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EU provides US$122 million in humanitarian assistance to support COVID-19 vaccine rollout in African countries

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced an EU contribution of €100 million (US$122 million) in humanitarian assistance to support the rollout of vaccination campaigns in African countries, an effort spearheaded by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

This funding will target support to vaccination campaigns in fragile countries with humanitarian situations and will contribute to ensuring successful cold chains (temperature-regulated supply chains), rollout registration, training, and logistics.

Press release - European Commission

At UK-led G7 meeting, "collective G7 support" to ACT-A totals US$7.5 billion, but experts criticize UK for retaining surplus doses until citizens are fully vaccinated

The UK hosted its first virtual G7 leaders' meeting on February 19, 2021, after which "collective G7 support" totaled US$7.5 billion for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), an increase of over US$4.0 billion.

ACT-A's vaccine pillar, COVAX, is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and it aims to ensure an equitable distribution of vaccines, including to low-income countries.

At the meeting, the US under the new Biden administration pledged to provide US$4.0 billion in development assistance to COVAX over the next three years, Germany pledged an additional US$1.8 billion, and the EU pledged an additional US$608 million.

These commitments were welcomed by the WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, but he noted that more needs to be done. At present, only 10 countries have administered 75% of all vaccinations worldwide, with 130 countries not yet receiving a single dose.

French President Emmanuel Macron is calling for greater action to address the imbalance, with a drive to get Europe and the US to provide 5% of their own supplies to low-income nations. The UK has ruled out doing this and has committed only to providing its surplus vaccines after its entire population has been vaccinated. This decision has been criticized by some UK global health experts, who have questioned the ethics of such a decision, whereby young people in the UK will receive the vaccine ahead of health workers and elderly in other countries.  

News article - BBC

News article - Devex

EU contributes additional US$605 million to COVAX to enable COVID-19 vaccine access in low- and middle-income countries

During the virtual G7 leaders' meeting, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that the EU will double its contribution to COVAX, a global vaccine initiative that aims to ensure universal and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, by providing an additional €500 million (US$605 million). 

The contribution is composed of a new €300 million (US$363 million) grant and a €200 million (US$242 million) loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB) backed by guarantees through the European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD+).

This brings the EU's total grant contribution amount to COVAX to €400 million (US$487 million) and the total amount in guarantees to €600 million (US$730 million).

COVAX is the vaccine pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), an initiative to ensure global, equitable access to COVID-19 medical tools, including diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines. The World Health Organization (WHO) said that the new contributions to ACT-A announced by G7 leaders during their virtual meeting bring the total committed to US$10.3 billion, reducing the overall funding gap to US$22.9 billion.

Press release - European Commission

Press release - WHO

With additional G7 pledges of US$4.3 billion, ACT-A commitments to date stand at US$10.3 billion; funding gap of US$22.9 billion remains

On February 19, 2021, at the virtual G7 leaders' meeting, US$4.3 billion in new commitments were made to the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) and its vaccine pillar, COVAX, to contribute to closing the funding gap in global COVID-19 response and ensure equitable vaccine distribution. 

The contributions included the following:

  • Canada committed US$59 million to ACT-A;
  • Japan committed US$79 million to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC), a COVAX funding mechanism to support access to vaccines for lower-income countries, as well as to Unitaid;
  • Germany committed US$1.8 billion to ACT-A, covering all of ACT-A's pillars and including "tests, treatments, vaccines, and health systems strengthening";
  • US committed US$4.0 billion to COVAX AMC (US$2.0 billion in already appropriated funds and an additional US$2.0 billion over the next two years); and
  • The EU committed US$363 million to COVAX AMC, along with a US$242 million loan from the European Investment Bank backed by guarantees through the European Fund for Sustainable Development.

ACT-A initially needed US$38.1 billion for 2020-2021; following an early February Facilitation Council meeting, ACT-A announced that the remaining funding gap was US$27.2 billion.

