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Statement by President von der Leyen at the Read-out of the College meeting/Press conference on the Commission's response to COVID-19

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op woensdag 17 maart 2021.

Good afternoon,

I am glad to be here with the Commissioners, indeed, Reynders and Breton to present to you the main results of today's College meeting. A main part of our discussion was the Regulation for the Digital Green Certificate. And allow me to touch briefly on it.

Firstly, what is the function of this certificate? It shows or states whether the person has either been vaccinated, or has a recent negative test, or has recovered from COVID-19 - and has thus antibodies. Secondly, this certificate will make sure that the results - or what it shows, the data, the minimum set of data - are mutually recognised in every Member State. And thirdly, with this digital certificate, we aim to help Member States reinstate the freedom of movement in a safe, responsible and trusted manner.

We also adopted a Communication laying down a common path to a gradual, safe and lasting re-opening. It points out what we need to do to get there - including a common framework for response measures, and measures covering everything from testing, treatments and vaccine sharing. These both points are aiming at the re-opening, but a pre-condition for that is vaccination and vaccines.

Therefore I would like to give you an update on where we stand with our vaccination efforts. We are now two weeks before the end of the first quarter since vaccination began in the Europe Union. And as you all know, as expected, the start was tough. It took time to scale up production of these new vaccines and the new technologies, until we had the processes stable, until the quality was at the level it was requested.

This was a difficult beginning, but the good news is that we have made progress. Now if we look at what has been delivered, we see that BioNTech-Pfizer and Moderna are delivering on their contracts. So for the first quarter, BioNTech-Pfizer will have delivered 66 million doses, as it is contracted. And Moderna will have delivered 10 million doses, also as it has been contracted for the first quarter.

But we also know that AstraZeneca has unfortunately under-produced and under-delivered. And this painfully, of course, reduced the speed of the vaccination campaign. Now, the figures are that, in the first quarter, AstraZeneca was supposed to deliver 90 million doses. They reduced, at first, down to 40 million. Now their projection is that AstraZeneca will deliver 30 million doses until the end of the first quarter. If AstraZeneca delivers what they have promised now by the end of this quarter, we will have delivered overall 100 million doses to the European people by the end of March.

Now we have to focus on the second quarter and the period until the summer. We know that we can achieve our target to have 70% of the adult population fully vaccinated by the end of this summer. And we know that deliveries will increase in the second quarter.

Let me give you figures and the picture: One more vaccine is approved and will kick-in, that is Johnson & Johnson. It will start in April. We should receive in the second quarter from Johnson & Johnson some 55 million doses - and I want to remind you that this is a one-shot vaccine. We also know that we can rely on the contracted doses by BioNTech-Pfizer. This will be 200 million doses to be delivered in quarter two and the same goes for Moderna, another 35 million doses.

As for AstraZeneca, unfortunately, they will only deliver some 70 million doses. This is down from the 180 million doses that they are contractually committed to deliver. But AstraZeneca announced that they will only be delivering 70 million doses. This is, with the numbers, the state of play for the second quarter.

Now, if we have a look at the epidemiological situation, it is getting worse. It is worrisome, we see the variants, mainly B.1.1.7. We see the crest of a third wave forming in Member States. And we know that we need to accelerate the vaccination rates.

And that brings me to my final point in this introduction, and this is export. Since the European Union has had an export authorisation scheme, we now have a clearer picture on the situation. We have this export authorisation scheme since 1 February - so it is six weeks - and since then, in these six weeks, we have received hundreds of requests for exports - in numbers, more than 300 requests for export - 314 have been granted, only one has been refused. If you put that in numbers of doses: In that time - these six last weeks - 41 million doses have been exported to 33 countries.

And this shows that Europe is trying to make international cooperation work, whether we do it through the funding of COVAX - we are the largest funder in COVAX - or through exports to other countries. But open roads run in both directions. And this is why we need to ensure that there is ‘reciprocity' and ‘proportionality'.

And I want to be clear on reciprocity: If the situation does not change, we will have to reflect on how to make exports to vaccine-producing countries dependent on their level of openness. So we are exporting a lot to countries that are themselves producing vaccines. And we think this is an invitation to be open. So that we also see exports from those countries coming back to the European Union.

And the second point that is of importance for us: We will reflect on whether exports to countries, who have higher vaccination rates than us, are still proportionate. In other words, we want reliable deliveries of vaccines, we want to see increases in the contracts, we want to see reciprocity and proportionality in exports. And we are ready to use whatever tool we need to deliver on that. This is about making sure that Europe gets its fair share. We will invest even further in Europe's capacity also beyond this acute phase. We are working with trusted companies to ensure long-term supply. And these are the messages I will take to the Leaders at the next European Council.

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