Parallel deals to buy vaccines would undermine European approach, EC warns

The Commission finances ongoing studies on EU-wide Covid-19 jab safety and effectiveness

Photo: EU Stella Kyriakides.

Assessing the state of play of the EU’s strategy for fighting the Covid-19 pandemic and the vaccine rollout in the different Member States, was the main item on the agenda of the informal video conference of the European Union Health Ministers. The meeting, held on Wednesday, was chaired by Marta Temido, Portugal’s Health Minister.

European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, as well as representatives from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA), also took part.

Saying that in addition to the two vaccines already authorised for the EU market, more will hopefully come in the next weeks, Commissioner Kyriakides stressed she is delighted to see that vaccination has started in all Member States with a focus on priority groups – such as older persons and health professionals.

She recalled that the EU has secured the broadest portfolio of vaccines in the world via the Vaccines Strategy, with at least eight promising vaccine candidates “giving us access to over than 2.3 billion doses of potential safe and effective vaccines”.

Talking about the major benefits for everyone by working together, Commissioner Kyriakides said that “negotiating jointly has allowed us to achieve better deals and conditions than would otherwise be possible for any individual country, without the need to run a procurement procedure at national level to purchase them”.

By signing the Agreement, you all confirmed your participation in the procedure and agreed not to launch your own procedures for purchase of that vaccine with the same manufacturers, she recalled, noting that parallel deals would undermine the European approach that has paid off.

But what saves lives is not vaccines, it is vaccination and we need to urgently prioritise and speed up the rapid, equitable and effective roll out of vaccines so it reaches citizens as quickly as possible, she urged.

“We have been working hard together to ensure that you are ready for the roll out at all levels. We are at the very beginning of this process, and, as expected, supply during the first months will be limited. There have been teething problems. To an extent that is normal. But that is why already in October I asked you all to define priority groups,” the Commissioner underlined.

She also pointed out that the EU executive is following vaccination in Member States closely, via the Health Security Committee and the weekly Integrated Situational Awareness and Analysis reports.

The Health Commissioner announced as well that the ECDChas created a new module in the European Surveillance System TESSy so that Member States can report on their vaccines roll out.

So I want to take this opportunity to urge you all to report to ECDC on the roll out at least twice per week, she said adding that “accurate, timely data is vital if we are to support you in this mammoth task”.

On the joint procurement procedure for medical equipment needed for vaccination, Commissioner Kyriakides specified that EU countries can order a large variety of items immediately, including syringes, needles and gloves. “I urge you all to make use of this option so that the roll out can continue rapidly and fluidly.” 

Studies on EU-wide COVID-19 vaccine safety and effectiveness, coordinated by EMA and ECDC and financed by the Commission with €12m, are ongoing.

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