BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union plans to boost its early warning system and have a permanent capacity to produce about 300 million vaccines in the first six months of any new health emergency, as it prepares for “the age of pandemics”.
The EU executive published on Tuesday a set of new proposals to strengthen the bloc’s ability to react to new crises, acknowledging that its preparedness and the initial reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic fell short.
“Scientists tell us that this is the age of pandemics and that another health crisis can come. We must ensure we are ready to respond effectively,” EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides told a news conference.
In the document listing ten lessons learned from the pandemic, the European Commission said it will launch this year a new pandemic information gathering system meant to detect new health risks as soon as possible.
The move is part of a plan to boost global preparedness, but also to make the EU less reliant on the World Health Organization (WHO).
The U.N. agency has been criticised for having been too slow in declaring the pandemic, which first emerged in China at the end of 2019. The WHO denies this accusation.
Under the plan, the EU also wants to become less dependent on global supply chains for the production of vaccines.
The bloc aims to have enough “ever-warm” capacity to produce 500-700 million vaccine doses per year, with half to be ready in the first six months of a pandemic, the EU document says.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU exponentially boosted its production of new vaccines, but also faced supply problems, mostly due to drugmakers’ cuts and delays in deliveries, large exports and bottlenecks in the supply chain.