The human cost of the COVID-19 pandemic is unimaginable. So many of us have lost loved ones and are suffering from isolation. We have all seen the virus disrupting our lives. However, apart from grief, we must also share hope, rooted in the common will to fight back.

We know that global solidarity is crucial to end the pandemic, as we will not be safe until everyone is safe. We have committed from the start of the pandemic to making the COVID-19 vaccine a global public good. This is why all of our actions to defeat the virus choose multilateralism and partnerships.

Team Europe takes its global health actions to the next level

Team Europe is fully committed to working together and on behalf of the most vulnerable in the world. The EU and its Member States mobilised EUR 38.5 billion global response to support partners as they deal with the impact of COVID-19. This support, of which half is already disbursed, includes helping partner countries strengthen their health systems and prepare them for the deployment of vaccines.

For example in Niger, Team Europe project of 5 million euros, supports four hospitals with fully equipped, fully functional intensive care units, and personnel trained to use the delivered equipment.

We have a long-term commitment to help partners move towards global universal health coverage, with properly functioning primary health services for communicable and non-communicable diseases and reproductive health. In the wake of the pandemic, we will be taking our global health action to the next level.

We will reinforce our efforts to build resilient health systems and help our most fragile partners, especially in Africa, be better prepared for future sanitary crises and have better capacity. This includes more bilateral health programmes for priority countries and, leveraging investments in global health initiatives, such as the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

The COVID-19 vaccine is a global public good

Right now, the acute question is about vaccines. Team Europe is working on preparedness of our partners. We are assisting partners with technical assistance and guidance to prepare national vaccination strategies, logistics, and information campaigns. National ownership and responsibility for preparing and deploying COVID-19 vaccines remains paramount.

Efforts to guarantee equitable vaccine for everyone started early on. We hosted a pledging marathon, which raised a total of EUR 15.9 billion to develop and deploy vaccines, tests and treatments. As a result, Team Europe’s support to the most promising manufacturers in both vaccine development and build-up of manufacturing capacity helped to speed up the process, which usually takes years, into less than one year.

We have together with our partners set up the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator initiative and the COVAX Facility, a global initiative bringing together governments and manufacturers to ensure COVID-19 vaccines reach those most in need.  Team Europe has invested EUR 850 million to help secure 1.3 billion doses of vaccines for 92 low and middle-income countries by the end 2021.

The recent announcement on indicative allocation of vaccines to COVAX participants for the first half of 2021 is an important development for access to vaccines worldwide. Eighteen countries will receive Pfizer vaccines in the next weeks based on their epidemiological situation and readiness to handle ultra-cold chain. Each of the 145 countries, including the 92 low and lower-middle income countries, will receive their share of vaccines from Pfizer and AstraZeneca, enough to vaccinate their entire health workforce.

Our support will continue, as we are setting up an EU vaccine sharing mechanism with a strong link to COVAX. This is a strong show of hope and solidarity with our partners, which will allow us to share part of the vaccines procured through our purchase agreements. We are now discussing with Member States and COVAX how to proceed quickly.

Transformational change comes through structural improvement

Local solutions complement our global efforts. The pandemic has highlighted the need for more pharmaceutical investments and manufacturing capacity in Africa. We need to scale up local manufacturing and production capacity, and build stronger pharmaceutical regulatory frameworks in Africa. This is key to protecting millions of people from disease and strengthening resilience.

We are already helping develop local manufacturing capacity in the southern part of the continent. Now we are exploring how we can help our partners scale up local manufacturing and production capacity elsewhere in Africa. This could have a strong, transformational and generational impact.

The race to vaccinate the world against COVID-19 has kicked off and it is not a surprise that there is tension given the pressure on all to protect their citizens. However, we are not racing against one another but against the mutating and spreading virus. Team Europe remains united and steadfast in its belief that only solidarity, partnerships and multilateralism will get us together over the finish line.

No one can achieve this alone and we must boost partnerships with influential actors and major donors in Global Health, to ensure coherence of initiatives. It is by coming together on vaccine research, mass production and distribution, that we will deliver safe and fair access to vaccines to all that need it, leaving no one behind.

Jutta Urpilainen

Commissioner for International Partnerships