The European Commission has proposed spending billions to help the EU reduce its dependency on foreign medical supplies. It said nations need to address "vulnerabilities" that came up during the coronavirus pandemic.
The European Commission proposed borrowing €7.7 billion ($8.49 billion) on financial markets in order to fund more research on vaccines, drugs and health care over the next four years. The decision comes on the heels of the Commission's €750 billion recovery planalso announced on Wednesday.
The health care plan, which would complement a $2.6 billion emergency fund, requires approval from EU member states and European Parliament. The Commission, the EU's executive arm, said the aim of the package would ensure strategic supplies of medication and equipment, strengthen the production of vaccines in the bloc, and strengthen the union's preparedness for future health crises.
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Relying on outside help
The EU primarily depends on China and India for the production of its medical supplies. About 80% of the EU's supplies come from these two nations. The Commission said it hopes this plan will reduce the need for foreign production.
"Europe should strive to strengthen its strategic autonomy by reducing excessive import dependence for the most-needed goods and services such as medical products and pharmaceuticals," said an EU document published on Wednesday.
The European Commission did not break down medical expenditures but stressed the need to address "vulnerabilities" that came up during the novel coronavirus outbreak. Those include temporary shortages of vital medications and limited vaccine production capabilities.
More details about the plan are expected on Thursday.
"Independent research" on possible coronavirus vaccines
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said it was commissioning "independent research" to monitor potential coronavirus vaccines before and after they become available. The Amsterdam-based EU agency said it was mostly focusing on the safety and efficacy of a vaccine.
"To authorize any COVID-19 vaccine, EMA will need to have strong evidence from clinical trials on the safety, efficacy and the quality of this vaccine," read a statement from the agency. "Once on the market, approved vaccines will be monitored closely by the agency."
The EMA said it wanted to "ensure that a European infrastructure will be in place to effectively monitor COVID-19 vaccines in the real world, once they are authorized in the European Union."
The medical agency has contracted the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands to perform "preparatory research" to determine how to control the use of a potential vaccine. The first results of the research are expected in August, with final results by the end of the year, according to the EMA.
The agency stated earlier this month that a vaccine against the coronavirus could be ready within one year in an "optimistic" scenario.
kbd/sms (AFP, Reuters)