The search for a vaccine against Covid-19 has been one of the great challenges and one of the great hopes of this pandemic. Once the drugs are approved, however, the challenge is even greater: on the one hand, there is a need to achieve mass production of virals and, on the other, these vaccines must be administered to the population as quickly as possible.
To talk about the role of Europe in the negotiation for the purchase of vaccines and the subsequent management, we have invited Roser Domènech Amadó, head of communication of the Directorate General of Health, to the edition of the "Café Europa" in March. and Food Safety of the European Commission and Rafael Vilasanjuan, Director of Analysis and Global Development at ISGlobal. Café Europa is an initiative of the Catalunya Europa Foundation and Horitzó Europa.
The European strategy in the purchase of vaccines has passed, from the beginning, "to obtain effective and safe vaccines, in the shortest possible time, with a mass production and affordable and for all Europeans", assures Domènech. For this reason, the European Commission opted for the strategy of investee agreements, that is, agreements that shared the risk with the companies, which allowed them to agree on the purchase of vaccines while they were still in the research phase. For this reason, between August 2020 and January 2021, the European Commission signed 6 contracts worth 2,700 million euros, with the aim of diversifying the chances of success in obtaining one or more effective and affordable vaccines.
The purchase of vaccines, a European success
"If Europe had not been united in the field of vaccines, probably the only country that today would have doses would be Germany." This is how clear Roser Domènech has been, who defends that, despite the obstacles, the purchase of vaccines should be valued as a success of the 27. The director of Global Analysis and Development also sees ISGlobal, who considers that the Joint purchasing of vaccines has been "the first nationalist movement in the history of Europe".
But Domènech also criticizes himself and considers that there may be a certain point of naivety in the negotiation for vaccines. And he adds that, more than powers, in Europe he needs an agency in charge of negotiation, like the one in the United States. "The EU does not have specific mechanisms for this and, therefore, the negotiation is more complex," says Domench.
AstraZeneca's flagrant breaches is also one of the issues of concern to the European Union. In this regard, the communication chief of the Directorate General of Health explained that the European Union is the only member of the OECD that is a producer of vaccines and that it is currently exporting. Specifically, the Union has distributed 88 million doses in Europe and has exported 77 million, 21 of which to Great Britain. For Domènech, the debate is not to prohibit or not to prohibit the export, but it does need more transparency about the distribution of these doses outside the EU.
Despite the obstacles, Domènech maintains that the vaccine supply prospects for the second semester of 2021 make it "seem reasonable that by the end of the summer it has been possible to vaccinate 70% of the adult population."