European Commission presents strategy on Covid-19 vaccine

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a media conference after an extraordinary meeting of the EU college of commissioners at EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell briefed the college on Wednesday regarding the current situation in Libya and Iran. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

The European Commission has presented a European strategy in a bid to speed up the development, manufacture and deployment of a Covid-19, with the aim of delivering a successful vaccine within 12-18 months.

With vaccine candidates having to go through a rigorous process – with many failing clinical trials – vaccine development regularly takes more than 10 years, but a Covid-19 vaccine, as the Commission recognises, is needed far sooner. And the development of the vaccine is not the only challenge: billions of doses may need to be produced quickly, without compromising the production of other essential vaccines.

The Commission thus believes that clinical trials need to be run in parallel with investments in production capacity and in securing raw materials, so that production can start as soon as – or even before – trials are concluded.

Its strategy aims to ensure the quality and safety of vaccines, secure swift access to vaccines for member states while playing a leading role in global solidarity efforts, and ensuring equitable access to an affordable vaccine as early as possible.

It proposes reaching advance purchase agreements with vaccine producers via the Emergency Support Instrument, an EU aid mechanism which has been activated in the wake of the pandemic. A significant part of the €2.7 billion ESI would be devoted to this effort, while the European Investment Bank can provide additional support through loans.

The Commission also proposes adapting the EU’s regulatory framework to accelerate the vaccine development and production process.

‘A moment for science and solidarity’

“This is a moment for science and solidarity. Nothing is certain, but I am confident that we can mobilise the resources to find a vaccine to beat this virus once and for all,” Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

She also pledged that the EU “will do all in its power to ensure that all peoples of this world have access to a vaccine, irrespective of where they live.”

Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said that cooperation was crucial to increasing the chances of securing a vaccine as quickly as possible.

“This is the EU at its best: pooling resources, joining efforts, bringing tangible results to the everyday lives of people. No one is safe until everyone is safe and we will leave no stones unturned in our efforts to protect EU and global citizens,” Kyriakides maintained.