ECDC publishes 2022-2024 programming document

On 31 January, the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) published its 2022-2024 programming document that responds to the continued need to support the European Commission and the Member States in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic while realising the objectives of the ECDC 2021−2027 strategy.

The 2022-2024 programming reflects the ECDC’s ongoing commitment to supporting the Commission and the Member States with tackling the COVID-19 pandemic as well as future health crises. It is clear that the work programme draws from the experiences and lessons learned from the COVID-19 crisis and, together with the legislative change, aims to strengthen the ECDC to tackle ongoing and future pandemics.  Contributing to a greater level of health security in Europe, the ECDC will pay particular attention in the next few years to scaling up its investment to strengthen the surveillance, emergency preparedness and response to cross-border health threats. Secondly, the ECDC is willing to assess and integrate innovations for communicable diseases, including the digitalisation of surveillance systems. Increasing understanding of the situation in the Member States to better target its interventions would be the third aspect taken into consideration by the ECDC. Finally, the ECDC will be focusing on addressing priority conditions and issues at the European level, including tackling antimicrobial resistance (AMR); improving vaccine coverage; understanding and addressing the effects of climate change on communicable diseases as well as realising the Sustainable Development Goals in the areas of HIV, TB and hepatitis. 

Based on the Commission’s proposal, the ECDC will be given new tasks related to substances of human origin (SoHO) in relation to communicable diseases. The ECDC will establish a SoHO network with officially nominated National Focal Points with the goal of improving efficiency and cooperation between the Member States and assisting national decision-making related to the microbiological safety of SoHO. Its tasks will include monitoring disease outbreaks related to SoHO and supporting national pandemic preparedness plans. These new responsibilities will reflect Europe’s increasing concern about emerging blood-borne pathogens becoming more prevalent due to the impact of climate change. The ECDC’s surveillance maps demonstrate the geographical expansion of mosquitoes responsible for diseases such as Zika, dengue and chikungunya. Furthermore, the ECDC’s reinforced mandate coincides with the revision of the Blood, Tissues and Cells legislation, also expected to address the key growing risks related to blood quality and safety. The new responsibilities aim to equip ECDC to address these areas, however, it is yet unclear what exactly will be its mandate beyond monitoring and assessment.   

The legislative process of extending the ECDC’s mandate is still underway, and its final outcome will have an impact on future annual work programmes and resource allocation. Based on the Commission's proposal and provisional agreement between the Parliament and Council, the ECDC's responsibilities will be extended to improve preparedness, surveillance, risk assessment, and early warning and response to face future cross-border health threats. Nevertheless, the ECDC role is yet to be legally defined, with the European Parliament's desire to grant the ECDC ‘a more supervisory and prescriptive role’, and the Council favouring a ‘supporting role’ for the Member States.   

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