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Rapidly adapting primary care sentinel surveillance across seven countries in Europe for COVID-19 in the first half of 2020: strengths, challenges, and lessons learnt.

Bagaria, J., Jansen, T., Marques, D.F., Hooiveld, M., McMenamin, J., Lusigman, S. de, Vilcu, A.M., Meijer, A., Rodrigues, A.P., Brytting, M., Mazagatos, C., Cogdale, J., Werf, S. van der, Dijkstra, F., Guiomar, R., Enkirch, T., Valenciano, M. Rapidly adapting primary care sentinel surveillance across seven countries in Europe for COVID-19 in the first half of 2020: strengths, challenges, and lessons learnt. Eurosurveillance: 2022, 27(26), Art. nr. 2100864

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Background and aim
As the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, primary care influenza sentinel surveillance networks within the Influenza - Monitoring Vaccine Effectiveness in Europe (I-MOVE) consortium rapidly adapted to COVID-19 surveillance. This study maps system adaptations and lessons learned about aligning influenza and COVID-19 surveillance following ECDC / WHO/Europe recommendations and preparing for other diseases possibly emerging in the future.

Methods
Using a qualitative approach, we describe the adaptations of seven sentinel sites in five European Union countries and the United Kingdom during the first pandemic phase (March-September 2020). Adaptations to sentinel systems were substantial (2/7 sites), moderate (2/7) or minor (3/7 sites).

Findings
Most adaptations encompassed patient referral and sample collection pathways, laboratory testing and data collection. Strengths included established networks of primary care providers, highly qualified testing laboratories and stakeholder commitments. One challenge was the decreasing number of samples due to altered patient pathways. Lessons learned included flexibility establishing new routines and new laboratory testing.

Conclusion
To enable simultaneous sentinel surveillance of influenza and COVID-19, experiences of the sentinel sites and testing infrastructure should be considered. The contradicting aims of rapid case finding and contact tracing, which are needed for control during a pandemic and regular surveillance, should be carefully balanced.