Skip to main content
Public Health

Preparedness and response planning

Preparedness is an integral part of the EU health security framework. Prevention, preparedness, and response planning are essential elements for effective monitoring, early warning of and combatting serious cross-border threats to health.

The Union prevention, preparedness and response plan

The Regulation (EU) 2022/2371 requires the Commission to develop a Union prevention, preparedness, and response plan.  It will be technical, outlining the operational provisions to support Member States for preparedness and response in case of a serious cross-border threat to health, including antimicrobial resistance.

Its purpose is to promote an effective and coordinated response to serious cross-border threats to health at Union and Member State/EEA country levels.

Member States are tasked to liaise with each other in the HSC and to coordinate with the Commission to seek coherence with the Union prevention, preparedness and response plan to the largest extent possible.

In addition, the plan shall include cross-border interregional preparedness elements to support aligned, multi-sectoral, cross-border public health measures, considering capacities for surveillance, testing, contact tracing, laboratories, training of healthcare staff and specialised treatment or intensive care across neighbouring regions.

Coordination on prevention, preparedness and response planning

At the same time, under Regulation (EU) 2022/2371, Member States should report to the Commission on prevention, preparedness and response planning at national level, and, where applicable, at regional level. This will cover information regarding the following:

  • implementation of the capacities expected under the International Health Regulations of WHO; 
  • interoperability arrangements between the health sector and other critical sectors;
  • Governance, capacity and resource elements; 
  • national response plans covering epidemic response, 
  • antimicrobial resistance, healthcare-associated infection and other serious cross-border threats to health; 
  • actions taken to improve identified gaps,
  • where relevant, cross-border interregional and inter-sectoral elements.

In addition, EU action to reinforce preparedness includes regular exercises to test existing procedures under EU and national preparedness plans.

Under the EU Health Programme, support is provided through training and exercises, facilitating sharing of experiences, guidelines and procedures across EU countries.

This ensures that national authorities and institutions can work together with the Commission, and one another, to share information in the event of a rapidly evolving crisis.

The European Health and Digital Executive Agency (HaDEA) has managed projects on preparedness and response since 2003.

Joint Procurement of medical countermeasures: ensuring proper preparedness

The 2009 outbreak of the H1N1 pandemic influenza highlighted weaknesses in the access and purchasing power of EU countries to obtain pandemic vaccines and medications.

The Council thus asked the European Commission to develop a mechanism to procure medical countermeasures jointly, that would support fair and equitable access to, and distribution of pandemic influenza vaccines in the future.

The Commission approved the Joint Procurement Agreement for medical countermeasures (JPA) on 10 April 2014. As of April 2020, the JPA has been signed by 37 countries, including all EU and EEA countries, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Albania, Serbia, Kosovo* and the UK.

The Agreement provides a voluntary mechanism enabling participating countries and the EU institutions to purchase jointly medical countermeasures for different categories of cross-border health threats, including vaccines, antivirals, and other treatments.

It lays down common rules for the practical organisation of joint procurement procedures, namely:

  • determines the practical arrangements governing the mechanism
  • defines the decision-making process regarding the choice of the procedures
  • organises the assessment of the tenders and the award of the contract

The mechanism aims to improve EU countries' preparedness to mitigate serious cross-border threats to health, secure more equitable access to specific medical countermeasures and improve the security of supply, together with fair prices and better purchasing conditions.

A major achievement for public health and serious cross-border threat preparedness is the signature of framework contracts for the production and supply of pandemic Influenza vaccines by the Commission and EU countries representing around half of the European population in March 2019.

Joint procurements have also been paramount in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hundreds of contracts with a total value of nearly 13 billion ensure that up to 36 participating countries have access to essential medical supplies and innovative therapeutics, as well as to protective and medical equipment in line with the EU policies on testing and vaccination.

For the latest information on joint procurements under this mechanism, check the Health Emergency preparedness and Response Authority website.

*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.

Related information