For the EPP Group, the best vaccine supply, its quickest and most effective rollout to all European citizens, respecting the highest safety standards provided by the European Medicines Agency’s authorisation, is the most urgent task at this moment. The European approach has to be “whatever it takes”. The current Corona situation in Europe makes clear: we must become even faster and think even bigger. The European approach is the right one, since no Member State can overcome COVID alone. However, Europe has to become even more ambitious and Member States have to be fully supportive.
The EPP Group proposes the following 10-point plan:
- A 10 billion euros vaccination investment offensive to identify and set-up additional vaccine production capacities should be launched. We need a European pharmaceutical alliance. When possible and reasonable, all production sites must switch to manufacturing COVID vaccines. We want to mobilise all funds, including those available for civil security and health research, to immediately contribute to improve Europe’s production and distribution capacity. Fighting the pandemic should be linked to and be an integral part of the European security architecture. Furthermore, we need to explore ways to work together with our international partners - the US above all - allowing them to scale up production of vaccines and protective equipment through a coordinated technology transfer and while safeguarding intellectual property rights. The public good, and not corporate interests, should be the guiding principle. We support the Commission to put pressure on AstraZeneca to deliver on the contract signed and scale-up production further. We ask the Commission to explore options for setting up a permanent industry-financed and EU-supported fund for joint research and for production at risk in the run-up to authorisation and welcome the Commission plan to establish HERA.
- A vaccine production task force including a supply chain co-ordinator implementing the decisions taken by the European Commission has to be set up to ensure the continuous monitoring and supervision of existing production capacities as well as finding ways to enhance their output further and monitor future needs. The EU has to know the state-of-play and progress of vaccine production across our continent on a day-to-day basis. For doing so, we support the establishment of this new task force to scale up industrial production of vaccines, eliminate bottlenecks, work on the vaccine production for virus variants and to structure a faster response to bio-hazards at EU-level, especially through the establishment of special European production facilities. The task force should cooperate closely with the European Medicines Agency and the relevant national authorities, under the supervision of the Commission.
- We should broaden Europe’s supply of safe and effective vaccines: the European Commission should finalize the purchase agreement with Novavax as a matter of urgency. All vaccines need to be authorised by EMA. Existing vaccines should be used more efficiently. For example, BioNTech/Pfizer has to explore the possibility, together with EMA and Member States, to allow the withdrawal of a 7th dose if conditions are right. In addition, EMA has to evaluate the possibility of an additional, 11th, dose of the Moderna vaccine.
- We need to increase data sharing in Europe: while safeguarding and respecting personal and patient data, Member States need to increase their willingness to share critical data on issues such as new strains, variants, and mutations. The European Commission should set up digital platform for this critical data-exchange in line with data protection rules.
- We need a more transparent, cooperative and robust engagement with the industry. We support the Commission’s proposal for an export monitoring mechanism and do not rule out an export ban. We need to know what is produced in Europe and what enters and leaves our continent. All vaccine contracts with private companies need to be put on the table. Where the behaviour of companies leads to questions, these need to be answered quickly. In case a company fails to co-operate with the EU or displays bad-faith behaviour, the EU must have the option to recuperate part or all of its up-front investment into that company or its products. The same must be the case for third countries: Why does Boris Johnson limit the export of vaccines to the EU, while we continue to supply to the UK? More transparency is needed.
- The major Western industrial states must finally agree on a common Corona strategy. Europe has to take the lead together with the United States to combat COVID globally. The UK, as current chair, should immediately invite to a G7 vaccine summit. The vaccine egoism must end.
- We need to secure the EU against new aggressive COVID-19 mutations also at its external borders: Member States must enforce strict uniform rules on the entry of travellers from high-risk areas outside the EU, in particular air passengers, and implement a joint Passenger Locator Form as well as unified quarantine rules.
- We call for the European Council in February to focus on developing and ensuring that the rollout strategy in each Member State will be ready as quickly as possible. Each Member State should be equipped with the necessary medical equipment, logistical, and communication capacities to guarantee that all vaccine produced will be delivered and used on the spot within a very short timeframe. If necessary, cross-border aid amongst Member States should be mobilised, as well as all available EU structures and assets, such as RescEU or the European Solidarity Corps.
- Develop an early warning system and adaptation plan for COVID-19 mutations. We welcome the efforts taken by the European Commission and insist that preparing for COVID mutations is a European top priority. We need the necessary production capacities and supply chains to adapt vaccines to new mutated strains as quickly as possible.
- The European Union has to ensure that Europeans are not threatened by new variants in their neighbourhood. Europe needs a vaccine and general epidemiological neighbourhood strategy, for example in the Western Balkans and the Mediterranean. In addition, the European Union has to coordinate closely with the WHO and the African Union on building and scaling up vaccine production for the African continent and poorer countries to beat the virus globally and in order to prevent vaccine-resistant variants developing in our neighbourhood. This support could include comprehensive collaboration and technology transfer, safeguarding all intellectual property rights.
The EPP Group is the largest political group in the European Parliament with 187 Members from all EU Member States