Evaluation of the response to pandemic (H1N1) 2009 in the European Region

The 2009 pandemic tested national plans, and in the aftermath many countries and international organizations have evaluated their preparedness and response activities. Although European countries, particularly in the western part of the Region, were generally better prepared for the 2009 pandemic than most countries worldwide, countries:

  • experienced gaps in their surveillance and health care systems;
  • found their planning assumptions insufficiently flexible;
  • were confronted with communications and logistics issues with respect to pandemic vaccines; and
  • often failed to establish effective communication with front-line health care responders.

An evaluation performed by the WHO/Europe in collaboration with the WHO Collaborating Centre for Pandemic Influenza and Research showed that pandemic preparedness undertaken prior to the 2009 pandemic was useful in the response to the pandemic, and guidance from WHO and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) was critical in the preparedness phase. However, a global review of the functioning of the International Health Regulations (IHR) and the response to the pandemic by both WHO and Member States concluded that: “The world is ill-prepared to respond to a severe influenza pandemic or to any similarly global, sustained and threatening public-health emergency.”

Revision of pre-2009 plans needed

We can be certain that another influenza pandemic will occur, but neither when nor how severe it will be. Since the stress on the non-health care sectors was limited during the 2009 pandemic, only limited experience has been gained in intersectoral coordination and business continuity, which will be crucial in a more severe pandemic. Earlier findings from European assessments and exercises showing weaknesses in those areas are likely to still apply.

Since 2009, only 7 countries in the WHO European Region have published revised pandemic preparedness plans.

WHO/Europe supports Member States’ efforts to revise their pandemic preparedness plans, in synergy with all-hazards preparedness and implementation of the IHR (2005).