The Task Force for Industrial Scale-up of COVID-19 vaccines, set up by Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, facilitates the ramp-up of production capacity for COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics in Europe. Under the leadership of Commissioner Breton, the task force acts as a helpdesk for manufacturers in need of operational support and helps to address the needs of EU citizens as well as assist low- and middle-income economies around the world in establishing vaccine production capacity.
The task force explained
In February 2021, the Commission announced the creation of the task force in its communication on the ‘HERA Incubator: Anticipating together the threat of COVID-19 variants’.
The task force’s main activities include
- identifying and removing vaccine production bottlenecks in the EU
- mapping EU vaccine production capacities throughout the supply chain
- facilitating partnerships through matchmaking events for vaccine and therapeutics production
- ensuring sufficient long-term manufacturing capacity in Europe
- supporting global vaccine access and vaccine sharing efforts
The task force contributed to the rapid increase of Europe’s industrial capacity to produce vaccines. The EU aims to reach an annual production capacity of 2-3 billion doses by the beginning of 2022.
By mid-July 2021, the EU produced over 1 billion doses of vaccines, with 500 million vaccines delivered to EU countries, enough to vaccinate 70% of the EU adult population.
Monitoring bottlenecks and supply chain issues
The Task Force for Industrial Scale-up works closely with industry to identify vaccine production capacities and to identify the main bottlenecks in terms of capacity and supply chain issues.
The task force also helps industrial partners find suitable solutions to resolve shortfalls of key supplies, thereby avoiding significant delays or disruptions in vaccine production. For instance, since February 2021, the task force has been involved in addressing various supply chain bottlenecks, from single-use bioreactors, lipids for mRNA vaccines, low dead space syringes to vials. The task force has also engaged with manufacturers to support the launch of new production capacities.
To this end, the task force maintained engaged bilateral dialogue with companies that have advance purchasing agreements (APAs) with the EU, to ensure that companies deliver the number of vaccines they committed.
The task force also regularly visits production facilities contracted by APA companies to swiftly address any bottlenecks in production capacities.
Dialogues with EU national authorities are ongoing to coordinate efforts to upscale vaccine production capacities and to exchange information on developments at national level. The task force also facilitated industrial reviews between APA manufacturers and the EU countries where their facilities are located.
European production capacity mapping
The task force surveyed vaccine production capacity in the EU throughout the supply chain. The results of the survey, as well as more detailed knowledge gained through regular contacts with APA manufacturers, other industry partners and EU countries, contributed to a detailed mapping of EU vaccine production capacities.
The Task Force regularly updates mapping of the EU's vaccine production capacities and related EU supply chains.
Facilitating matchmaking and industrial partnerships
The task force also promotes new industrial partnerships through matchmaking events, bringing together actors all across the vaccine production supply chain.
The first EU matchmaking event was organised on 29 and 31 March and focused on expanding vaccine production capacity and tackling supply chain bottlenecks. The event gathered around 300 companies from 25 EU countries. The first day centred on matchmaking among manufacturing companies dealing with raw materials, manufacturing, coupling and formulation, and vaccine fill and finish. The second day focused on connections with suppliers across the vaccine production value chain.
A second matchmaking event, organised on 12 and 13 July, centred on the development and production of COVID-19 therapeutics. It welcomed close to 260 participants representing therapeutics developers, clinical research organisations, investors, manufacturers, suppliers, procurers from across the EU. The event also aimed at enhancing the participation of EU companies in the therapeutics value chains, speed up connections between organisations and help in retro-planning strategy for production.
Another matchmaking event held on 29 and 30 November broadened the focus to include treatment of COVID-19 symptoms, disposable material production, such as syringes, and required ingredients for medicines.
Building Europe’s future vaccine production capacities
The task force also contributes to broader efforts to ensure the EU’s preparedness for the possible emergence of new variants or other health-related emergencies in the future.
By preparing the ‘EU-FAB’ project, the task force is working to ensure sufficient EU manufacturing capacity for vaccines and therapeutics in the future. EU-FAB will consist of a network for multi-user, multi-technology ‘ever-ready’ production capacities. Capacity across the network will be reserved for mobilisation in case of an EU health emergency.
In the long run, EU-FAB will become an asset of the European Union’s Health Emergency Response Agency (HERA).
Increasing global production capacity for vaccines
Contributing to global access to COVID-19 vaccines by increasing production in Europe and the rest of the world is one of the EU's top priorities. For this purpose, we maintain direct contact with the COVAX Manufacturing Task Force and similar entities globally.
The task force works with other Commission services, including the Directorate-General for International Partnerships (INTPA), the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR), and the European External Action Service (EEAS). With a Team Europe approach, in partnership with EU countries and relevant stakeholders, we are actively engaged in developing vaccine production capacities around the world. In July, the Commission contributed to constructing a regional hub for manufacturing COVID-19 and other endemic disease vaccines in Senegal. The Institut Pasteur de Dakar will host this project. The hub will significantly increase Africa's medical and vaccine production capacity, reducing its dependence on imports, currently accounting for 99 % of its vaccine needs.
In June, following the EU – US Summit, we established an EU-US Vaccines Task Force to jointly work on the bottlenecks in the supply chains and other issues. This Taskforce will help to identify and solve problems related to the production of vaccines or therapeutics.