Following the new contributions announced at the G7 meeting, the total committed to ACT-A to date was US$10.3 billion and the funding gap was brought down to US$22.9 billion, according to the WHO press release.

Press release - WHO

Press release - Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance

EU announces US$180 million HERA Incubator, new bio-defense preparedness plan to combat threat of COVID-19 variants

The European Commission announced a new addition to its vaccine strategy with a plan to bolster the EU’s preparedness against future COVID-19 variants of concern by investing €150 million (US$180 million) in research through a new 'HERA Incubator'.

The HERA Incubator – the first pilot initiative of the proposed new authority, the European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) – will be a public-private cooperative effort to pool knowledge and resources between industry, scientists, and regulators. The incubator will focus on identifying and learning about variants quicker, researching on adapting vaccines, better organizing clinical trials, helping the European Medicines Agency (EMA) fast-track regulatory approval of updated vaccines, and upscaling mass production of new vaccines. 

The EU’s new bio-defense preparedness plan includes:

  • The newly launched 'Vaccelerate', an EU-wide clinical trials network; 
  • Standardizing and increasing genome sequencing across the bloc to 5% of all cases (from an average of 1%); 
  • Conducting research into the transmissibility of variants;
  • Supporting quick exchanges of relevant epidemiological and sequencing data; 
  • Developing new variant-specific diagnostics; 
  • Speeding up the EMA’s approval process for vaccines that are adapted to be more effective against variants of concern; and
  • Boosting vaccine manufacturing as a part of its 'EU Fab' project, which will be folded into HERA once the authority is established.

Press release - European Commission

Press release - European Commission

Factsheet - European Commission

Statement - European Commission

News article - Euractiv

News article - Science|Business

European Commission strikes deals with Moderna, BioNTech-Pfizer for 300 million more possible vaccines from each

The European Commission (EC) has struck a second deal with Moderna for access to an additional 300 million vaccines for EU member states (150 million in 2021 and the option for 150 million in 2022), on top of the 160 million the EU already had through its previous agreement with Moderna.

The EC also finalized a second agreement with BioNTech-Pfizer for an additional 200 million doses to be delivered during 2021, with the option for 100 million more. This is on top of the 300 million doses (committed for 2021) through its first agreement signed last year.

Press release - European Commission

Press release - BioNTech

EU's newly released agenda for renewed multilateralism aims to ensure universal access to COVID-19 vaccines

The European Commission and the European External Action Service released a new EU strategy for “renewed multilateralism” that includes the goal to ensure universal access to COVID-19 vaccines through funding research and production, ensuring global access, and strengthening the global health system (including through leading on World Health Organization reform efforts).

The joint communication calls for the EU to step up its leadership and make better use of its ability to act as a "convenor, honest broker and bridge-builder,” calling for a “new generation of partnerships.”

Other categories of action include strengthening global recovery and tackling inequalities; combatting the climate crisis and building more sustainable systems; establishing global rules for new digital technologies; and modernizing global institutions.

Press release - European Commission

Factsheet - European Commission

Strategy document - European External Action Service

Under Spain’s leadership, Sahel Alliance General Assembly adopts resolution to foster regional sustainable development

On February 16, 2020, the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation (MAEUEC), Arancha González Laya, chaired the second General Assembly of the Sahel Alliance that took place in N’Djamena, Chad, to review the current situation of the region and advance coordination to effectively address the negative effects of the COVID-19 crisis.

As a result of this meeting, the Sahel Alliance adopted a joint statement aimed at improving the living conditions of populations in the Sahel in a sustainable manner and guaranteeing equal access to essential services. Among other measures, it underlines the need to strengthen actions addressing the COVID-19 crisis, rural development, food security, climate change adaptation, and gender equality in the Sahel region.  

González Laya stated that the Sahel Alliance is committed to working towards post-COVID-19 recovery, strengthening public health services, as well as achieving inclusive and sustainable development in the region.

