The European Commission's covid-19 plan, first reported by Bloomberg on Monday, also urged national governments to vaccinate at least 80% of health workers and people over the age of 80 by March.
"Meeting these two targets would, in a first instance, reduce death and hospitalization rates, relieve pressure on healthcare systems and then put Europe on track for herd immunity, helping to protect those who cannot be vaccinated and providing a bulwark against the spread of the virus," the Brussels-based commission said on Tuesday.
With the virus killing more than 400,000 people in the EU since the spring of 2020 and hobbling the European economy, the bloc is setting its hopes on vaccines from various drugmakers while urging stepped-up testing and tracing. The EU has approved two vaccines since mid-December and has six more in the pipeline.
"We are still far from overcoming this pandemic," EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides told the European Parliament. "But we have also turned a page and we begin 2021 with a powerful tool at hand to progressively put an end to this pandemic."
While health policy is largely a national responsibility in the EU, the commission is pushing member countries to act in coordinated ways to tackle the coronavirus -- including when it comes to the procurement of vaccines. The commission has secured around 2.3 billion vaccine doses for the bloc as a whole through advance purchase agreements.
So far, more than 13 million doses have been delivered to EU countries, the commission said on Tuesday. These are the vaccines from Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE, which have delivered 12.3 million doses to date, and from Moderna Inc., which has delivered 850,000 doses so far, according to the commission, which said more than 5 million vaccinations have been administered across the EU.
EU leaders are due to discuss the pandemic during a video conference on Thursday. After Pfizer triggered concerns last week about the pace of vaccine deliveries in Europe by announcing the renovation of a factory in Belgium, the commission stressed the need to bolster output in general.
"We will need to ramp up the supply of vaccines," the commission said. "The commission and member states should work together with companies to ensure that new production comes on stream as quickly as possible."
The commission also urged EU governments to do more to track virus mutations through genome sequencing, saying only one of them is testing more than 1% of samples and all others are either not sequencing enough or at all.
"The recent emergence of new variants of the virus is a real cause for concern," the commission said. "All EU member states should reach a capacity of sequencing at least 5% -- and preferably 10% -- of positive test results."
Published : January 20, 2021
By : Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg · Jonathan Stearns