European Commission Outlines COVID-19 Vaccine Strategy

The European Commission (EC) is calling on its 27 member states to accelerate the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations across the European Union (EU) with targets set for March 2021 and the summer of 2021. 

In a communication document issued on January 19, 2021, the EC says by March 2021, at least 80% of people over the age of 80, and 80% of health and social care professionals in every member state should be vaccinated. By the summer 2021, the EC says member states should have vaccinated a minimum of 70% of the adult population.

“Vaccination is essential to get out of this crisis,” President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said in a January 19, 2021 statement. “We have already secured enough vaccines for the entire population of the European Union. Now we need to accelerate the delivery and speed up vaccination.”

To that end, in its communication, the EC says that EU member states and the European Medicines Agency “will work with companies to use the EU’s potential for increased vaccine manufacturing capacity to the fullest,”

The EC is also working with member states on vaccination certificates, in full compliance with EU data protection law, which can support the continuity of care. A common approach is to be agreed by the end of this month (January 2021) to allow member states’ certificates to be rapidly useable in health systems across the EU and beyond.

To ensure early access to vaccines in support of partner countries outside the EU, the EC is to set up a Team Europe mechanism to structure the provision of vaccines shared by EU member states with partner countries. The EC says that this should allow for sharing with partner countries access to some of the 2.3 billion doses secured through the EU’s Vaccines Strategy, with special attention to the Western Balkans, Eastern and Southern countries, and Africa.

The EC says it and EU member states will continue supporting COVAX, including through early access to vaccines. COVAX is one of three pillars of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which was launched in April 2020 by the World Health Organization, the EC, and France in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It brings together governments, global health organizations, manufacturers, scientists, private sector, civil society and philanthropy, with the aim of providing innovative and equitable access to COVID-19 diagnostics, treatments and vaccines. The COVAX pillar is focused on vaccines. Team Europe has already mobilized EUR 853 million ($1.4 billion) in support of COVAX, making the EU one of COVAX’s largest donors.

The EC is also calling for EU member states to update their testing strategies to account for new variants of the virus and expand the use of rapid antigen tests. The EC says member states should urgently increase genome sequencing to at least 5% and preferably 10% of positive test results. At present (as of January 19, 2020), the EC says many member states are testing under 1% of samples, which is not enough to identify the progression of the variants or detect any new ones.

Full details of the communication document can be found here.

Source: European Commission

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