Brussels (Brussels Morning) Another EU contract with pharmaceutical company Pfizer and its associate BioNTech should secure up to 300 million doses of the corona vaccine now under development.
The European Commission has already signed contracts with other pharmaceutical giants and is in talks with two others to land an EU deal, on condition that the vaccine proves safe and effective against COVID-19.
The vaccines are still only undergoing trials with the race for market authorisation to follow. The next phase provides for quick distribution among EU countries.
New EU health authority
EU action on public health advanced today when the Commission set out its plans for a Health Emergency Response Authority (HERA), which should be up and running in a year’s time. The aim is to respond to cross-border health threats and be responsable for declaring EU emergency situations.
The two agencies already working in the health domain, the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) and the EU Medicines Agency (EMA), will continue in their functions.
The Commission wants to improve on EU disease control and epidemiological surveillance based on improved data analysis by giving the ECDC a mandate for real-time decision-making. The Centre for Disease Control already supports EU countries but in the future should become a real EU Health Agency with the authority to respond to crises in real time.
In April, the Commission set up a clearing house for distributing medical equipment and devices across Europe which also helped out with emergency support for buying therapeutic medicines and rapid testing systems. However, the Commission recognises that this still is insufficient.
The EMA’s mandate is to be scaled up so that the agency can mitigate risks of critical medicine shortages and give advice on medicines, clinical trials and on the safety of vaccines.
European Health Union
The whole approach dderives from the current health emergencies, at the start of which the Commission’s capacity for assisting EU countries was deemed largely inadequate.
Today in Brussels, Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides enthusiastically defended the approach to create a European Health Union, another policy drive, in the face of increased criticism of the economic impact of the corona containment measures.
”I fully understand the pandemic fatigue. It’s difficult to live with these disruptions”, the Commissioner said. ”But we need to stick to these measures.”
The Commission is still hopeful that the latest vaccine will help tackling the viral outbreak.
”In the future, we will have EU outbreak response teams and we will facilitate the development of treatments and vaccines”, Kyriakides said.
”The EU can tackle shortages of medical devices, making sure treatments are available for patients and sending assistance when there is an outbreak of disease.”