Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has called on European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Council President Charles Michel to make a case for increasing the continent’s production rate of coronavirus vaccines.
“This is not only a moral and a political issue, but also one of an epidemiological nature. We will not be safe until everyone is safe. The EU must be at the forefront of the international effort to fight Covid-19,” the EU member state leaders said.
The letter comes just hours before the start of the European summit in Porto, Portugal, during which the vaccination strategy will be high on the agenda, and amid discussions on whether temporarily lifting the patents on coronavirus vaccines could help to deliver more vaccines worldwide in the short term.
The group specifically asked the union to go ahead with the ‘EU vaccine sharing mechanism’, its version of COVAX, the global instrument to also give low- and middle-income countries access to vaccines, which was put on the table in January.
The EU version of this initiative will focus on the Western Balkans, the EU’s Eastern and Southern neighbours, and Africa.
“We understand that we are asking this at a time when Europe is trying to speed up its own vaccination campaign, but we cannot deny our responsibility. As soon as conditions allow it, we should be able to contribute to the international efforts to fight this global health crisis.”
The leaders of the five countries argued that coronavirus vaccines have become an aspect of international security policy, and that “if the EU does not take up its role, others will fill the vacuum and use vaccines as a geopolitical tool.”
As Europe is “already the largest exporter of vaccines worldwide,” the member state leaders argued it must seize the momentum to show leadership in bringing together public and private partners to “increase global production and distribution of safe, effective and affordable vaccines, and ensure that vaccine know-how and technology is proactively shared.”