The declaration of the end to COVID-19 as a public emergency is a symbolic signpost, but COVID-19 remains a threat and vaccination can play a key role in addressing it.
The declaration of the end to COVID-19 as a public health emergency is a symbolic signpost of the transition from an emergency to a more sustainable mode of preparedness and reaction. COVID-19 remains a threat though, and vaccination can play a key role in addressing it.
Thirty-eight months into the pandemic, and COVID-19 claims a life every three minutes globally. This leaves no room for complacency.
Instead, we need, to remain vigilant, have a coherent approach on vaccination and continue reducing COVID-19 hospitalisations, severe disease, as well as protecting our healthcare systems.
In this regard, Member States should strive for a better coordination among their national vaccination strategies in order to avoid major differences, with the EU having a stronger role through further harmonisation of some aspects of the vaccine administration in the Member States.
At the same time, while predictable pattern of COVID-19 seasonality has yet to be established, the impact of the disease has been much higher during the period corresponding to the traditional influenza season. Therefore, where possible, COVID-19 and influenza vaccination campaigns need to be combined.
Second, we need to reflect on the use of joint procurement as part of the EU’s vaccine strategy.
The strategy has been one of the milestones of the EU’s response to the pandemic. It demonstrated the unity of the EU as a whole, facilitated access to a broad and diversified portfolio of safe and affordable vaccines, and saved the lives of more than a million Europeans since the end of 2020.
Capitalising on this success, we need to go one-step further and, seriously, consider extending it to treatments of very rare types of cancer, especially paediatrics, as well as some rare diseases.
Nevertheless, increasing public confidence in vaccination is a key prerequisite to reach these strategies’ objectives.
As EPP Coordinator at the COVI Committee, I find the major disparities in vaccination coverage between and within Member States as well as the resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles, quite concerning. In order to address these, we have to continue tackling misinformation and disinformation, and reduce vaccination hesitancy through science-based communication on the benefits of vaccination.
Last, we should not forget that these challenges are essentially global. The EU played a decisive role in the global response to the COVID-19, by donating hundreds of millions of doses, and billions of aid to assist developing countries.
Building on that, the EU has to continue playing its role in providing support, improving access to vaccines for LMICs, as well as, boost global health research to develop the technologies and countermeasures, which are necessary to improve health.
Stelios Kympouropoulos (EL, EPP) is a member of Parliament’s EMPL and PETI Committees, the SANT Subcommittee and the COVI Special Commmittee.