Reacting to the European Commission’s latest action plan to prepare for the threat of coronavirus variants, the Socialists and Democrats restate their demand for more transparency, as an essential step in Europe’s common fight against the pandemic. They also welcome the initiative to ensure better co-ordination of clinical trials and an expedited approval of updated vaccines, and demand that special attention be given to production capacity.
The European Commission’s proposals could not be more timely, as we are now facing variants of the virus that pose further threats to countries and people.
The S&Ds also welcome today’s announcement of an additional 150 million doses of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine scheduled for delivery in Europe in the third and fourth quarter of this year.
Heléne Fritzon MEP, S&D vice-president responsible for health issues, said:
"It is clear the pandemic is not over and that we already need to prepare for future challenges now. Even with vaccines being approved and new vaccines up for approval by the European Medicines Agency, the challenges are still immense. There are substantial issues of vaccine availability due to insufficient production, supply and deployment. However, we should not only focus our attention on the current challenges, we also need to look ahead.
“We need to urgently address new variants and mutations, to make sure that we have a better overview across member states and make ample preparation to develop new vaccines and treatments. This is imperative to make sure that we face future challenges more effectively than now. The S&D Group therefore welcomes this initiative by the Commission, notably to ensure better and more frequent genome sequencing, better co-ordination of clinical trials, increased research and more rapid approval of updated vaccines. We support the idea of fostering the creation of a voluntary dedicated licensing mechanism, allowing the owners of the technologies to keep control of their rights, while, at the same time sharing their data with a wider group of manufacturers.”
Jytte Guteland MEP, S&D spokesperson on environment, said:
“We welcome that the Commission has heard the demands from Europe's citizens and the S&D Group that the Union must take concrete action to boost the development and production of vaccines. Time is of the essence. We agree that increased funding for research is needed and we expect the Commission to proceed with the same speed for the proposed Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority. In parallel to such measures, the EU must also do whatever it takes to ensure fair and equitable access to effective treatments and vaccines, to make sure that nobody is left behind.
“We further need to see how the Advance Purchase Agreements can be adapted to make sure that current shortcomings are addressed. When new agreements are concluded they should be more transparent to the public and complete with a special attention to production capacity. In this regard, we are pleased that the Commission has now suggested creating a contact group to provide the Parliament with more insights into the workings of the contracts with the pharmaceutical companies. This is a promising first step towards increased transparency and we expect the Commission to make further efforts to ensure that the current lack of transparency is effectively remedied.”
Dan Nica MEP, S&D spokesperson on industry and research, said:
“The Commission’s communication is a first step to providing a strong structural response in terms of strategic autonomy for our continent for the future. We ensured a first industrial phase of vaccine production, but it is not enough. European institutions and member states must anticipate our future needs and adjust vaccine production to future variants. The current crisis made us aware of our dependencies, both technological and industrial. I insist on the need to reduce our dependency on raw materials and products – the EU’s industrial policy must create European capacity in strategic areas. A first concrete result of the EU’s commitment is the vaccines, this is why we insist on investing in innovation. Horizon Europe, the world's most ambitious research programme, will be crucial, with €95 billion over seven years.
“We also ask the Commission to make sure the companies play fair and deliver on their commitments, now that they have received all the support they needed in order to develop and produce the vaccine. A clear timetable and a specific plan on how to boost production should be set in place in order to speed up the strategic autonomy of production and increase the deliveries in Europe so we can reach the goal of 70% of the adult population in the summer! There are sites in Europe that should be fully involved and better pooling of production capacity should be put in place. Also, we need to continue the research and prepare the response to new variants of the virus – that will be the next threat! Any new delays in vaccination increase the risks of mutations! At the centre of the pandemic, the drama is human and the solutions must be within human reach."