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EU Designates $35 Billion for New Health Crisis Agency

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a debate on "The State of the European Union" at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, Sept. 15, 2021.

A European Union official said Thursday that the union is designating $35 billion to a new Health and Emergency Response Authority (HERA) designed to prevent and rapidly respond to health emergencies, after being caught off guard in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In her state of the union speech Thursday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen first mentioned the need to create a new biomedical authority to avoid the mistakes made during the pandemic and better respond to similar crises in the future.

Von der Leyen said the goal is to “make sure that no virus will ever turn a local epidemic again in a global pandemic.”

Funding for HERA

EU leaders laid out the plan for HERA in Brussels on Thursday, saying it will be set up to anticipate threats and potential health crises through intelligence-gathering and by building the necessary medical and research response capabilities.

In a statement, the EU said an initial $7 billion for HERA would come out of the current 2022-27 budget framework, but EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides told reporters that amount will increase to almost $35 billion once investments in health, security preparedness and response are made through other EU programs.

Access to information needed

The EU plan for HERA calls for development, production and distribution of medicines, vaccines and other medical countermeasures such as gloves and masks that often were lacking during the first phase of the coronavirus response.

European Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said this will require more rapid access to information and "a more structured and firm dialogue with the industrial community, and in particular, the pharmaceutical industry.”

He said during the early days of the pandemic, EU leaders lacked crucial information about what was available and what was needed.

The EU said the first steps toward the creation of HERA were taken earlier this year, and they hope it will be fully operational by early 2022.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press.