Von der Leyen: We will only fight the virus if we are united

The Commission works hard to achieve the goal - 70% of the adult population vaccinated by the end of summer

Photo: EP Ursula von der Leyen.

The vaccination campaign in Europe has gained momentum in many places and 26 million vaccine doses have been delivered in Europe since December, said EC President Ursula von der Leyen, at the EP debate on the state of play of the EU's Covid-19 Vaccination Strategy responding the concerns of lawmakers about delays in deliveries, contracts and data transparency.

She told lawmakers that more than 17 million people have been vaccinated and reassured them that the Commission will keep working as hard as possible to achieve our goal to vaccinate 70% of the adult population in Europe by the end of summer. She also added that the Commission is already drawing lessons from this process for the future.

President von der Leyen also stated that “We will only meet the challenge to fight the virus if we are united, as our common enemy is the virus”.

 “We were and we are right as Europeans to order the vaccine together and to now distribute it in a spirit of solidarity. The same solidarity must also be shown with our partners in our neighbourhood and across the world. This is also a matter of stopping the spread of the virus to reduce the likelihood of mutations. The access to vaccines for low and middle-income countries is therefore as much about our own interest as it is about solidarity. Our responsibility extends far beyond Europe's borders.”

Von der Leyen recalled that together, the EU Member States and institutions are one of the biggest contributors to the COVAX initiative, which will start delivering vaccines to low and middle-income countries in February. She informed MEPs that production of new vaccines is a very complex process as it is not possible to set up a production site overnight.

For this reason the Commission has created a Task force to increase the industrial production of vaccines, under the authority of our Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton.

The aim is to detect problems and help solve them. Industry has to match the ground-breaking pace of science, she explained.

Von der Leyen also highlighted the need for preparedness against the new variants and for future pandemics.

“The battle against the virus is a marathon and not a sprint. It needs foresight, endurance and stamina. Almost every day we hear news of different variants and how contagious they are. We do not yet have the full picture when it comes to the effectiveness of treatments and vaccines on new strains. But we do know these variants will continue to emerge. And we do know that we need to anticipate and prepare immediately.”

This is why we start our new HERA project now, by launching our preparedness agenda against new variants next week, she said noting that to defeat the virus, “we need to know as much detail about it as possible.”

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