Health-EU newsletter 259 - Focus
Our best shot against COVID-19: effective vaccination strategies and targeted vaccine deployment
John F. Ryan, European Commssion Director of Public Health, talks about a milestone in the fight against COVID-19. On 15 October, the Commission presented its Communication on preparedness for COVID-19 vaccination strategies and vaccination deployement to the European Parliament and the Council, outling the key steps guiding countries’ vaccination strategies and identifying actions to ensure vaccines are deployed effectively in the EU.
How close are we to having a COVID-19 vaccine?
We’re striving to do in a year or 18 months what usually takes a decade – develop a safe and effective vaccine. We took our first steps towards this goal in June, with the publication of the EU Strategy for COVID-19 vaccines.
The Strategy proposed a way to speed up the development and manufacturing of promising vaccine candidates by providing pre-financing, and to help Member States secure those vaccines at the best terms and conditions. The Commission negotiated with vaccine producers on behalf of Member States, purchasing and/or reserving the right to purchase vaccine doses under Advance Purchase Agreements. To date, three contracts for nearly 1 billion doses have been signed.
We don’t yet know which potential vaccine, if any, will meet the efficacy and safety criteria to be placed on the EU market. That’s why the EU needs a broad portfolio of vaccine candidatesto give us the highest chances of finding successful COVID-19 vaccine/s.
Why is this new Communication being hailed as a milestone?
Until now, we were focused on securing the production of vaccines. Now, we focused on supporting Member States to smoothly distribute and optimately use those vaccines when they become available.
Safety is paramount. It’s vital that citizens know that we will not cut corners. The European Medicines Agency will conduct an independent and scientific assessment for each vaccine candidate, and once authorised, the safety will be continuously monitored. Rolling data reviews from clinical trials have already started, which will be publically available.
We are not just looking out for our own. Last spring, we launched the Coronavirus Global Response, the global action for universal access to tests, treatments and vaccines against coronavirus and for the global recovery. We have helped raise almost €16 billion for this initiative and we are contributing €400 million to the COVAX Facility to speed up the development, manufacture and deployment of COVID-19 vaccines.
How long will it be before a significant portion of the general public is vaccinated?
Once authorised, the vaccines will be available to all Member States at the same time. But how long it takes to deploy and deliver the vaccines will depend on Member States’ national arrangements, which is why we need to start preparing NOW.
Member States should make sure that they have the skilled workforce, medical and protective equipment for vaccination services to deliver COVID-19 vaccines. In the early stages, supplies of one, or more, new COVID-19 vaccines will be delivered without interruption, depending on manufacturing capacity.
Who will get the vaccine first?
In the initial phases, when vaccines are more limited, Member States should consider prioritising certain groups, such as healthcare and long-term care facility workers and people over 60.
Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
Having a safe and effective vaccine is going to be a game-changer, but we cannot let down our guard while waiting for it. We have to remain vigilient: continuing testing, contact tracing and preparing health care systems as well as following the guidelines of our local health authorities.
Activities at EU level
European Commission – Health and Food Safety
European Commission – Health and Food Safety
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control
The Commission sent its Communication on Preparedness for COVID-19 vaccination strategies and vaccine deployment to the European Parliament and the Council on 15 October. Read the Communication here.
“While the evolution of the pandemic is getting back to March levels, our state of preparedness is not,” said the Vice President, saying that we now have a framework for coordination in place.
On 15 October, the Commission presented key elements for Member States to take into consideration for their COVID-19 vaccination strategies. The Commission is working to ensure equal access to safe vaccines across Europe, and encourages a coordinated approach.
The EU Vaccine Strategy, published in June, enables the European Commission to negotiate Advance Purchase Agreements with vaccine manufacturers on behalf of Member States. This effort is funded through the Emergency Support Instrument and additional support is also available from the European Investment Bank.
The webinar held on the Health Policy Platform informed health stakeholders about the initiatives taken over the last few weeks to secure a supply of safe and efficacious future vaccines.
In the Memorandum of Understanding with Member States on regulatory flexibility for COVID-19 vaccines, the Commission committed to further work with the Member States on labelling and packaging flexibilities to facilitate more rapid deployment of authorised vaccines.
This third video in a series celebrating the 75th anniversary of the United Nations looks at the EU-led Covid19 response resolution as a true success story of multilateral cooperation working to ensure equitable access to Covid19 vaccines for all.
The COVAX Facility, co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and WHO, aims to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.
The risk assessment shows that notification rates have increased steadily across the EU and the UK since August. Member States should roll out all necessary measures at the first sign of new outbreaks, says the ECDC.
Read the text of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ video message to the 2020 Global Vaccine Summit, held in New York on 4 June 2020.