President von der Leyen on the EU Vaccines Strategy in the European Parliament plenary

This morning, the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, gave a speech at the European Parliament Plenary debate on the state of play of the EU’s COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy. The President reminded the progress of European vaccination efforts: “The vaccination campaign in Europe has gained momentum in many places. 26 million vaccine doses have been delivered in Europe since December. More than 17 million people have been vaccinated. And we will keep working as hard as possible to achieve our goal: To vaccinate 70% of the adult population in Europe by the end of summer. There are also lessons from this process to be drawn for the future. And we are already doing this.” Speaking to MEPs this morning, President von der Leyen called for unity and solidarity in the fight against “our common enemy” the coronavirus: “We were and we are right as Europeans to order the vaccine together and to now distribute it in a spirit of solidarity. The same solidarity must also be shown with our partners in our neighbourhood and across the world. This is also a matter of stopping the spread of the virus to reduce the likelihood of mutations. The access to vaccines for low and middle-income countries is therefore as much about our own interest as it is about solidarity. Our responsibility extends far beyond Europe’s borders.” Together, the EU Member States and Institutions are one of the biggest contributors to the COVAX initiative, which will start delivering vaccines to low and middle-income countries this month. On the issue of vaccine production, Ursula von der Leyen said: “The production of new vaccines is a very complex process. It is simply not possible to set up a production site overnight. This is why we have created a Task force to increase the industrial production of vaccines, under the authority of our Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton. The aim is to detect problems and help solve them. Industry has to match the ground-breaking pace of science.” In her speech, she also emphasised the need for preparedness against the new variants and for future pandemics: The battle against the virus is a marathon and not a sprint. It needs foresight, endurance and stamina. Almost every day we hear news of different variants and how contagious they are. We do not yet have the full picture when it comes to the effectiveness of treatments and vaccines on new strains. But we do know these variants will continue to emerge. And we do know that we need to anticipate and prepare immediately. This is why we start our new HERA project now, by launching our preparedness agenda against new variants next week. Because to defeat the virus, we need to know as much detail about it as possible.” The speech is available online, and translations into EnglishFrench and German will be available soon. You can watch it here.