Consolidated Annual Activity Report 2021

ECDC corporate
Publication series: Annual Report of the Director

Suggested citation: European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Consolidated Annual Activity Report 2021. Stockholm: ECDC; 2022.

This report provides an overview of the Centre’s accomplishments for 2021 and a summary of the Centre’s financial and administrative operations.

Executive summary

2021 in brief

In 2021, ECDC delivered 74% of the outputs planned in its Single Programming Document 2021–2023. Nine per cent of the planned outputs were postponed to 2022, while 16% were delayed or had not yet started at the end of 2021. Most of the delays in delivering the planned 2021 outputs were due to the high COVID-19 pandemic-related workload at ECDC, in Member States and/or partner organisations (for details see Annex I Core business statistics 2021).

Work on the COVID-19 pandemic

Throughout 2021, for the second consecutive year, the ECDC public health emergency (PHE) plan in response to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic was maintained at the maximum level of alert. ECDC had started operating at PHE level 2, acute phase on 31 January 2020 and continues operating in this phase at the time of preparing the present report.

During 2021, ECDC efforts in curbing the pandemic included the following:

  • Surveillance strategies in different settings, such as long-term care facilities, and transition from emergency COVID-19 surveillance towards routine surveillance, covered in a number of rapid risk assessments and technical reports. Focus on methods for detection and characterisation of the virus, as well as laboratories capability and capacity;
  • Vaccination strategies and vaccine deployment plans, resulting in a number of technical reports and guidance, as well as the release of visual dashboards such as the Vaccine Tracker, operational since February 2021;
  • Behavioural insights into vaccination acceptance and uptake, as well as strategies to counter vaccine misinformation, covered in a series of technical reports and infographics;
  • • Follow-up and assessment of variants of interest (VoI) and variants of concern (VoC), resulting in the production of timely rapid risk assessments, threat assessment briefs, and technical reports, as well as the SARS-CoV-2 variants dashboard (available since May 2021), providing an overview of the proportion of variants of concern and variants of interest in EU/EEA Member States.
  • Predictive modelling and forecasting, resulting in the establishment of a COVID-19 forecasting hub in April 2021.

In order to support all the above-listed activities and address the incoming requests from stakeholders, ECDC maintained a robust response duty roster, as well as disease programme duty rosters and functional teams, such as the Infection Prevention Control/Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (IPC/NPI) team. Overall, the Centre conducted and published 22 rapid risk/outbreak assessments (RRA/Rapid Outbreak Assessment), half of which (11) assessed different phases and developments in the COVID-19 pandemic and responded to over 600 requests from stakeholders (European Commission, Member States and the media). The production of the weekly COVID-19 policy briefs initiated in September 2020 continued throughout 2021. Also, the maps in support of the Council Recommendation on a coordinated approach to travel measures in the EU and the Weekly Country Overview Report continued being regularly published on the ECDC website.

To meet the urgent need to strengthen Member States capacity for detecting and monitoring new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, ECDC set up an emergency contract to support, in particular but not exclusively, Member States with limited or no whole genome sequencing capacity in 2020. In collaboration with the European Commission, a second contract for whole genome sequencing services became operational in March 2021, providing support to all countries for sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 positive isolates. More than 120 000 samples from 11 EU/EEA Member States and four Western Balkan countries were processed between February and December 2021.

Along with the direct sequencing services, ECDC initiated the implementation of the laboratory capacity building activities under the EU Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority Incubator Action Area 1: Rapid detection of SARS-CoV-2 variants. In September 2021, ECDC awarded more than EUR 77 million to 24 EU/EEA countries to strengthen whole genome sequencing and RT-PCR infrastructures within the countries' national public health programmes. The immediate objective was to reinforce countries' capacities for early detection and enhanced monitoring of emergent and known SARS-CoV-2 variants. The implementation of the infrastructure and activities funded by ECDC grants started already in 2021 and will finalise by September 2022.