EU vaccine roll out: Putting hard-won progress in jeopardy

As the European Council meet virtually later this week to discuss the response to the COVID-19 crisis, EFPIA and Vaccines Europe want to emphasise that any measure that would further restrict the export of COVID-19 vaccines, their component parts and consumables related to their use, from the EU would risk delaying the rollout of vaccines to citizens across Europe and around the world, as well as retaliation with global effects.

This pandemic affects us all. We share the goal for EU citizens to have access to as many vaccines as possible in as short a time as possible. We also understand the frustration caused by temporary fluctuations in supply, a feature of manufacturing complex biological products. Industry is doing everything possible to increase production of vaccines.

By its nature, vaccine manufacture is a global process. COVID-19 vaccines comprise of many component parts, in some cases more than 200, with materials sourced from all around the world.  Any proposal from the Commission banning exports would risk retaliatory measures from other regions, putting the import of manufacturing materials needed to produce COVID-19 vaccines for EU citizens at severe risk.

Manufacturing at this scale is an unprecedented challenge involving multiple partners from across the globe, working around the clock without ever compromising on the quality or safety of the vaccines. The solution lies in working collaboratively to continue to increase production capacity, enhancing existing facilities and continuing to create production partnerships in addition to the 256 manufacturing and supply deals already created by the industry.

Just one year on from the WHO declaring COVID-19 a global pandemic, four vaccines have been approved for use by the EMA, 69.5 million doses distributed to EU/EAA countries and over 55 million doses administered to citizens across Europe. This is an incredible collaborative, scientific, manufacturing and logistical achievement involving the EU institutions, governments, health-systems, regulators and the research-based pharmaceutical industry. To take any measure that could be perceived as "vaccine nationalism" at this critical moment would put this remarkable progress in severe jeopardy.

When the European Council gathers virtually later this week, it remains critical to avoid reactionary proposals that will damage the EU position as an advocate of global trade and staunch supporter of the multi-lateral trading system, and that could disrupt the production and delivery of vital COVID-19 vaccines.