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Good afternoon, health colleagues, and welcome to the second European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM) update of the week, in which there are numerous key health concerns up for discussion, EAPM 전무 이사 Dr. Denis Horgan을 작성합니다.

Dutch MEP Groothuis to lead cybersecurity bill

Dutch Liberal member of the European Parliament Bart Groothuis is set to be the lead negotiator on the NIS Directive, which is the first piece of EU-wide legislation on cybersecurity. It provides legal measures to boost the overall level of cybersecurity in the EU. The Directive on security of network and information systems (the NIS Directive) was adopted by the European Parliament on 6 July 2016 and entered into force in August 2016. Member States had to transpose the Directive into their national laws by 9 May 2018 and identify operators of essential services by 9 November 2018.

The NIS Directive provides legal measures to boost the overall level of cybersecurity in the EU by ensuring member states’ preparedness by requiring them to be appropriately equipped.  Businesses in these sectors that are identified by the member states as operators of essential services will have to take appropriate security measures and to notify serious incidents to the relevant national authority. 

Of course, this has an impact on health care, taking into account recent hacking issues relating to approval procedures of COVID-19 vaccines with the aim to sow distrust in vaccines as highlighted by the EU medicines agency.

Vaccine union

On Wednesday (13 January), the EPP held its online “Towards a European Health Union” conference, with three heads of major mRNA-based coronavirus vaccine companies and three commissioners.  Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas used the opportunity to declare the EPP “the health party of the European Union”, and Schinas stood by the EU’s joint purchase of coronavirus vaccines, saying: “This is a small miracle happening at the European level: For the first time, a European health union is tangible, emerging reality — not just a soundbite, not just a slogan, not just a clip. It is happening.” 

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COVID-19 unlikely to strike twice but guidance should be followed, according to study

Researchers conclude that reinfection is uncommon but still possible and say people must continue to follow current guidance, whether they have had antibodies or not. Scientists from Hong Kong recently reported on the case of a young, healthy man who recovered from a bout of Covid-19 only to be re-infected more than four months later. 

Using genome sequencing of the virus, they could prove he caught it twice because the virus strains were different. Experts say re-infection isn’t surprising, but it’s likely to be rare, and larger studies are needed to understand why this might happen. Researchers found that those who had already been infected once had 83 percent lower odds of infection compared to those who had never been infected based on both probable and possible positive COVID-19 test results. If restricted to only positive results — where there is a high viral load and symptoms — that number rises to 99 percent. 

German health minister defends vaccination strategy 

Health Minister Jens Spahn has admitted there have been mistakes in Germany’s vaccination campaign – but says everyone in the country will be offered a jab by summer. Speaking in the Bundestag on Wednesday, Spahn, of the Christian Democrats (CDU) spoke out over the vaccination strategy in Germany, which has been under fire since it began on 27 December.

“Not every decision in recent months was right,” said Spahn. “We are learning from that.” However, he said, vaccine production capacity limitations was the problem, not too few contracts. “That’s why we have to prioritize,” Spahn said.”Some things could have been done faster,” he added. “Of course there are hiccups in the biggest vaccination campaign in history.”

However, Spahn said things will improve.”We will be rewarded for our patience,” he said. By summer the government believes it will be possible to offer every German resident a vaccination, he added.

Stick to EU vaccination strategy, von der Leyen urges

The European Commission will step up its efforts to help EU countries with their vaccination campaigns — Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is contacting the health ministers across the 27 member states for reassurance that they are sticking to the bloc’s joint strategy. The commission has faced criticism over the amounts of vaccine it has procured for the 27 states, with the president of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, being the latest to voice concern. Anastasiades has said his government is in talks with Israel over a side deal to bolster his country’s efforts, claiming the EU’s procurement was “not enough for rapid and mass vaccinations”. 

His comments followed confirmation in Berlin that the German government had struck a deal with BioNTech/Pfizer for 30 million extra doses beyond those agreed through the commission. On Monday (11 January) a spokesman for the commission declined to comment on the developments in Germany and Cyprus but disclosed that Von der Leyen was now seeking assurances from the EU capitals. 

The spokesman said: “The president has asked Commissioner Kyriakides to send a letter to all health ministers asking them to provide us with all the necessary transparency in the way in which they are complying with the provisions of our vaccine strategy in terms of contacts, or lack of contacts rather, with with those pharmaceutical companies that we have been or are negotiating with. So this letter is currently being drafted, and will be sent as soon as it is ready.” 

Vaccines: MEPs call for more clarity and transparency

MEPs welcomed the European Commission’s openness to share available information whilst also acknowledging that some questions can be better answered by member states and pharmaceutical companies. Many questions concerned possible additional national or bilateral contracts. The Commission confirmed that it is not aware of any such alleged contracts. Through the Joint Procurement Agreement, the EU has priority to deliver vaccines, which will then be distributed to member states on a pro-rata basis.

Lockdowns spread

Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn has intimated that his country’s lockdown will continue beyond 1 February, Italy has extended its state of emergency until the end of April, and the Netherlands has extended its lockdown until 9 February. Scotland is placing more restrictions on takeaway food and click-and-collect services starting from tomorrow (16 January).  On Thursday (14 January), French Prime Minister Jean Castex on announced a nationwide 18h curfew as of Saturday (16 January) and stricter measures at the country’s borders to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Anthropologist Schuller raises prospect of human extinction

In his new book, Northern Illinois University (NIU) anthropologist Mark Schuller tackles a frightening prospect that seems all too relevant in these turbulent times: Is the human species headed toward extinction? Published today (15 January) 인류 최후의 저항: 글로벌 재앙에 맞서다 dares to ask this and other provocative questions, exploring the interconnections between climate change, global capitalism, xenophobia and white supremacy. Schuller’s work surveys the struggles of disenfranchised peoples across the globe, from frontline communities affected by climate change, to #BlackLivesMatter activists, to Indigenous water protectors, to migrant communities facing increasing hostility. Across all these spectrums, he argues that we must develop radical empathy, requiring that we move beyond simply identifying ourselves as “allies” in movements for the betterment of our planet and start acting as “accomplices”.

Bringing together the insights of anthropologists and activists from many cultures, the NIU professor’s timely study ultimately points to establishing a more inclusive vision of humanity before it’s too late.

And on that cheery note, we will leave you until next week – have an excellent weekend, stay safe and well, and join us again soon for more health news from EAPM.

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