Created in July 2017, the Sahel Alliance is a regional organization that gathers the G5 Sahel member states—Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Chad—in addition to France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, Luxembourg, Denmark, the Netherlands, the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the UN Development Programme, and EU institutions. Since June 2020, Spain holds the presidency of the Sahel Alliance for a one-year period.

Press release – MAEUEC (in Spanish)

Joint statement – General Assembly of the Sahel Alliance

UK hosts first G7 finance ministers’ meeting, centering green recovery, support to vulnerable countries, jobs protections, taxes on digital economy

The UK hosted its first virtual G7 Finance Ministers’ and Central Bank Governors’ meeting on February 12, 2021. The UK Chancellor for the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, led the meeting by calling upon his counterparts – the Finance Ministers and Central Governors from France, Italy, Germany, Canada, the US, and Japan – to ensure a green recovery post-COVID-19 by putting the climate and nature at the center of all economic and financial decision-making in 2021.

Sunak also called for G7 countries to work with international institutions to enable vulnerable countries to manage the pandemic. This included supporting a rapid and fair vaccine distribution, and supporting debt relief, with a call for private-sector creditors to help ensure sustainable debt treatment to the poorest countries and ensure access to credit and grants for low-income countries.

Sunak also called for the G7 finance ministers to focus in the year ahead on protecting jobs and reaching a global solution to the tax challenges created by the digitalization of the economy.

The meeting comes ahead of the UK’s first G7 virtual leaders meeting on February 19, 2021.

Press release - UK government

News article - Devex

European Commission President calls for increased EU solidarity with low-income countries through COVID-19 vaccine access

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke to the European Parliament on the EU’s COVID-19 response, including calling for solidarity with EU partners across the world by supporting access to vaccines for lower- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

Von der Leyen highlighted the importance of the COVAX Facility, which is working to ensure global equitable access to vaccines, especially through high-income countries helping to finance access to vaccines in LMICs. She called for increased support from 'Team Europe' for COVAX, which has already provided €850 million (US$1.0 billion), making it COVAX’s biggest contributor.

She also emphasized that ensuring global access was in the EU's best interests to reduce the likelihood of mutations causing new virus variants that could be more resistant to vaccines. 

Video - European Commission

ACT-A Facilitation Council announces funding gap of US$27.2 billion, asks countries not to compete with COVAX vaccine contracts

The Facilitation Council of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) had its fourth meeting on February 9, 2021, to discuss its 2021 agenda and needs, including closing the funding gap of US$27.2 billion for 2021.

The World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, co-hosted and began his introductory remarks by welcoming the newly-joined US under President Joe Biden to ACT-A. 

Ghebreyesus stressed that more than 90% of countries currently administering COVID-19 vaccines are wealthy, and 75% of all doses given have been given in just ten countries. Nearly 130 countries, he said, have not administered a single dose.

ACT-A and the COVAX Facility were created as part of global efforts coordinated by the WHO and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, among others, in order to increase access to vaccines and promote vaccine equity internationally, and these goals are being threatened, said Ghebreyesus.

He called for:

  1. Full financing of ACT-A and COVAX: The financing gap is at more than US$27.2 billion for 2021. He called on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Development Assistance Committee (DAC) countries to commit a proportion of stimulus financing and to unlock capital in multilateral development banks to help close the gap.
  2. Respect for COVAX contracts from all countries and a non-competition commitment: He referred here to countries who continue to sign bilateral vaccine deals while many nations have no vaccine doses at all. Ghebreyesus reiterated WHO's goal that the vaccination of health workers should be in progress in all countries within the first 100 days of 2021, which means that countries with more doses need to share and donate doses before going on to vaccinate their lower-risk populations. He warned that if COVID-19 is not suppressed globally, that variants of the virus could result in the world "back at square one".
  3. An urgent increase in manufacturing to increase the volume of vaccines: This could include "innovative partnerships including tech transfer, licensing and other mechanisms to address production bottlenecks".

Experts have warned that all countries need to take an "internationalist", not nationalist, approach to vaccination rollout and tacking COVID-19, otherwise experts fear that some low-income countries may not receive vaccines until 2024.

