First it was said that 70% of the community adult population would have to be vaccinated “by the summer”. Later, seeing that the EU was not picking up speed in the vaccination campaign, there was talk of “late summer”. But, of course, the season spans three months, and for countries as dependent on tourism as Spain or Greece, June 22 is not the same as September 21. And this Friday, after the stumbles with vaccines – first with Pfizer and then with AstraZeneca – the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has decided to align herself with the most distant time limit: September 21.
“We have a common goal,” said Von der Leyen at a press conference in the European Parliament with the president of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, and who holds the rotating presidency of the EU, the Portuguese António Costa, after the ceremony official signature of the European recovery fund. “That common goal is to vaccinate 70% of the adult population at the end of the summer. And this, of course, marks a very clear date. Summer normally ends on September 21.”RELATED
Von der Leyen wanted to emphasize that “health is not at all a competence of the European Union, the European Commission has very, very weak powers. But we were willing to take responsibility, and I think rightly so, because imagine if some states members would have had access to vaccines and others not. ”
The president of the European Commission has explained, to defend the joint purchase among the 27, that “vaccine producers say that even if billions had been put on the table, they could not have been delivering more because they have to develop the vaccine And now we see the problems in large-scale manufacturing. ”
What is the bottleneck? “Supply chains, raw materials and capabilities to manufacture at scale. We are seeing this now, along with pharmaceutical companies, who also have their responsibilities to deliver to everyone. A lot of work has been done in the last few 10 months to now present three vaccines and start administering them. ”
And this is when Von der Leyen makes the self-criticism that he expressed on Wednesday in the European Parliament: “Looking back, we underestimate the capacity, the lack of capacity in the vaccine manufacturing process. Looking to the future, I think we can still reduce time in the regulatory process [en la Agencia Europea del Medicamento] to approve vaccines on the market. “
In any case, the president of the Community Executive has stated: “There will be difficulties on the way forward. There will be successes and delays on the way forward, without any doubt. We are 27 member states and the European institutions, the Commission, the parliament and the council working on that. But I don’t know of any other region in the world where it has been possible to deliver in such a short time, as we have done to date. “
“It is a fact that we are not where we want to be in the fight against the virus, we were too optimistic about the mass production of vaccines. And perhaps we were too sure that what we asked for would be delivered on time. We have to ask ourselves why this is so and what lessons can we learn from it, “Von der Leyen recognized in the European Parliament on Wednesday in German, a country where there is a debate within the CDU / CSU, between the Government of Angela Merkel and one of the candidate candidates for the federal elections of autumn, the president of Bavaria and leader of the CSU, Markus Söder, on the decision of the joint purchase of vaccines within the European Union. A German internal debate in which the president of the European Commission participates, with exclusive interviews for the German press while the debate is taking place.
“I don’t even want to imagine what it would have meant if a few important member states had obtained the vaccine and the rest had come out empty-handed,” insisted the president of the Community Executive, in line with what advanced to political groups in recent days. previous: “What would it have meant for our internal market and for the unity of Europe? It would be an economic catastrophe and the end of our community.”
In any case, Von der Leyen recognized lessons to be learned from this process: “We need to improve the exchange of clinical trial data with the European Medicines Agency. [EMA, regulador encargado de autorizar las vacunas]We will work on a regulatory framework to allow the EMA to review vaccines as quickly as possible. “
“Another lesson to be learned,” Von der Leyen has said, “concerns mass production of vaccines. We have underestimated the difficulty of mass production. It usually takes five to ten years to produce a new vaccine. We did it. in ten months, and it’s a great scientific achievement that we should be proud of. “
In any case, the President of the European Commission stated that “science has overtaken industry, the production of new vaccines is a very complex process. It is simply not possible to set up a production plant overnight. Furthermore, these vaccines have up to 400 components, and production involves up to 100 companies. “
And then there is the threat of variants and mutations. “We still do not have the complete picture regarding the effectiveness of treatments and vaccines in new strains. But we know that these variants will continue to appear,” acknowledged Von der Leyen: “We all know that the information we have about the virus and vaccines can change every hour. “