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COVID-19: EU health agency lacks data, transparency — ombudsman

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The European Union’s leading health agency faces a lack of reliable data from EU countries regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and is not transparent enough in some of its decisions, reports said.

“Transparency and accountability should be the bedrock of an institution that has a role in protecting public health,” European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly said in a press release on Tuesday.

For example, the agency had not been transparent about exchanges with its Chinese counterpart Centre for Disease Control (CDC), according to the press release.

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Some surveys the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) had conducted early last year had also not been published, the ombudsman found.

“Much more should have been done to communicate with the general public to explain how and on what scientific evidence the ECDC made its assessments,” she said.

A key actor in the EU response to the pandemic, the ECDC has gained prominence over the past months.

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It provides assessments on which vaccines are safe to use, for example, and makes recommendations on strategies to fight the outbreak.

The agency itself also did not have the power to collect independent data, the ombudsman found, meaning it is reliant on incomplete data.

This hampered the efficiency of the ECDC’s attempts to coordinate activities between EU countries, O’Reilly said.

“Too often, national authorities struggled to report complete data to the ECDC or did not even answer its appeals for important data,” she said.

This should be addressed by EU legislators, O’Reilly said.

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The ombudsman investigates complaints about EU institutions and can call on officials to testify.

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