Thursday

3rd Dec 2020

Coronavirus

EU outlines vaccine roll-out plan

  • 'We are running out of time,' warned EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides (Photo: Hospital CLÍNIC)

The European Commission urged national governments on Thursday (15 October) to scale up efforts to flatten the curve of the second wave of coronavirus sweeping the continent, and recommended common measures for the roll-out of potential vaccines.

"We are running out of time," warned EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides, calling on member states to keep up the pace on testing and contact tracing efforts to slow the spread of Covid-19.

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  • The commission has sealed deals with AstraZeneca, Sanofi-GSK and Johnson & Johnson for potential Covid-19 vaccines (Photo: Global Panorama)

"Everyone's first priority should be to do what it takes to avoid the devastating consequences of generalised lockdowns," she added, warning that measures only work if there are also enforced effectively.

With new cases hitting about 100,000 daily, EU countries are seeing record numbers similar to those at the beginning of the pandemic in the spring. Thus the commission also warned domestic capitals about an increase of hospitalisations and fatalities across the bloc.

"While the evolution of the pandemic is getting back to March levels, our state of preparedness is not," warned EU commission vice-president Margaritis Schinas.

"Coordination and cooperation are the only way out of this," he added, urging member states to work together in the next phase of the pandemic to avoid the "cacophony" of unilateral measures seen during the first months of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, as scientific research for potential Covid-19 vaccines advances, the commission has now urged member states to adopt a common strategy for the deployment of vaccines for when a safe and effective shot is available.

"The vaccine will not be a silver bullet, but it will play a central role to save lives and contain the pandemic," said Kyriakides, cautioning against wasting time since since the vaccine could be available early next year.

Vaccination services to deliver coronavirus shots will require a skilled workforce, and medical as well as protective equipment, the commission said, warning domestic capitals to avoid shortages evidenced in March.

The so-called risk groups, such as people with chronic diseases, the elderly, and health workers, should be vaccinated first. The EU previously estimated that these groups represent at least 40 percent of its population.

But Kyriakides said on Thursday that the proportion of people to be prioritised would depend on the type of vaccine or vaccines available.

Cold storage requirements

The commission also warned member states about transport and storage requirements for the deployment of vaccines, especially in terms of a cold chain, cooled transport and storage capacity.

All member states will have access to Covid-19 vaccines at the same time, on the basis of population size.

Meanwhile, Brussels urged EU leaders to build public trust in the vaccines' safety and efficacy, warning about the risk of 'vaccine hesitancy' - which has become a phenomena in the past few years.

"This needs to be addressed quickly and proactively by member states even before we even have a Covid-19 vaccine," Kyriakides also said.

The European Medicines Agencies (EMA) is currently monitoring the quality, safety and efficiency of potential vaccines, analysing data from clinical trials.

Normally, all data on a medicine's effectiveness, safety and quality must be submitted at the start of the evaluation, in a formal application for marketing authorisation.

However, a dedicated EMA Covid-19 group was created to monitor all data as evidence became available from ongoing studies, to speed up the assessment of any promising vaccine.

But EU rules require that the safety and effectiveness of a vaccine have to be monitored even after authorisation.

EU countries will be invited to share their national surveillance data on unintended side-effects, if relevant, with other member states and the European authorities in a network of vaccine clinical trials.

According to the commission, "this will be key to instil confidence in Europeans".

During the summit, EU leaders will also discuss the current epidemiological situation and coordination efforts as well as the EU's vaccine strategy.

The commission has previously sealed deals with AstraZeneca, Sanofi-GSK and Johnson & Johnson for its potential Covid-19 vaccines, while it is also negotiating with CureVac, BioNTech-Pfizer and Moderna.

How EU aims - hopefully - to secure vaccine by end of 2020

The European Commission hopes to have 30m doses of AstraZeneca's potential coronavirus vaccine before the end of this year, to be distributed on a population-based pro-rata basis among the 27 EU countries - until the 300m doses negotiated arrive.

EU wants to pay in advance for promising vaccines

EU health ministers will discuss on Friday plans to have the Commission negotiate with pharmaceutical companies on behalf of EU countries, make advaced payments and secure enough vaccines for Europeans.

EU seeks new deal for '90% effective' Covid-19 vaccine

After an experimental Covid-19 vaccine developed by the American giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech was found to be more than 90 percent effective, the EU announced that it will sign a contract for up to 300 million doses.

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