The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has brought suffering to people globally through significant negative health, social, economic, political and psychologic consequences. Including a heavy burden was put on healthcare systems around the world during this period. National governments, regional and international organizations at all levels were challenged to identify their strategic priorities in order to find an effective, optimal response to the global pandemic.
One of the key challenges for experts dealing with this pandemic is not only to receive the latest information on the pandemic, but also to discuss and share with peers and learn from each other’s experiences, professional insights in thematic subjects. In order to address this need, the Regional Secretariat for South East and Eastern Europe Region of the European Union’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) Risk Mitigating Centres of Excellence (CoE) Initiative initiated a series of online webinars aimed to support national experts and relevant stakeholders, to complement the Initiative’s partner countries’ efforts in prevention and response of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2020 six online webinars were conducted on case and contact management, clinical case management, infection detection and control, laboratory diagnostics and virology, risk communication and community engagement, as well as interagency coordination. These webinars were conducted in close cooperation with the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, the World Health Organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency, national public health institutions, research laboratories, project consortia members, respective ministries and agencies in charge of the national and international response, and the EU CBRN CoE Project 53.
After completion of six webinars, an additional survey was disseminated in December 2020, in order to identify needs and gaps of individual countries to respond to the pandemic. One of the areas prioritized was the COVID-19 vaccination program planning and sharing best practices in this direction. The 7th Online webinar was organized on 31 March 2021 in order to provide the status update on COVID-19 vaccination in the European Region and success stories. Two distinguished experts were invited to this online event.
Dr. Verica Jovanović, Acting Director of the Institute of Public Health of the Republic of Serbia shared her country’s ongoing, successful vaccination campaign, demonstrating confident leadership not only in the Balkan region, but also in Europe. Dr. Siddhartha Datta, Regional Advisor for Vaccine-Preventable Diseases and Immunization in the WHO European Region, provided an overview of the COVID-19 vaccination progress, including the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility. Over forty participants attended the webinar.
As the way forward in terms of addressing our partner countries needs prioritized in early 2021, the SEEE Regional Secretariat plans to schedule a few additional webinar sessions. These sessions will cover subjects related to the COVID-19 waste management as well as the COVID-19 variants. This activity falls within the overall aim of the EU CBRN CoE Initiative to address, support and enhance the entire CBRN risk mitigating spectrum, including natural disasters or man-made incidents. One key pillar of the Initiative is the creation and support of regional networks for professionals to share expertise and experiences.
The 7th Online Webinar was moderated by UNICRI’s Regional Coordinator in close cooperation with the EU CBRN CoE Project 53, which provided simultaneous interpretation and the communication platform.