EU leaders will meet on Thursday 21st January 2021 to discuss how to handle the COVID-19 pandemic especially with the rising numbers of infections and the new and more contagious strains of COVID-19. As well as discussing ways of quick delivery of vaccines for all EU member states.
The EU leaders gathered just a couple of days after the European Commission asked the EU member state to vaccinate 70% of adults by the summer.
Before the high-level meeting between the European leaders, Malta’s health minister, Christopher Fearne, has been speaking to Euronews about the European Union strategy on COVID-19 vaccination.
Despite the hope of the European Union member state to have a more coordinated approach to the vaccination strategy, many different EU countries have started with the vaccine at different times, and have a similar approach on the vaccination.
For Malta’s health minister, Christopher Fearne, the objective of Malta and many EU member states is to vaccinate medical workers first and those over 80 by March. After that, it falls to the over 70s and those with chronic illnesses by the end of May.
“The realistic but ambitious target is that, by the end of September, we will have vaccinated 70% of our population,” said Christopher Fearne.
European leaders will be meeting on Thursday, January 21st 2021. They will be looking for ways to push production as well as increase vaccine deliveries and vaccinations themselves.
“Safety and procedures have the priority,” a senior EU official said when asked about the various letters from member states requesting that the approval of new vaccines by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) be sped up.
EMA is set to approve the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine by the end of this month. This would be one month after the UK approved it, which has led to criticism over the EU’s approval procedures.
Many have criticized the EU strategy as being too slow, but Malta’s health minister, Christopher Fearne disagrees. He said It was important for Malta a small country get joint procurement as a bloc.
“There are different advantages. The first advantage, of course, is that when we negotiate as a bloc with the pharmaceutical industry we have much stronger negotiating power than if we negotiate as separate authorities or separate member states. But even more than that, it’s price transparency. By procuring together, then we managed to keep the prices down,” said Fearne.
Greece as one of the biggest holiday destinations particularly in Europe has already signalled the idea of vaccination passports for anyone who comes to visit Greece, and the reason for this idea is to revive the tourism industry in Europe that is crippled by the COVID-19 pandemic. Malta’s economy as well relies heavily on tourism, that’s why they support the idea of vaccination passports.
“It’s just another tool that would enable countries to open up further,” said Fearne.
He explains that there are already red and green zones that have different restrictions for travel.
“Vaccination certificates for the red zone will enable these citizens to travel even though their community has a high level of the virus,” he said.
But, he adds, a similar level of vaccinations is needed across Europe, hitting the targets for vaccinating different parts of the population by May.
“That’s why this will enable us to open up our economies as a bloc and will enable tourism and trade to recover at a faster rate.”
According to EU sources, the issue of vaccination certificates will be discussed on Thursday, however, it is too early to commit to a formula. Many questions need to be answered from the duration of immunity, to what rules apply to those who received vaccines not approved by the EMA.
“Some key points on paper should be defined and these will be discussed by the leaders, but for an agreement on the standards that it will contain, other summits will be needed,” a senior EU official said.