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Improving US-EU Effectiveness in Health and Health Security

Gigi Kwik Gronvall
Date posted:
February 05, 2021
Publication type:
Wilson Center
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The US/EU collaboration on health and health security issues has been steadily productive for years. Whether it was working together to support the World Health Organization, standing up the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) in 2014, or responding to the Ebola crisis in West Africa in 2014, health security problems have been in existence long before the COVID-19 pandemic, and fruitful cooperation between the US and EU has helped minimize threats and advance health. In the last four years, however, the US has stepped away from international cooperation on health security issues with the EU as well as other partners.

The effects of US withdrawal from cooperating on health security challenges have been detrimental to both the US and EU, but the damage was more pronounced because of the most devastating health security issue of the last hundred years, the COVID-19 pandemic, which has thus far taken more than 1.7 million lives worldwide. Though there are now multiple authorized vaccines to prevent COVID-19 and many more candidate vaccines in development-- an amazing feat of science, not possible for any previous pandemic in history-- there cannot be enough vaccine manufactured and deployed to stop the pandemic for perhaps a year or more. After vaccination becomes routine, it is likely that the virus will remain endemic, and vaccines may need to be adjusted if the virus evolves away from protection by the vaccine.

The health security challenges for the US and EU will thus center around SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease, for years to come. US policy orientation towards international engagement has returned towards their previous state, and so the next four years are likely to bring a renewed interest in tackling COVID-19 as well as other health security issues cooperatively.1 It is now a good time to assess where lasting progress in health and health security can be made through a partnership between the US and EU, and to prioritize areas for action.



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