May 19, 2021

Now is the Time: EU Must Demonstrate the Political Leadership Needed to End the Pandemic

The COVID-19 crisis has deeply affected the world, and the effects will be felt for years to come. While scientific progress to fight the virus has been astonishing, the current level of ambition for both the COVID-19 response and what is needed to pandemic-proof the planet does not go far enough. We urge world leaders to apply the same ingenuity, political will, and public-private partnerships that brought us these novel vaccines in record time to speed up efforts to end this pandemic and act on lessons learned.

The scenes emerging from India are a painful reminder that global access to COVID-19 tools is the only way to end this pandemic quickly, and avoid countless deaths and the trillions of euros lost. The longer the virus is able to travel the world, the greater the risk of mutations and the greater the risk that the vaccines we do have will become ineffective. Yet, as of May 2021, just 0.3% of COVID-19 vaccines had been administered in low-income countries and COVID-19 deaths in low and lower-middle income countries (LMICs) now account for 30.7% of global deaths, compared to 9.3% a month ago.  

At the Global Health Summit this week and the EU leaders summit next week, the EU and its Member States must urgently offer the political leadership needed to deliver vaccines across the world and develop a global roadmap to vaccinate the world. They must coordinate globally so that all efforts to deliver COVID-19 vaccines are costed and mapped, mutually reinforced, and avoid duplication.

As part of this global plan, the EU and its Member States must contribute to fully funding the $18.5 billion gap of the ACT-Accelerator in 2021 and ensuring a fair distribution between the Therapeutics, Diagnostics and Vaccines Pillars, as well as the Health System Connector. Every Member State should contribute its fair share, and the European Commission should contribute at least an additional €1.2 billion. In addition, EU Member States must immediately contribute to the call for high-income countries to share 1 billion vaccine doses by September and 2 billion by the end of the year. EU Member States will have at least 690 million doses more than they need to vaccinate 100% of their populations, and in many  Member States, the supply of COVID-19 vaccines will soon outstrip demand. Several Member States have stepped up with commitments to share doses, and other leaders should urgently follow in their footsteps.

Fully funding ACT-A and sharing vaccine doses are only two, yet essential, elements of the global roadmap to vaccinate the world. The EU must also support all means necessary to increase global supply of COVID-19 tools, including through increasing vaccine manufacturing capacity as soon as possible.

Advocates will be watching whether the EU seizes the opportunity of the Global Health Summit and upcoming European Council to offer the political leadership that has been so desperately needed since the beginning of the pandemic.