Sandra Gallina, Director General of the European Commission’s Directorate General for Health and Food Safety, talks about the imminent roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines.
The EU Strategy on this front ‘is an example of what working together can achieve and an indication of what a strong European Health Union will be able to deliver’, Gallina says.
When will the rollout begin?
No vaccine will be made available until it is proven safe and effective. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is currently reviewing the scientific data on a number of vaccines in order to give their approval before the European Commission grants the conditional marketing authorisation. In order to do it, both the EMA and the Commission have accelerated their decision-making process, without compromising on safety.
As soon as the vaccines will be authorised and Member States ready with their vaccination strategies so that they can be deployed.
At the beginning not all the vaccines will be available nor in very big quantities, which means that Member States should start giving them to their most vulnerable populations first, as well as to healthcare workers and those that absolutely need them for their everyday job.
Are Member States prepared?
All countries are preparing COVID-19 vaccines deployment strategies and plans, but are in different stages. On 2 December, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) published an “Overview of current EU/EEA and UK deployment and vaccination plans for COVID-19 vaccines”.
Based on this document and the outcome of the discussions in the Scientific Advice Platform – a forum for peer exchange and coordination among scientific advisors to national governments, the Commission will decide if further guidance on national vaccination plans for COVID-19 is necessary.
What are the logistics involved?
The vaccine manufacturers will be tasked with the delivery to national distribution hubs. It will then fall to Member States to distribute the vaccines to vaccination centres who will also be responsible for the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines in their countries.
Many of the reporting Member States plan to use existing vaccination services for COVID-19 vaccination, and some plan to reinforce those by recruiting and training additional healthcare staff. Concerning the medical and personal protective equipment needed for vaccination services, most reporting Member States plan to use current reserves, but many Member States also plan to stockpile equipment via national or EU joint procurement procedures.
What about vaccine uptake?
Most Member States will offer vaccines free of charge at easily accessible sites. We think people will be eager to have the protection that vaccination offers, but we are aware that misinformation can spread faster than the virus and that there may be an issue of vaccine hesitancy. The Commission will be proposing support to Member States on their communication efforts and on the fight against vaccine misinformation by explaining how the EU process ensures vaccine safety and efficacy so that a high-level of uptake provides optimal protection for everyone.
What about people outside the EU?
COVID-19 is not a European crisis, it is a global one, requiring a global solution. That’s why we have raised almost €16 billion under the Coronavirus Global Response to support global action for universal access to tests, treatments and vaccines against the coronavirus. Team Europe, that is the Member States and the European Commission – provided EUR 800 million to COVAX. This is the largest donation in the world.
Will the COVID-19 crisis soon be over?
Effective vaccines are our surest exist strategy, but they will not change things overnight. We are still counting on people doing what they can to protect themselves and others: wearing masks and practice physical distancing. This is particularly true as we approach the winter festive season. Perhaps the greatest gift we can give those we love is the gift of health, by continuing to adhere to safety measures and abide by restrictions. With the end close at sight, sacrifices made now will surely pay off in 2021.
- EMA also photo, featured photo copyright NIAID