“Distributing vaccines globally is our exit strategy from the pandemic,” International Partnership Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen eudebates COVAX initiative. Parliament wants to ensure developing countries’ access to vaccines and EU debates COVAX initiative progress.
The global pandemic has already caused the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives and disrupted the lives of billions more. As well as reducing the tragic loss of life and helping to get the pandemic under control, introduction of a vaccine will prevent the loss of US$ 375 billion to the global economy every month. Global equitable access to a vaccine, particularly protecting health care workers and those most-at-risk is the only way to mitigate the public health and economic impact of the pandemic.
MEPs want to ensure developing countries’ access to vaccines
COVID-19 vaccines should be produced also in developing countries to overcome the pandemic, development MEPs told Commissioner Urpilainen.
“Distributing vaccines globally is our exit strategy from the pandemic,” International Partnership Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen told the Development Committee, adding that the Commission will coordinate a “common EU vaccine sharing mechanism”, in which EU countries can donate part of their vaccines through the COVAX initiative program, especially when vaccine production is scaled up.
The EU is also seeking to scale up production capacity in developing countries and to contribute to strengthening their regulatory framework in the pharmaceutical field, she said.
“The main tool that the EU can help developing countries with” remains the COVAX assistance program, which aims to deliver vaccines to poorer countries and to which the EU contributed by €850 million, said the commissioner. She announced that COVAX initiative will start deliveries to 18 countries, including 12 low and medium income ones, by the end of February, Urpileinen added.
Vaccine manufacturing in developing countries
Welcoming EU’s involvement in the COVAX assistance program and its focus on distributing vaccines to developing countries in need, several MEPs nevertheless questioned the strategy of vaccine sharing, pointing to current shortage of vaccine doses in the EU itself.
Some speakers pressed for suspending vaccine patents as a way out: the EU must allow developing countries to produce their own inexpensive vaccinations instead of relying on EU charity, they said.
The President of the European Investment Bank welcomed publication of the first interim distribution forecast of the COVAX initiative marking a key step in enabling equitable global access to COVID-19 vaccines.
“COVAX shows how multilateral cooperation can help to tackle the global impact of COVID-19. Today’s confirmation of the first distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to vulnerable groups and front-line health workers around the world brings hope to millions. The EUR 400 million EIB support for COVAX, as part of Team Europe, was crucial to make this distribution possible, because early contributions to COVAX-AMC have led to earlier availability, which is the critical impact of the EU Bank’s support for vaccine equity.” said Werner Hoyer, President of the European Investment Bank.
Why we need COVAX
Developing a vaccine against COVID-19 is the most pressing challenge of our time – and nobody wins the race until everyone wins.
Publication of the interim distribution will enable national vaccination programmes by governments and health systems around the world. Final allocations will be published in due course.
Last December the European Investment Bank agreed to provide €400 million of financing to support the participation of low and middle income economies in COVAX Advance Market Commitment (COVAX AMC) as part of Team Europe’s support for the multilateral initiative. This has helped to accelerate up-front investment essential to deliver vaccine doses as soon as they become available.
The COVAX initiative aims to reach at least 20% of the population of lower-income countries across the world in 2021.