COVID-19 crisis having ‘huge toll on children, warn MEPs

European parliament’s warning comes as EU authorises use of fourth COVID-19 vaccine.

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

12 Mar 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic risks having a “disproportionate and devastating” impact on children and their future, according to a European Parliament motion.

This, they said, is especially for up to 100 million of the most vulnerable children already living in poverty, homeless and in “precarious situations.”

A new Parliament resolution - overwhelmingly passed by members - states that more children than before are falling victim to violence, abuse and exploitation during the ongoing health crisis, and that their physical and emotional health is “drastically worsening.”

The resolution, adopted on Thursday (11 March), highlights the “huge toll” that the COVID-19 crisis is having on children, “further exacerbating their risk of poverty, severely affecting their access to education, compromising their physical and mental health and increasing the danger of being exposed to violence and abuse.”

MEPs, through the resolution, urged the European Commission to immediately table a legislative proposal to establish a “European Child Guarantee”.

Spanish Socialist MEP Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar, rapporteur on the dossier, said, “The current pandemic has exacerbated the inequalities experienced by so many children across Europe. We call on the Commission and EU Member States to allocate the necessary funds to protect them and to take concrete measures to end poverty, sexual abuse and exploitation.”

“The current pandemic has exacerbated the inequalities experienced by so many children across Europe. We call on the Commission and EU Member States to allocate the necessary funds to protect them and to take concrete measures to end poverty, sexual abuse and exploitation” Spanish Socialist MEP Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar

His comments were echoed by Romanian Renew Europe Group MEP Ramona Strugariu, who said, “I am grateful that our concerns, such as improving the fight against all forms of violence, online and offline, protecting the right to education that was severely affected by the Covid-19 crisis or the importance of creating a safe environment for vulnerable children through social investment, are well reflected in the final text.”

“These concerns need to be addressed in the upcoming Commission Strategy."

Meanwhile, the African, Caribbean and Pacific states (ACP)-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly has called on the EU to make COVID-19 vaccines “a global public good that is accessible to all.”

On Friday, the Joint Parliamentary Assembly adopted a resolution calling on the EU and its member states to provide greater support to ACP countries.

The Assembly’s co-chair Carlos Zorrinho, a Portuguese Socialist deputy, noted, “The COVID-19 pandemic is a global crisis that requires a global response. We therefore expect EU member states and ACP countries to cooperate constructively with each other to combat the pandemic within the framework of multilateral institutions.

“These are needed more than ever and should be strengthened even further, rather than being weakened. None of us are safe until all of us are safe.”

“COVID-19 vaccines should be a global public good that meet everyone’s health needs, regardless of their origin and means. These essential products should not be treated like any other commodity and be used for profit. We must prioritise making safe and affordable vaccines globally available” ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly  co-chair Carlos Zorrinho MEP

He said, that as highlighted by the World Health Organisation, “COVID-19 vaccines should be a global public good that meet everyone’s health needs, regardless of their origin and means. These essential products should not be treated like any other commodity and be used for profit. We must prioritise making safe and affordable vaccines globally available.”

“We must support ACP countries more with vaccination programmes through the COVAX scheme and by establishing an ACP-EU vaccination agreement.”

This aims to vaccinate at least a third of Africa’s adult population against COVID-19, roughly around 235 million people, in the next twelve months and a further 33 percent the following year. To achieve this, though, it is estimated that the EU and the African Union would have to raise around €4bn.

Several ACP countries like Ghana, Rwanda, Malawi, Uganda, Fiji, Nigeria and Angola have already been able to benefit from immunisation against COVID-19 through the COVAX global vaccine scheme.

COVAX aims to purchase two billion doses by the end of 2021, including at least 1.3 billion doses for low- and middle-income countries. The EU and its Member States have pledged to fund more than a third of COVAX with a total of €2.2bn.

Elsewhere, the Commission on Thursday granted a conditional marketing authorisation for the COVID 19 vaccine developed by Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, one of the Janssen pharmaceutical companies of Johnson & Johnson. It is the fourth COVID-19 vaccine authorised in the EU.

“The Janssen vaccine is the fourth authorised vaccine of the EU’s portfolio and will help us enhance the vaccination campaign in the second quarter of 2021. It only requires a single dose, which takes us another step closer to achieving our collective goal of vaccinating 70 percent of the adult population by the end of summer” European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen

This authorisation follows approval by the European Medicines Agency.

Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said, “The Janssen vaccine is the fourth authorised vaccine of the EU’s portfolio and will help us enhance the vaccination campaign in the second quarter of 2021. It only requires a single dose, which takes us another step closer to achieving our collective goal of vaccinating 70 percent of the adult population by the end of summer.”

Further comment came from Stella Kyriakides, EU commissioner for Health and Food Safety, who said, “Our portfolio now contains four safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines that we are working tirelessly to deliver to citizens in Europe and beyond as soon as possible. A single dose vaccine can make a difference in the speed of rollout.”

She added, “The entry on the market of the Janssen vaccine ensures that we have access to a total of up to 1.8 billion doses of approved vaccines from different technology platforms – this is key to ensuring access to vaccinations for Europe and our international partners. We will continue to work tirelessly to support vaccine producers and ensure they deliver doses, as agreed in our contracts."

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