EU to create private-public bio-defense preparedness program

The European Union (EU) will propose to create a bio-defense preparedness program in the form of a public-private partnership, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said on Tuesday.

The scheme will seek to get the 27-nation bloc ready for health emergencies in the future, bringing together cutting-edge tech companies, manufacturers and EU regulators, as well as securing long-term and predictable funding, von der Leyen said during an address at this year’s virtual World Economic Forum.

Such a public-private partnership will help Europe to “detect earlier, develop together and manufacture fast at scale”, she said.

The EU nations have been struggling to fight a resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic over the past weeks with harsh containment measures, while busy rolling out its vaccination campaign.

Von der Leyen said the EU has invested billions to help develop the world’s first COVID-19 vaccines, a truly global common good. “Now the companies must deliver. They must honor their obligations,” she said, adding that the EU will set up a vaccine export transparency mechanism.

“Europe is determined to contribute to this global common good, but it also means business,” von der Leyen said.

On Monday, Stella Kyriakides, the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said that the bio-pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca’s plan to reduce vaccine supply was “unacceptable.”

AstraZeneca’s announcement added to concerns over delayed vaccination roll-out in Europe. The EU said earlier that it aims to inoculate 70 percent of its adult population by the end of August.