It’s quite simple really: the quicker the world develops a successful COVID-19 vaccine, the faster we can put the pandemic behind us. Diagnostics and treatments can help us gain ground. But immunisation is one of the best paths to actually eradicate the virus.
Global solidarity is crucial. Without collaboration now, there won’t be cooperation later — and that could spell disaster for an equitable rollout that ensures the most vulnerable people in the world have access to the tools needed to fight COVID-19 too. Otherwise, a vaccine may very well be sold to the highest bidder.
It’s therefore welcome news that the European Commission (EC) — the executive arm of the European Union (EU) that proposes and enforces EU legislation — proposed on Thursday its strategy to accelerate the development, manufacturing, and deployment of vaccines against COVID-19.
The EC’s strategy puts equality at the forefront of its work, prioritising the idea that nobody is safe until everybody is safe. It recognises that the hunt for a vaccine is not a European mission — it’s a global struggle.
There are three parts to the EC’s plan. First, it ensures the quality, safety, and efficacy of the development of a coronavirus vaccine, potentially within 12 to 18 months. It then focuses on leading the global solidarity effort while securing swift access for EU member states. It will also tackle equitable access, making sure a vaccine is affordable for everyone as quickly as possible.
It’s a joined-up EU approach that will bring more investment to individual vaccine developers.
The funding injection to these vaccine developers works like a down payment. If they produce a successful vaccine, then there’s a guarantee for equitable and affordable access to member states — and at the same time will chase international partners to pool resources to reserve vaccines for low and middle income countries.
“This is a moment for science and solidarity,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, also the patron of our Global Goal: Unite for Our Future campaign working to ensure equal, global access to tools to fight COVID-19. “Nothing is certain, but I am confident that we can mobilise the resources to find a vaccine to beat this virus once and for all. We must be ready to manufacture and deploy such a vaccine across Europe and the world.”
“This vaccine will be a breakthrough in the fight against the coronavirus, and a testament to what partners can achieve when we put our minds, research, and resources together,” she added. “The European Union will do all in its power to ensure that all peoples of this world have access to a vaccine, irrespective of where they live.”
Today we are presenting our European Vaccine Strategy. Joint action at EU level will increase the chance of finding a vaccine and secure necessary volumes at a good price in the EU and beyond. We need to act very quickly - in overcoming this pandemic every day matters. pic.twitter.com/LOy9iDYwNQ— Ursula von der Leyen #UnitedAgainstCoronavirus (@vonderleyen) June 17, 2020
The strategy also emphasises the framework for how the EU will lead the charge for universal testing, treatment, and vaccinations, primarily by mobilising global resources to fund the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which the EC helped set up in April.
The ACT Accelerator is a partnership that aims to coordinate research and development efforts, remove barriers to drug development, and scale up treatments — all while keeping innovations affordable and accessible for low-income countries.
Already, €9.8 billion has been mobilised as part of the pledging for the Coronavirus Global Response, including pledges of €6.5 billion from the EC, countries within the EU and European Economic Area (EEA), and the European Investment Bank.
And on June 27, the EC will join with Global Citizen for Global Goal: Unite for Our Future — a pledging summit that calls on world leaders, corporations, and philanthropists to help fund the global effort against coronavirus. It’s a vital moment that we hope will see the world come together to ensure that the solutions to the virus are available to all.
“Working together will increase our chances of securing access to a safe and effective vaccine at the scale we need and as quickly as possible,” said Stella Kyriakides, the EC’s commissioner for health and food safety. “It will ensure fair and equitable access for all across the EU and globally, thus offering the best opportunity of finding a permanent exit strategy from the COVID-19 crisis.”
“This is the EU at its best: pooling resources, joining efforts, bringing tangible results to the everyday lives of people,” she added. “No one is safe until everyone is safe and we will leave no stones unturned in our efforts to protect EU and global citizens.”
Join the movement to help combat COVID-19 by taking action here to support the Global Goal: Unite for Our Future campaign, urge world leaders to fund the response effort, and mitigate the short- and long-term impacts of the pandemic on the world's most vulnerable people. For more information on COVID-19, the efforts to combat it, and how it impacts people around the world, read our coverage of the pandemic here.