EU adopts new strategy to tackle future pandemics

The European Union announced on Wednesday the creation of a new biomedical authority designed to better respond to future pandemics, as...

The European Union announced on Wednesday the creation of a new biomedical authority designed to better respond to future pandemics, as it seeks to avoid repeating mistakes that plagued its early response to the coronavirus.

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, the bloc’s executive body, also pledged to donate 200 million additional doses of the coronavirus vaccine to middle and low-income countries by mid-2022, in more than the 250 million already pledged by the end of the year.

In her annual State of the Union address, Ms von der Leyen described immunization gaps as one of the biggest geopolitical issues nations face.

“The extent of the injustice and the level of urgency are evident,” Ms von der Leyen told lawmakers at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, acknowledging that the bloc and other wealthy countries had not kept their promises.

But the bloc’s commitments on vaccine donations have so far sounded hollow: EU member countries had given only 18 million doses in early September, a fraction of the 200 million promised. Covax, the global vaccine sharing program, of which the European Union is a part, last week reduced its dose forecasts available this year, in part because rich countries continued to hold most of the world’s doses.

Yet Ms von der Leyen’s speech served as a reset for the European Commission after the initial missteps in vaccine supply which have taken a more positive turn in recent months.

While most developing countries have yet to administer a single dose of a coronavirus vaccine, including in the immediate vicinity of the European Union, more than 70% of adults across the bloc have been fully vaccinated.

“We have kept our promises,” she said, although she admitted that the bloc faced great differences at the national level, because several Eastern European countries have fallen behind.

Ms von der Leyen’s confident tone on Wednesday contrasted sharply with her speech last year, when new cases of Covid-19 mushroomed across the block and coronavirus vaccines were months away.

“When I stood here in front of you a year ago, I didn’t know when and if we might have a safe and effective vaccine against the pandemic,” she said.

The European Commission, which has negotiated vaccines on behalf of member countries, has come under heavy criticism for the slow start of its vaccination program. The commission signed its first agreement on behalf of member countries months after the United States, hampering vaccine deliveries and, later, vaccination campaigns.

Yet the deployment picked up speed in recent months, and many EU countries have now overtaken other wealthy nations like Britain, Israel and the United States. Some have started giving reminders to millions of elderly and vulnerable residents, though the World Health Organization has called on wealthier countries to delay reminders until the end of the year, to allow more of doses to go to the poorest countries.

To help the bloc better prepare for future health crises, Ms von der Leyen said the new agency – known as the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority, or HERA – would aim to “ensure that no viruses are will never become a local epidemic again in a global pandemic. “

It is expected to receive € 50 billion (around $ 59 billion) in funding by 2027 and will work alongside existing EU health agencies, the European Center for Disease Control and the European Medicines Agency. .

But its exact role remains unclear, as EU members each run their own health policies. The pandemic has brought to light the limitations of the European Center for Disease Control, which is responsible for coordinating each country’s pandemic response plans but has limited powers to enforce or modify states’ actions.

Still, many welcomed the creation of the new agency, stressing the need for greater coordination at EU level. VĂ©ronique Trillet-Lenoir, oncologist and legislator in the European Parliament, said the agency could strengthen solidarity between member countries of the bloc, which she lacked at the start of the pandemic.

“What the coronavirus pandemic has shown is that the 27 Member States have all done a lot better together,” Ms. Trillet-Lenoir said, “and that no European country would have done better. alone”.

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Newsrust - US Top News: EU adopts new strategy to tackle future pandemics
EU adopts new strategy to tackle future pandemics
Newsrust - US Top News
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