Europe’s vaccine rollout to take centre stage at online summit of EU leaders

Thursday and Friday's European Council meeting will see leaders discuss the EU’s response to the ongoing pandemic and the vaccination rollout strategy.
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By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

24 Feb 2021

The current rollout of Coronavirus vaccines in Europe is way behind that of several nations such as the UK, the US and Israel.

On Thursday, Parliament's environment and industry committees will meet with the leaders of various pharmaceutical companies to debate ways of how to increase vaccine production and improve delivery.

Ahead of that meeting, Dutch member Esther de Lange, the EPP group vice chairwoman responsible for economy and environment, said, “Nothing we can do is more costly than the human and economic cost of this pandemic. We must act faster and think bigger.”

Also on Thursday, the assembly’s environment committee will discuss new proposals to “better prepare” Europe for future health threats, namely strengthening the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and improving the existing rules on cross-border health threats.

German member Peter Liese, a medical doctor and EPP health spokesman, noted, “We need a European Health Union to better fight against pandemics in the future.”

“The EU summit on the Corona strategy on Thursday and Friday should take another step towards protecting Europe against the variants by finally adopting uniform travel rules, supporting the Commission’s investment and vaccine production capacity drive” Manfred Weber, EPP

Further comment came from EPP leader Manfred Weber who said, “The only acceptable strategy to fight the COVID pandemic now is ‘whatever it takes.’”

The German deputy added, “The EU summit on the Corona strategy on Thursday and Friday should take another step towards protecting Europe against the variants by finally adopting uniform travel rules, supporting the Commission’s investment and vaccine production capacity drive and taking the next step in preparing for a European vaccination certificate.”

His comments were echoed by Swedish MEP Heléne Fritzon, S&D vice-president responsible for health issues, who said, “It is clear the pandemic is not over and that we already need to prepare for future challenges now.”

She went on, “Even with vaccines being approved and new vaccines up for approval by the EMA, the challenges are still immense. There are substantial issues of vaccine availability due to insufficient production, supply and deployment. However, we should not only focus our attention on the current challenges, we also need to look ahead.”

“We need to urgently address new variants and mutations, to make sure that we have a better overview across Member States and make ample preparation to develop new vaccines and treatments. This is imperative to make sure that we face future challenges more effectively than now.”

“Even with vaccines being approved and new vaccines up for approval by the EMA, the challenges are still immense. There are substantial issues of vaccine availability due to insufficient production, supply and deployment”

Heléne Fritzon, S&D

Her group colleague, Jytte Guteland, S&D spokesperson on the environment, said, “The EU must take concrete action to boost the development and production of vaccines. Time is of the essence.”

“We also need to see how the Advance Purchase Agreements can be adapted to make sure that current shortcomings are addressed. When new agreements are concluded they should be more transparent to the public and complete with a special attention to production capacity.”

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