Visuals from the 'ACT-A Prioritized Strategy & Budget for 2021' presentation illustrate the contributors of a total of US$6.0 billion to ACT-A, as of February 3, and the breakdown of the US$27.2 billion needed for 2021. According to an update as of February 12, ACT-A has an additional US$4.0 billion in projected funding, so the US$27.2 billion funding gap "will be reduced to US$23.2 billion as projected funds are operationalized."

Transcript - WHO

Event website - WHO

Biggest EU parliamentary political group calls for scaling up COVID-19 vaccine production for African continent, low-income countries

The European People’s Party (EPP) political group in the European Parliament released a ten-point proposal for a joint European COVID-19 vaccine strategy, which includes a call for the EU to coordinate with the World Health Organization and the African Union to build and scale up vaccine production for the African continent and low-income countries. 

The center-right EPP, the largest political group in the Parliament, is urging the EU to do “whatever it takes” through a €10.0 billion (US$12.2 billion) investment to scale up vaccine production.

Its plan emphasizes the need to prevent new mutations causing vaccine-resistant virus variants in the EU’s neighborhood.

Strategy document - EPP Group

UK should ensure G7 summit shows "Western unity", finds solutions to climate and health crises, includes more African leaders, says think tank

The Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI), a UK security think tank, has published an article arguing for the UK government to focus on four key issues at the G7 summit that the country is hosting this year:

  1. Showing "Western unity": After limited US engagement during the Trump administration, RUSI called for the G7 summit to focus on the display of strong unity between the US, Japan, Germany, the UK, France, Italy, Canada, and the EU, the current G7 members. While the UK government’s invitations to India, Australia, and South Korea as guests to the G7 summit in 2021 is welcome, RUSI argued that its keenness to permanently expand the G7 to include these countries and create a 'G10' risks causing divisions. RUSI particularly referred to India's differing foreign policy relationships.
  2. Addressing the twin crises of our time, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic: RUSI also calls for the G7 to ensure that as hard times fall, that world does not turn its back on globalization and resort to economic nationalism, by showing that the solution to these crises requires collective action, for example, by promoting a collaborative approach to COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
  3. Recognizing the strategic significance of "sub-Saharan Africa" by belatedly inviting African leaders to key G7 meetings: RUSI noted that the UK government’s failure to invite African leaders to the summit, as has been the case for the last five G7 summits, along with the steep cut in UK development assistance, risks signalling that an Indo-Pacific "tilt" comes at the expense of Africa. According to RUSI, it is not too late to remedy the situation by inviting key African leaders to certain G7 meetings.
  4. Tackling threats to liberal democracy posed by populism and extremism: RUSI wrote that many of the threats are transnational in nature and require common and coordinated responses. 

The UK government also launched its G7 youth engagement initiative, 'Y7', which aims to gather youth leaders from around the world to enable their voices to be heard and to ensure that the G7 helps build a greener and more prosperous world for all in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis.

Press release - RUSI

WHO Europe director urges wealthier countries to share COVID-19 vaccines as soon as 20% of own population is vaccinated

The head of the European branch of the World Health Organization (WHO), Hans Kluge, called on high-income countries to show solidarity with low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) by sharing COVID-19 vaccine doses as soon as 20% of their own populations have been vaccinated. 

He pointed out that some richer countries—including the US, UK, Canada, and those in the EU—have already purchased, through bilateral deals with vaccine companies, "four to nine times more doses" than what they would need.

Kluge urged them to not wait until they have reached the threshold of 70% vaccinated for herd immunity before they begin sharing vaccines with LMICs.

He also opposed the idea of ‘vaccine passports’ to enable those who have been vaccinated to be able to travel because he said it would increase inequities. 
 
