Go back

Academia seeks involvement in EU’s new health emergency body

Female doctor taking coronavirus sample from man. Frontline workers are in protective workwear. They are at hospital during epidemic.

Universities say their expertise and research capacities make them “first-line” actors in emergencies

Groups of universities, university hospitals and health research institutes have called for academia to be given “direct, high-level involvement” in the new European Health Emergency preparedness and Response Authority created by the EU as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hera was launched in September as a body within the European Commission. It has been tasked with anticipating potential health crises through intelligence-gathering, and with ensuring the availability of medical treatments and other equipment for emergencies that arise.

In a joint statement published on 7 December, the League of European Research Universities, European Global Health Research Institutes Network and European University Hospital Alliance said they “fully support” the creation of Hera, but that involvement of academic institutions would make it more effective.

Academia played “a range of vital roles” during the Covid-19 pandemic, the statement said. Universities and research institutes helped to study the virus and develop treatments, while university hospitals had “a critical role” in patient care and clinical research.

“The academic sector is not simply a stakeholder but a first-line actor in the current and in future health emergencies,” the statement said. “Successful management of future health emergencies will need more direct and high-level input from the academic sector [in Hera].”

The statement called for Hera to establish direct links with academia, so that academic organisations can help to direct responses to health emergencies in the short term, and build up expertise and processes for future emergencies in the longer term.

It said this should entail the creation of a sub-group within the advisory committee of Hera, with representatives from academia.

Hera was created with the support of the European Parliament and the Council of the EU, but MEPs have expressed concern that it was created within the Commission, saying this excluded the Parliament from scrutinising Hera’s operations.