i) AMR and infectious diseases; (ii) Vaccination; (iii) Access to medicines; (iv) e-Health (digital health); and (v) Mobility of patients. The timetable of health-related events and meetings will be made public on 1st of January 2019.

More information can be found here.

DG SANTE AND EMA PUBLISH JOINT ACTION PLAN ON MEDICINES FOR CHILDREN IN EUROPE

The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) announced the publication of a joint Action Plan on Medicines for Children in Europe.

With the goal of addressing challenges identified in the European Commission’s ten-year report on the implementation of the Paediatrics Legislation, the joint Action Plan will focus on five key items:

  • Identification of paediatric needs;
  • Stronger cooperation between decision-makers;
  • Timely completion of paediatric investigation plans (PIPs);
  • Improving the handling of PIPs;
  • Greater transparency around paediatric medicines.

The full Action Plan can be read here.

WHO EUROPEAN REGION SHOWS MIXED VACCINATION OUTCOMES

In the midterm review of its European Vaccine Action Plan 2015-2020, the World Health Organization pointed out that its European region has shown “mixed outcomes” in terms of vaccination. The same report shows that European region will not eliminate measles and rubella by 2020. Regional vaccination rates for the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) vaccine are also declining.

Further information can be found on the full report.

ROMANIAN PRESIDENCY OF THE EU HINTS AT THEIR HEALTH PRIORITIES

In an emailed statement, Romanian Minister Sorina Pintea mentioned the country, which will take over the EU Presidency from Austria in January 2019, will have access to medicines as one its health priorities. Romania will also work towards narrowing the gap in supply between EU member states.

The full list health priorities for the Romanian Presidency of the EU is will soon be finalised and publicly announced on their official website.

ANNE BUCHER APPOINTED NEW DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF DG SANTE

The European Commission has appointed Anne Bucher as the new Director-General of their Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE). Starting her new role on the 1st of October, Bucher will replace Xavier Prats Monné, who will retire after 4 years as DG SANTE’s Director-General and 32 years of overall service in the European Commission.

Anne Bucher has previously worked in the directorates-general for economic affairs; and for communications, networks content and technology. She currently serves as the chair of the Commissions’ Regulatory Scrutiny Board.

More information can be found here.

HEALTH POLICIES IN THE UPCOMING EU BUDGET (2021 – 2027)

On the 2nd of May, the European Commission adopted the legislative proposal the future EU budget for 2021 – 2017, also called the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). Within this new MFF, health has been incorporated into the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) programme, and it is supposed to support public health policies and access to medical products.

The new health strand will have to achieve its objectives through the reduction of inequalities in public health capacities among and within EU member states. However, it must do this with a reduced budget of only EUR 413 million. The Commission has reiterated the fact that the Health Strand will receive a (financial) boost from other EU financial instruments (i.e. the European Regional Development Fund, Horizon Europe, InvestEU Fund, etc.). More information can be found here.

EUROPEAN COMMISSION PROPOSES COUNCIL RECOMMENDATION ON STRENGTHENED COOPERATION AGAINST VACCINE PREVENTABLE DISEASES

In April 2018, the European Commission proposed a (non-binding) Council Recommendation through which it hopes to reduce vaccine-preventable disease across the European Union. Although the EU member states are in charge of their vaccination policies, the Commission hopes to strengthen their cooperation in order to tackle vaccine hesitancy, improve coordination on vaccine procurement, support research and innovation, and strengthen overall cooperation on vaccine preventable diseases.

The full EC proposal can be found here.

WHO INDEPENDENT HIGH-LEVEL COMMISSION (IHLC) RELEASES NONCOMMUNICABLE DISEASES (NCDS) REPORT

In preparation for the UN General Assembly’s third High-level Meeting on the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), which will take place on the 27th of September 2018 in New York, the WHO Independent High-Level Commission (IHLC) published its “NCDs – Time to Deliver” report on the 1st of June 2018.

In the document, the WHO Commission identifies “bold recommendations to enable countries to curb the world’s leading causes of death”. Although the focus is primarily on meeting the Sustainable Development Goal target 3.4 (reducing premature mortality from NCDs), the report analyses the impact of NCDs and of mental health problems on children and young people.

The full report can be accessed here.

HEALTH PRIORITIES OF THE FUTURE AUSTRIAN PRESIDENCY (JULY – DECEMBER 2018)

In preparation for the UN General Assembly’s third High-level Meeting on the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), which will take place on the 27th of September 2018 in New York, the WHO Independent High-Level Commission (IHLC) published its “NCDs – Time to Deliver” report on the 1st of June 2018.

In the document, the WHO Commission identifies “bold recommendations to enable countries to curb the world’s leading causes of death”. Although the focus is primarily on meeting the Sustainable Development Goal target 3.4 (reducing premature mortality from NCDs), the report analyses the impact of NCDs and of mental health problems on children and young people.

The full report can be accessed here.

DG HEALTH PUBLISHES 2017 COUNTRY HEALTH PROFILES

Through its Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety (DG HEALTH), the European Commission (EC) has made available the 2017 Country Health Profiles for each of the EU member states. Prepared in cooperation with the OECD and the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, the Profiles take stock of the state of health, main risk factors and health systems performance of each country.

The documents also analyse key child health elements such as obesity, vaccination and immunisation, life expectancy and access to health across all societal groups.

In addition to each member state’s report, the EC also presented an interactive EU map with comparisons between each country’s key health figures and the EU average. All the tools can be found here.

ECDC WARNS ABOUT MEASLES OUTBREAKS IN EUROPE

A new European Centre from Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) report shows high measles rates in EU countries such as Romania, Italy, Germany and Greece in 2017. The majority of the cases listed (87%) were due to the lack of, or incomplete, immunisation.

Other countries, such as the UK, France and Sweden are reporting worrying emerging outbreaks; while in Greece, 2 of the 968 reported measles cases resulted in death.

The full ECDC’s Monthly Report on Measles and Rubeola can be read here.

EU HEALTH PROMOTION AND DISEASE PREVENTION KNOWLEDGE GATEWAY LAUNCHED

The EU has launched its Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Knowledge Gateway, a complete and user-friendly online platform with up-to-date information on key prevention elements of non-communicable diseases. The Gateway presents key data, definitions, policy updates and recommendations for best-practices and actions on diet and physical activity, as well as alcohol-related harm and marketing of food and (non-alcoholic) beverages to children and adolescents. Furthermore, it showcases societal impact aspects and the economic cost of non-communicable diseases.

Created in collaboration with public health experts in EU Member States, the Gateway seeks to present structured and succinct public health information for decision- and policy-makers, public health professionals and the general public alike.

The EU Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Knowledge Gateway is hosted by the EU Joint Research Centre and can be found here.

REFUGEE CHILDREN HEALTH CONCERNS HIGHLIGHTED IN NEW UNICEF REPORT

A new UNICEF Humanitarian Situation Report on refugee and migrant children stressed the health, education and other social challenges faced by migrant and refugee children arriving to Europe, despite recent EU efforts such as the Communication on the protection of children in migration.
According to the report, the situation of migrant and refugee children is particularly concerning in EU countries such as Italy, Greece and Bulgaria and Germany. Health and social barriers, mentions UNICEF, can hinder children’s development and make their social inclusion more challenging.
The full UNICEF report can be found here.

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