The European Union is committed to ensuring that everyone who needs a vaccine is able to receive it, independent of whether they live inside the EU or outside. As such, beyond the EU vaccination plan started on 27 December 2020, the European Union has also been working tirelessly to provide the rest of the world with vaccines and to support their rollout, especially in low and middle-income countries.
In order to do so, the EU has decided upon four interconnected areas of action, which now constitute the external vaccines strategy.
Firstly, the European Union has been, since the very first moment, actively engaged in ensuring global and equitable access to vaccines, tests and treatments, which resulted in an investment of almost €4 bn euros in the field of research and development. The EU’s financial contribution has been instrumental in the development of several efficient and safe vaccines.
The European Union has also invested €40 bn in the quest to support its partners in dealing with the sanitary, social and economic consequences of the pandemic.
Secondly, the European Union is, at the same time, an actor which exports vaccines to third countries. As of today, over 150 million doses of vaccines produced on its territory have reached more than 43 countries. To ensure transparency and reciprocity, the EU has also set up an authorisation mechanism for the export of vaccines.
However, the third area of action as well as the biggest project the EU is part of with regard to external vaccination efforts is the COVAX Facility. In short, the COVAX Facility is a risk-sharing mechanism for countries and manufacturers, where countries have the opportunity to invest in promising vaccine candidates, with the added benefit of securing the lowest price possible. The aim of the mechanism is to grant access to vaccines as soon as they receive regulatory approval and to ensure fair allocation of new vaccines for priority populations. The COVAX Facility covers 102 countries. Out of the countries covered, 61 are considered vulnerable and receive vaccines for no cost, while the remaining 41 have the chance to buy vaccines through COVAX at an advantageous price.
To date, Team Europe (made up of the EU, its Member States and EU financial institutions) has announced an investment of over €2.47 bn, including €1 bn from the EU budget, for the COVAX Facility to help procure 2.2 billion doses of vaccination for 92 low and middle-income countries by the end of the year. This contribution makes the European Union as a whole one of the major donors of the COVAX facility.
So far, COVAX has already delivered over 49 million COVID-19 vaccines to 121 participants (including 61 low and middle income countries that received 32 million doses).
The last part of the European Union’s external vaccines strategy, as announced by the Commission in the Communication of 19 January 2021, is represented by the EU Sharing Mechanism, where Member States have committed to “share” part of their doses with third countries or regions directly. This Mechanism is expected to take off in the near future, especially seeing as Romania and Austria have already shared some of their doses with Moldova and respectively the whole Western Balkans area.
To date, four safe and effective vaccines against COVID-19 (BioNTech-Pfizer, Moderna, Astra-Zeneca and Johnson & Johnson) have been authorised for use in the EU following positive scientific recommendations by the European Medicines Agency.