The European Union aims to scale-up its pandemic preparedness by establishing Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA), which will help predict threats and identify responses. The European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen held talks with CEOs of major pharmaceutical companies on Sunday, to discuss future vaccines strategy and how delays in production and distribution could be avoided in the short and medium-term. This comes after the recent lag in vaccine distribution in the region, which prompted calls for more advanced bio-defence preparedness.
"Industry will be an important partner. Work with industry will focus both on improving Europe's pandemic preparedness in the medium term and on helping address more immediate challenges linked to COVID19. In preparation for HERA, a pilot response on European Bio-defence preparedness is being launched already. The aim is to fund design and development of vaccines and scale-up manufacturing in the short and medium-term, and also to target the variants of COVID19," the Commission said after the talks.
The talks were held with companies with whom the European Commission has Advance Purchase Agreements, including BionNTech/Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Curevac, and Sanofi. The recent delays in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines pointed out the hole in the European health response system, which the bloc now aims to improve with the HERA pilot project. The discussion centred around the rapid development, manufacturing, and distribution of vaccines for the new emerging variants in order to avoid similar delays from occurring in the future. Further discussions will take place in the coming weeks.
The European Union's health system suffered a massive jolt after experiencing delays in vaccine distribution, which companies blamed on production issues at European sites. Europe is far behind from peers when it comes to inoculating its population. While the United Kingdom and the United States have administered 12.5 and 8.8 doses per 100 people respectively, the EU has only managed to vaccinate 2.6 doses per 100 people.
(Image Credit: AP)