President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen spoke today at the European Parliament Plenary session about the implementation of the EU vaccines strategy, and the Commission's continued efforts to secure safe and effective vaccines for Europeans.
She said the vaccination campaign was gathering pace, as a total of 26 million doses of vaccine have been delivered in Europe since December, and over 17 million people had been vaccinated. “We will work as hard as we possibly can to meet our big target, which is to vaccinate 70 per cent of the adult population of Europe by the end of the summer,” von der Leyen said.
She emphasised that it was right that Europeans ordered the vaccines jointly and that they are sharing them ‘in a spirit of solidarity'. She equally called for this solidarity to be shown with EU's partners in the neighbourhood and across the world. “This is why we set up COVAX - the Facility in which high-income countries can finance the access to vaccines for low- and middle-income countries”, she reminded stressing that EU, together with its Member States, was COVAX's largest contributor.
President von der Leyen also spoke about lessons to be drawn, the first of them being the way in which data from clinical trials are shared with the European Medicines Agency. To improve it, the EU is setting up a European clinical-trial network.
“We were all highly focused on the development of the vaccine - and rightly so. But overall we have underestimated the difficulties inherent in mass production,” she continued, explaining how complex vaccine production was. To step up the industrial production of vaccines, the Commission has set up a Taskforce to identify the issues and propose solutions, so that industry keeps up with science.
Von der Leyen also announced the start of the Health Emergency Response Authority (HERA) project, including the presentation of EU's bio-defence preparedness programme, which is scheduled for 17 February. The aim is to prepare better, enable sharing of data across networks and improve the coordination of supply of key ingredients, so that European citizens are safer from potential future health crisis.