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21st Jan 2021

Coronavirus

Commission plans strategy to 'maximise' vaccine access

  • Health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said she is in talks with a 'a large number of companies working with the vaccines' (Photo: European Commission)

The EU Commission plans to come forward with a strategy in mid-June to "maximise access to the vaccine" against coronavirus.

"We are in conversation with a large number of companies working with the vaccines," EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides told a group of journalists on Thursday (4 June).

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"We need to be sure that we have as much as possible a coordinated approach. I am working with member states and industry on this, in order to define the needs and maximise access to the vaccine when it becomes available," the Cypriot commissioner said.

"The vaccine cannot be a luxury for a selected few. It has to be accessible to all citizens everywhere," she added.

The EU commission, in the meantime, is seeking a mandate from member states to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies on funding and procuring possible vaccines and to secure doses for all citizens.

The issue was discussed on Wednesday among EU diplomats, with few reactions to the commission's proposal, and no decision made, one official said.

Details of the plan will be on the agenda when EU health ministers meet next Friday (12 June).

Ministers will also discuss how a separate track of vaccine-funding by an alliance of member states - the Netherlands, France, Germany and Italy - and the commission's ambitions would complement each other.

The four member states are seeking to start talks with drug makers and jointly explore various promising vaccine initiatives.

Once those initiatives are identified, the countries will look into funding or joint procurement.

The aim of the so-called "Inclusive Vaccine Alliance" is to secure enough vaccines for Europe and is open for any EU countries to join.

The "alliance" argues that while the commission's mandate takes time, member states are ready to start negotiating immediately, and speed is a key question in the search for vaccine.

The countries look at it as kickstarting the process, which is open to other EU countries and commission expertise.

Kyriakides said she thinks that everybody needs to be onboard and working effectively together in order to reach the vaccine.

"We are in close contact and it is understandable that member states want to move forward in that direction because they have concerns in terms of finding a vaccine as quickly as possible," she said - emphasising that the alliance is open to other member states.

EU countries are eager to ensure access to any vaccine, over fears that China or the United States may want to control purchases of such vaccines.

Kyriakides argued for a global approach.

"I don't see the issue to do with finding a vaccine to be a fight or a competition, because when you deal with a pandemic as a global public health issue as we all have, we know we are all in this together, she said.

"We need to understand this. We can only move forward if we are all in this together," the commissioner said.

The commission also plans to unleash €2bn from the Emergency Support Instrument (ESI) to help companies mitigate the financial risk of doing clinical trials for possible vaccines while already starting production, which might have to be halted if the trials fail.

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