Ladies and gentlemen,
Over the past weeks, vaccination is really starting to pick up the pace across the EU. The numbers speak for themselves. Last week we saw more than 34 million doses delivered - a record in deliveries until now. By now we have passed the milestone of 200 million deliveries in the EU.
At present, over 30% of the EU adult population has received a first dose and for the second dose we have reached 12%. In every Member State, large and small, vaccination centres are mobilised, citizens are being vaccinated, and the numbers are increasing.
I would say that within the EU, we can now look ahead with confidence that we should be able to reach our target of vaccinating 70% of the adult population already in July.
While this is of course very positive news, vaccines cannot be our only response to COVID-19. Vaccinations are a life-saving game changer, but they will not end the pandemic from one day to another.
We also cannot look past the facts. COVID-19 infections are still high in many parts of Europe. People continue to be infected and fall ill. And among those who recover from COVID-19, we know that many suffer from what is known as ‘long COVID', experiencing symptoms of fatigue, difficulties to sleep, concentration issues and this weeks, even months, after the infection is gone.
Scientists tell us that it is likely that COVID will become endemic. A virus that circulates in our communities, which we will still have to deal with. Like influenza, or the other 3 human coronavirus we already know about. We need to manage it, control it, and minimise its impacts. We need to provide citizens with therapeutic solutions and choices.
For that, we will also need to treat the disease - not just inoculate our citizens against it, so that we can minimise the impacts of this virus.
Let us also remember the variants, and the challenges they pose to the management of the pandemic, and our vaccination strategy. Even after vaccinations, with the virus circulating, people will need to be treated.
While we now have four authorised vaccines in the EU, there is one authorised medicine, Remdesivir. Our Strategy on COVID-19 Therapeutics aims to change this situation. We have said that we will leave no stone unturned at the beginning of the pandemic. The Strategy on COVID-19 Therapeutics we are presenting today, adds another stone to our COVID-19 response.
It is crucial that alongside vaccines, we also step up our work on therapeutics, and bring the different strands of our work together to speed up recovery, reduce hospital stays and save lives. To help those who are experiencing more long-term effects of this disease. This is also taking a major toll on people, as many of us already know.
I have set a very clear goal: We will aim to, by October, develop and authorise three new effective COVID-19 therapeutics that can have the potential to change the course of COVID-19, and another two possibly by the end of the year.
This is ambitious, but it is feasible - and it is necessary. We have learned over the course of the past year that by working together across the EU, we are ableto achieve real results, to bring about change for our citizens, and to deliver what is expected from us.
To do so, our Therapeutics Strategy will kick off a series of actions addressing the entire lifecycle of a medicine, looking at:
Boosting research and large scale clinical trials in the EU
Scanning for the most promising therapeutics
Facilitating the timely authorisation process
Ensuring industrial production
Securing equitable deployment and ensure fair access
Let me give you a few specific examples of where the Therapeutics Strategy will allow us to have a stronger effect compared to one-off, uncoordinated actions today.
Firstly, we have to know what promising treatments are out there. We will set up a ‘therapeutics innovation booster' to accelerate research and bring results to market.
We will also carry out a comprehensive scanning exercise, building on the 57 potential therapeutics whose manufacturers have been in touch with the European Medicines Agency already.
On the back of this intense research and scanning, the European Medicines Agency should be able to start seven additional rolling reviews by the end of the year.
We are not starting from scratch. But as our experience with vaccines has shown, once the difficult research and clinical trial stages are passed, manufacturing capacity can potentially be a bottleneck.
That is why we will support flexible EU manufacturing and access to ever-warm industrial facilities reserved to produce for us, with a first funding tranche of €40 million under the EU Fab project, which is part of our HERA Incubator.
Finally, we also want to make sure Member States have equal access to these medicines. By the end of the year, we plan to conclude a further three joint procurements of COVID-19 therapeutics.
We are also looking into the option of using advance purchase agreements - as we did for vaccines - to maximise our impact.
These are a few of the key points of our Strategy, which, going beyond COVID-19, is also part of the foundations for our future biomedical preparedness and prepare the ground for our new authority - HERA - to structurally take over once operational.