News article - France24

EU must guarantee low-income countries’ access to COVID-19 vaccines, say EU Parliamentarians

In an exchange with the European Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, members of the European Parliament’s (MEPs) development committee called for EU leadership in ensuring COVID-19 vaccines are accessible to all, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

Urpilainen emphasized that the EU considers support for the COVAX Facility – a global initiative aimed at ensuring equitable, affordable access to COVID-19 vaccines – to be its main tool for helping LMICs achieve vaccine access.

She told MEPs that the European Commission will coordinate an EU vaccine-sharing mechanism for EU countries to donate doses through COVAX and that the EU is looking to scale up vaccine manufacturing capacity in lower-income countries.

Press release - European Parliament

European Commission releases data on US$733 million mobilized in 2020 for COVID-19 research

The European Commission released data on how it spent the €781 million (US$733 million) it allocated to COVID-19 research in 2020 as part of its €1.0 billion (US$1.2 billion) pledge for combating COVID-19, sourced from its 2014-2020 research program, Horizon 2020. 

This includes the Commission’s contribution of €100 million (US$122 million) to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI).

The Commission reports that it funded: 

  • 45 clinical management and treatment projects at €119 million (US$145 million) in total; 
  • 4 vaccine projects at €108 million (US$131 million) in total; 
  • 27 preparedness and crisis management projects at €88 million (US$107 million) in total;
  • 28 health system resilience projects at €53 million (US$64 million) in total;
  • 25 diagnostic projects at €36 million (US$44 million) in total;
  • 24 basic science, including the biology of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, projects at €38 million (US$46 million) in total; and
  • 11 public health measure projects at €12 million (US$15 million) in total.

Report - European Commission

News article - Science|Business

EU approves AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine as third available for use

The European Commission has authorized AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine as the third one available for use. The approval was based on the assessment of the EU’s medicines regulator, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), and it follows the approval of Pfizer-BioNTech’s and Moderna’s vaccines.

AstraZeneca’s approval means that an additional 400 million doses will be available in 2021 for EU member states under a deal between the Commission and AstraZeneca. 

Press release - European Commission

News article - Politico

European Parliament development committee adopts EU-AU strategy, calls for central role of human development

Members of the European Parliament’s development committee voted to adopt a new European Union-African Union (EU-AU) partnership strategy that goes beyond cooperation on green transition, energy, digital transformation, sustainable jobs, good governance, and migration to also give human development a central role in the partnership. 

The committee called for prioritizing education, improving health care, and strengthening health systems, as well as supporting climate adaptation, regional integration, a continental free trade area, sexual and reproductive health and rights, debt relief, and the human dignity of refugees and migrants. 

Members of the European Parliament also urged that the EU-AU relationship should be one of equals, moving “beyond the donor-recipient relationship”.

The report is expected to be adopted by the full plenary during its March 2021 session and will feed into the new partnership negotiations between the European Commission and the African Union.

Press release - European Parliament

News article - Euractiv

EU rolls out US$18 million initiative to support access to digital finance in Africa, Caribbean, Pacific

The European Commission created a new €15 million (US$18 million) initiative with the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) to improve access to digital finance for 600,000 women, youth, and entrepreneurs in African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries. 

This initiative aligns with the EU Strategy with Africa and the recent launch of the EU’s new Digital4Development Hub. It is aimed at improving resilience to economic shocks like those caused by the COVID-19 crisis. 

Press release - European Commission

Leaked draft of EU research work plans call for EU global leadership on combating diseases

Draft work plans for the EU’s research program, Horizon Europe, leaked online, and included is a call for EU leadership, particularly in its partnership with Africa, through international partnerships and cooperation, to tackle infectious diseases, global health security, and the global burden of non-communicable diseases. 

This cooperation will include pooling the best expertise globally, providing access to the best research infrastructures, and aligning on investments. The EU aims to reduce cross-border health threats of epidemics and antimicrobial-resistant pathogens both in the EU and globally, with a particular focus on AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, neglected tropical diseases, hepatitis, and waterborne diseases. 

News article - Science|Business

Draft EU health research work plan - Tiko Pro