Welcome, one and all, to the first update of the week from the Euopean Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM). The controversies of COVID feature largely as the week gets under way, writes EAPM Executive Director Denis Horgan.
As usual, a quick reminder about EAPM’s upcoming events – the ESMO conference arrives on 18 September, agenda here, register here, and there is of course the upcoming participation of EAPM at the German Presidency conference in October, see the agenda by clicking here.
The sessions in the Presidency conference of 12 October are as follows: Opening Session: The Pharmaceutical Strategy of the EU; Session I: Rational allocation of resources to support innovation; Session II: EU coordinated action on prostate, lung, breast and cervical cancer; Session III: Biomarker testing: Alzheimer’s and related dementia; Session IV: Advanced therapy medicinal products (ATMPs) & Closing Session: Biomarker testing and molecular diagnostics
Phil Hogan replacement set to start
As previously, EAPM wishes resigned Irish Commissioner Phil Hogan well, and also offers its best wishes to First Vice President Mairead McGuinness, whom Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has tapped for the role of financial services, financial stability and capital markets union commissioner. Commission Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis is set to take over the trade portfolio vacated by Hogan.
World WHO chief calls for investment in public health, lauds Germany’s commitment
It is important to learn from previous disease outbreaks and invest in public health to deal with future ones, said World Health Organisation Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, outlining successful initiatives by several countries, including a recent commitment from Germany. Lauding the announcement by Chancellor Angela Merkel over the weekend on her Government’s investment of €4 billion by 2026 to strengthen Germany’s public health system, Tedros said: “I call on all countries to invest in public health, and especially in primary health care, and follow Germany’s example.” Although Germany’s response was strong, it was also learning lessons, he pointed out. “This will not be the last pandemic. History teaches us that outbreaks and pandemics are a fact of life,” he said.
Review committee to start work in response to COVID-19
The Review Committee of the International Health Regulations (IHR) begin its work on 8 September to evaluate the functioning of the IHR during the COVID-19 pandemic so far, the chief of the World Health Organization (WHO) has said. “The International Health Regulations is the most important legal instrument in global health security. As a reminder, the review committee will evaluate the functioning of the IHR during the pandemic so far, and recommend any changes it believes are necessary,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a virtual press conference. “It will review the convening of the Emergency Committee, the declaration of a public health emergency of international concern, the role and functioning of national IHR focal points, and will examine progress made in implementing the recommendations of previous International Health Regulations review committees,” Tedros said. According to the WHO’s website, the review committee is expected to hold its first meeting soon.
Gallina under scrutiny in ENVI committee
On 7 September, ENVI Members debated with DG SANTE Deputy Director General Sandra Gallina, on the state of play of the EU vaccines strategy and the Vaccines Advance Purchase Agreements. The aim of the European Vaccines Strategy, adopted by the Commission last June, aims to secure for all European citizens high-quality, safe, effective and affordable vaccines within 12 to 18 months. To do so, and together with the member states, the Commission has started to enter into Advance Purchase Agreements with vaccine producers reserving or giving the member states the right to buy a given number of vaccine doses for a set price, as and when a vaccine becomes available. Advanced Purchase Agreements are financed through the Emergency Support Instrument. A first such contract was signed on 27 August for the purchase of 300 million doses for a vaccine against COVID-19.
Czech government unveils national coronavirus vaccination strategy
The Czech Health Ministry has released a draft national vaccination strategy for coronavirus, to be used in the event that a workable vaccine is developed. The document states that: “Despite the pressure and efforts to rapidly develop a vaccine, it is realistic to anticipate a registered vaccine possibly by the end of 2020 at the earliest, to become available in 2021.” According to the draft document, vaccination will be the most effective tool against the coronavirus pandemic. The main goal is to prevent deaths, complications and hospital overload. “Although we do not yet have a coronavirus vaccine on the table, we need to be ready when it becomes available. The vaccine is a key way out of the current situation. It will protect the population from disease and prevent the spread of the disease in the population,” said Health Minister Adam Vojtěch.
The pandemic has been the catalyst behind the UK government’s latest drive to tackle the rising level of obesity across the nation. This latest campaign, which is aimed at helping people lose weight, become more active and eat better, is hoping to make an impact on addressing a growing problem which more than ever poses an escalated threat to individuals’ health. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, there has been a significantly higher level of deaths amongst obese people who contracted the virus. A collaborative study between the University of North Carolina, Saudi Health Council and World Bank has now found a 48% increase in death amongst significantly overweight people who have been afflicted with the coronavirus. The study also reported that the risk of ending up in hospital with Covid-19 increases by 113% for obese people with a 74% increase in their chances of requiring intensive care.
EU unveils COVID-19 ‘colour-code’ travel zones
The European Commission announced on 4 September its recommendations for member states on how to co-ordinate travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, including a ‘traffic-light’ colour-coding system of affected areas. The proposal, based on ideas from the German EU presidency, includes common criteria on epidemiological risks, a shared ‘colour-coding’ of risk areas, as well as a joint approach on returning from high-risk areas. Until now, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has been publishing these regularly updated maps showing 14-day Covid-19 case-notification rate per 100,000 population “The past few months have shown we can not take free movement for granted, but it is clear that we need more coordination,” admitted Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders. Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, said this recommendation aims “to avoid further disruption of already fragile economies and additional uncertainty for citizens”.
Germany’s Greens seek to toughen legislation on vaping over COVID-19
Vaping raises the risk of falling critically ill with COVID-19, experts have warned — despite a growing body of research showing the opposite. German scientists reviewed available evidence on the damage smoking and vaping inflicts on vital organs in the body. All three harden the arteries and raise the risk of developing lung and heart diseases — two risk factors for coronavirus — by up to seven-fold, they found. As a result, the team believes smokers and e-cigarette users would be more likely to suffer complications from COVID-19. They admitted smoking is more toxic on the body than vaping but warned research suggested vaping was ‘not a healthy alternative’. The review — published in the European Heart Journal — did not actually analyse the hospital records of COVID-19 patients, however. One scientist said the methodology behind the review on how smoking and vaping damages the body was so sloppy ‘it cannot be described as a study’, while another described the findings as ‘questionable’.
That’s all for now. More later this week – and don’t forget to register in advance for the upcoming conference for ESMO as well as the 12 October Presidency Conference. (Links are above.)