EU agrees post-Christmas vaccination plan

However, strategy depends on European Medicines Agency giving its approval for BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine.
Adobe stock

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

18 Dec 2020

The move was confirmed by the European Commission’s chief spokesman Eric Mamer at a news conference on Thursday.

Commission president Ursula von der Leyen had earlier made the announcement in a tweet.

Mamer said that, pending European Medicines Agency (EMA) approval, which is expected on 21 December, vaccinations will start across Europe a few days after Christmas, between 27-29 December.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen had previously called for a coordinated start to inoculations on the same day in all 27 EU countries.

Mamer said, “This is conditional on authorisation by the agency giving a positive assessment. If this goes to plan, we will launch a vaccination campaign on these dates.”

“This does not relate to just one particular vaccine but a portfolio of vaccines which we hope will be approved at a later stage.”

Explaining the procedure for the rollout, he said that once there is a positive recommendation from the EMA, EU Member States will be asked for their opinion and, following their endorsement, the Commission can then start putting that vaccine on the market. The vaccines will then be rolled out from what the Commission is callings “vaccine hubs.”

"This is a coordinated effort but that doesn’t mean everyone starts vaccinating on the same day. There are over 450 million citizens and conditions vary across Member States so the day (vaccination starts) itself is not important” European Commission chief spokesman Eric Mamer

“The aim is to complete this approval process within three days. Normally it takes up to 67 days so we are really speeding up the process. Deliveries of the vaccine will begin on 26 December and it is then up to each EU Member State to organise themselves.

"This is a coordinated effort but that doesn’t mean everyone starts vaccinating on the same day. There are over 450 million citizens and conditions vary across Member States so the day (vaccination starts) itself is not important.”

The Commission also confirmed it had concluded negotiations to purchase up to 100 million doses of the Novavax vaccines with the option of 100 million more.

The EU executive has now signed purchase agreements with multiple vaccine providers.

The spokesman said, “The aim is to establish a diversified portfolio of vaccines so as to guarantee we are well prepared once they are proved to be safe and effective.”

Asked about a vaccine rollout to other parts of the world, the spokesman said, “This is an issue we are looking at very seriously. We have made lots of contacts with countries in our neighbourhood and these are ongoing efforts.”

Meanwhile, the spokesman said that von der Leyen will not self-isolate following the announcement of Emmanuel Macron’s positive test result.

She met with the French president during a summit in Brussels last week, where German chancellor Angela Merkel and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte were also among those also present.

“The aim is to establish a diversified portfolio of vaccines so as to guarantee we are well prepared once they are proved to be safe and effective” European Commission chief spokesman Eric Mamer

Mamer said von der Leyen “has no plan on self-isolating.”

She met Macron earlier in the week, but French authorities said the meeting did not constitute a close contact that required self-isolation, the spokesman added.

European Council president Charles Michel has decided to self-isolate as a precaution after meeting with Macron.

Elsewhere, an EU strategy for COVID-19 vaccinations “that addresses challenges inside and outside the EU”, was debated by MEPs on Wednesday with Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas.

Schinas said current proposals are based on the principles of equal access, affordability and safety and the aim is to allow all 27 EU member states to start vaccinating at the same time.

Many MEPs applauded the EU’s approach to COVID-19 vaccines and underlined that while authorisation should be given as fast as possible, safety is of utmost importance in creating trust in the vaccines.

They backed a “very thorough and independent authorisation process, like the one being used in the EU.”

MEPs also deplored the disinformation about these vaccines that is circulating on social networks.

Several deputies reiterated that the process of approving and negotiating access to COVID-19 vaccines must be transparent and asked when the European Parliament would have access to the EU’s contracts with vaccines producers.

Replying, Schinas said he recognised the need for transparency but said the Commission is bound by confidentiality clauses, including on prices. The Commission, he said, is currently negotiating with companies to be able to share the content of the contracts more widely.

Schinas added that the EU has bought more than enough doses for everyone in the Union and will be able finance one billion COVID-19 vaccine doses for less developed non-EU countries through COVAX “so that no one is left behind, and because no one is safe until everyone is safe.”

Several members welcomed the EU’s rejection of vaccine “nationalism” saying the virus does not respect borders. The approach to vaccinations must be global, they said, and repeated that the EU has a leading role to play in facilitating equal access to vaccines across the world.

Categories

Health EU Institutions
Share this page