European Union unveils plan to bulk buy possible Covid-19 vaccine

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The European Union on Wednesday put forward a strategy that would see the European Commission centrally purchase a Covid-19 vaccine on behalf of all EU countries.

In addition, to ensure the quick development and delivery of the vaccine, the plan would also see the commission pay upfront for some of the costs faced by vaccine producers, in exchange for the right to buy a set number of doses at a fixed price.

“At its core, joint action at EU level will allow all member states to increase the likelihood of finding an effective vaccine and to secure the necessary volume for our citizens at a good price,“ European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said when announcing the plan.

The commission launching the strategy said centralizing „vaccine procurement at EU level has the merit of speed and efficiency by comparison with 27 separate processes.“ They added, “No Member State on its own has the capacity to secure the investment in developing and producing a sufficient number of vaccines.”

The commission believes that its EU-wide approach will create a number of advantages for both EU countries and producers. 

For vaccine producers, the commission says their process would cut red tape and offer a “significantly simplified negotiation process with a single point of contact.”

How the process would work: To enable rapid deployment of a vaccine across the EU, the commission would centrally negotiate with individual producers and invest in all stages of development from clinical trials to increasing capacity along the entire production chain to allow for large-scale production of the vaccine.

In return for investing upfront, the commission would have “the right to buy a specified number of vaccine doses in a given timeframe and at a given price,” according to their plan.

To finance this plan, the commission is proposing to use a new 2.7 billion euro fund called the Emergency Support Instrument which was created to help EU member states recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

For EU countries, the commission believes member states, “would be able to benefit from purchasing vaccines through a single procurement action,” and would also benefit from the “scientific and regulatory expertise of the Commission.”

 The commission is also asking countries to “participate in the process from the start” and “contribute their expertise on potential vaccine candidates”.

Last week France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands formed the Inclusive Vaccine Alliance to pool the national resources of those countries to secure 400 million doses of a vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.

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