Key changes to pandemic plans by Member States of the WHO European Region based on lessons learnt from the 2009 pandemic

More than 30 Member States in the WHO European Region are in the process of revising their pandemic plans, with two already published. Changes are being made based on lessons learnt from the response to the 2009 pandemic and these follow recommendations from numerous national, regional and global evaluations. The main changes aim to create: 1) more flexible plans that will facilitate the response to pandemics of differing severity 2) strengthened capacity to perform risk assessment and risk communication 3) improved strategies for pandemic vaccine procurement and deployment 4) strengthened surveillance for severe disease associated with influenza and 5) improved communication with front-line responders and the general public.

In the area of coordination and leadership, clearer delineation of the roles and responsibilities of national versus local authorities and improvements to intersectoral collaboration are being sought. Many countries reported that they were making such changes but they needed help to sustain momentum and to ensure that plan updates are reflected in improved preparedness at the local level and in generic preparedness. In these four workshops organized by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the WHO Regional Office for Europe, Member States emphasized the continued need for joint-working and intercountry cooperation in the area of pandemic preparedness, in support of the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR) and the new Cross Border Threats Initiative proposed by the European Commission. The capacities built as part of pandemic preparedness should benefit preparedness for other public health threats and the core capacities required under IHR, and should be maintained. At the same time it was emphasized that pandemic preparedness needs to be built on stronger responses to seasonal influenza.

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