On Friday, the WHO Director General declared an end to the Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) for the disease caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. I welcome this important milestone and would like to share some thoughts about what this means for EMA.
COVID-19 was declared a PHEIC on 30 January 2020. Over more than 3 years the pandemic has wreaked havoc across the world, causing millions of deaths worldwide, both from the virus itself and from the huge disruptions it caused to routine patient care.
From the EU and EMA perspective, we have much to be proud of in the way we responded: the EU Vaccine Strategy made sure that each and every EU country was able to have access to safe, effective and high-quality vaccines and therapeutics to protect their citizens. EMA provided robust scientific recommendations, timely evaluation of new vaccines and therapeutics -adapting its recommendations as the virus evolved- and helped mitigate shortages.
Throughout the pandemic, waves of disinformation undermined trust in our work and scientific expertise and, ultimately put millions of lives at risk. We shouldn’t forget that it was science that brought us the vaccine breakthroughs, it was science that freed us from the lockdowns, and it was scientists who provided the trusted, factual information when it mattered most.
Overall, EMA initiated new and agile ways of working, many of which are here to stay. Our response was built on unprecedented collaboration and a united sense of purpose across regulators, developers, institutions and citizens. It was supported by the tireless commitment and work of countless experts from the regulatory authorities – at EMA and at national level. These activities were underpinned by a fruitful collaboration between international regulators through the International Coalition of Medicines Regulatory Authorities (ICMRA).
But our work does not stop here. COVID-19 remains a global health threat, and with the risk of emergence of new variants, we cannot let our guard down. EMA remains fully committed to supporting the EU response to the COVID-19 threat and ensuring that new or adapted vaccines and therapeutics can be made available as needed.
As the pandemic unfolded and public health responses quickly adapted to the emerging threat, it was clear that our societies weren’t ready for a crisis of this scale. As we look ahead, and prepare for new and emerging health challenges, we should not forget the sheer scale of this health emergency. We are working to make sure that the lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic are used to prepare better for any future public health emergency that we might face.
In terms of our operations, we will now make adjustments regarding certain activities that are only needed or are even reserved for these types of crises. We will provide updates about these changes in the coming weeks.
The last three years have tested the regulatory system to its limits, but as the pandemic comes to an end, we have come out undoubtedly stronger, more coordinated both at EU and international level, and better prepared for future crises. As we reach the long-awaited milestone of an end to the public health emergency, I would like to thank all our partners and stakeholders involved in the crisis response, and among them EMA’s Emergency Task Force (ETF), our scientific committees and experts, working parties, the Executive Steering Group on Shortages and Safety of Medicinal Products (MSSG) as well as the EMA staff whose unwavering commitment to public health have made Europe proud.