Europe must assist Poor Countries in their fight against the Coronavirus

The world has confronted an unparalleled global task in reacting to a once-in-a-century crisis over the last two years. The COVID-19 pandemic has put our unity to the test, flipped our lives upside down, and cut us apart from one another. At the same time, this experience has brought us closer together and demonstrated that Europe’s only feasible path forward is through solidarity. 

It’s past time to demonstrate that this is also true for the rest of the world. 

As the world’s largest donor and economic power, the European Union’s institutions and member states banded together as Team Europe and led the worldwide response to the pandemic. The EU raised more than €46 billion in a year to aid our most vulnerable partners in containing the pandemic’s spread and mitigating its socio-economic repercussions, as well as building health systems to prevent future outbreaks. 

The EU created a new partnership between the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. The EU Humanitarian Air Bridge transported 1,150 tonnes of medical and humanitarian goods to 20 nations across four continents from May to October 2020. 

The European Union has also aided in the global vaccine distribution. We developed the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator with the World Health Organization and partners to accelerate development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 diagnostics, treatments, and vaccinations in all countries. Furthermore, with a considerable investment of over €3 billion, Team Europe is a major donor to COVAX, a global programme focused on ensuring equal access to COVID-19 vaccinations. 

COVAX has distributed over 300 million vaccine doses to over 140 nations, with over 57 million doses distributed through the EU vaccine-sharing mechanism. This accomplishment exemplifies the power of worldwide cooperation and unity in the fight against COVID-19. 

Despite the fact that hundreds of millions of doses have been distributed, the worldwide effort to combat the pandemic faces considerable challenges. COVAX is limited in supply, and just 4% of Africa’s population is fully vaccinated at this time. 

Now is the time for the EU and its member states to step up their efforts. We can and should increase vaccine donations to our most vulnerable partners now that we have enough doses to cover the entire population of Europe, including a third-dose COVID-19 booster shot. Not only is this an obvious moral imperative, but it is also in the public interest. 

Simply said, Europe must assist in the vaccination of the entire world in order to destroy COVID-19, halt the development and spread of new variants, and allow for a smooth economic recovery. 

It is critical that Team Europe fulfils its pledge to give 500 million doses by mid-2022, including at least 250 million by the end of 2021, in order to achieve a global immunisation rate of 70%. 

The key instrument for dosage sharing should continue to be COVAX. The EU vaccine-sharing framework, on the other hand, allows for bilateral vaccine donations. Member countries have access to a comprehensive support package that includes everything from legal advice to logistics, and the EU Civil Protection Mechanism is ready to help with delivery to partners throughout the world. 

Going forward, our focus will be on closing the gaps and inequities in our partner nations’ health systems, and as Team Europe, we can help our African colleagues construct more robust health systems capable of dealing with future pandemics. Africa is now largely reliant on imports of vital medical supplies, with 99 % of its vaccines and 94 % of its medicines coming from outside the continent. As a result, we must continue to support continuing efforts to create vaccines in Africa. 

In May, the European Union announced plans for a comprehensive Team Europe programme aimed at developing local manufacturing capacity in Africa for vaccines, medicines, and health technologies. Rapid progress has been made: we support a stronger regulatory framework and increased investment in the health sector in Rwanda. Construction on a new manufacturing factory in Senegal is expected to begin later this year. BioNTech is evaluating mRNA vaccine production methods in both nations. 

The next EU-African Union (AU) summit provides a great chance for Team Europe to join forces with Africa and help the AU achieve its goal of producing 60% of its vaccinations by 2040. In the meanwhile, we must exchange additional doses in order to increase the global rate of COVID-19 immunizations. 

The only feasible and sustainable solution to battle the ongoing global pandemic and create a more resilient world is for the EU to embrace global solidarity, multilateralism, and partnerships. In this endeavour, Team Europe takes centre stage. Overcoming the pandemic and learning from it will require a collaborative effort in which the entire world will either succeed or fail.