On 6 November 2020, Italian Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Laura Ferrara of the Non-attached Members, posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission:
“The current crisis has brought to light a number of difficulties in ensuring the supply of the necessary medicines in the EU during the COVID-19 pandemic. Protectionist measures, export bans and national stockpiling, inside and outside the EU, can easily lead to an unfair supply system and to shortages of medicines and vaccines in the EU and worldwide.
Since no country is self-sufficient in terms of raw materials, intermediate products, active pharmaceutical substances and finished pharmaceuticals – all of which are essential in order to ensure the proper functioning of a health system – it is vital to optimise and rationalise their supply, distribution and use, with the aim of ensuring optimal availability for the essential medicines needed to respond to the pandemic.
The current pandemic thus calls for a major response in terms of a substantial increase in production and, at the same time, a proper reorganisation of pharmaceutical supply chains.
In view of this:
1. How does the Commission intend to coordinate, with the support of the Member States, the fair distribution of medicines and future vaccines for COVID-19?
2. Will it work towards the establishment of a single European centre for the supply of medicines and vaccines?
3. Will it use the EU Civil Protection Mechanism (‘rescEU reserve’) to better manage the distribution of COVID-19 medicines and vaccines throughout the EU at this time of emergency?”
On 12 February 2021, Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, responded on behalf of the European Commission stating: “On 15 October 2020, the Commission adopted a communication on preparedness for COVID-19 vaccination strategies and vaccine deployment. While the deployment of vaccination strategies is a national competence, the communication sets out recommendations on key issues that Member States could focus on, such as logistics, supply chain and transportation. In line with the EU vaccine strategy agreed with Member States, once authorised and produced, each vaccine will be available to Member States at the same time based on population size. Delivery timelines depend on each contract. For the concluded contracts, the majority of deliveries are foreseen to be completed in 2021.
Delivery to national distribution hub(s) is being ensured by the manufacturers. Further distribution to vaccination centres is done by Member States, who will also be responsible for the vaccination of their population. The Commission has proposed to build a European Health Union, which includes monitoring of medicines and medical devices supply.
The Commission supports Member States in this process, putting instruments with logistical and transport capabilities, such as the Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCMP), at their disposal. Under the Commission’s proposal, the mechanism will provide national civil protection authorities with targeted support to improve prevention, preparedness and reaction to emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic and to reinforce transport and logistical resources.
So far, the first rescEU medical stockpiles created under the UCPM include personal protective equipment and intensive care medical equipment. These items may be deployed upon request of a country when national and other available resources are not sufficient.”
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