By RAF CASERT, Associated Press
BRUSSELS (AP) – The European Union announced on Thursday that it would fund its new health preparedness and rapid response agency to the tune of 30 billion euros ($ 35 billion) over the next six years, pushing it even higher if the individual efforts of member countries and the private sector are taken into account.
Caught off guard by the sudden onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the bloc of 27 countries has long lagged behind the United States and Britain in vaccination rates before regrouping and d ” achieve its goal of vaccinating 70% of adults in the EU this summer.
With the official launch on Thursday of the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority, or HERA, he wants to make sure the bloc will be ready when the next crisis hits.
“We need to be better prepared for future health crises. HERA will establish new adaptable production capacities and secure supply chains to help Europe react quickly when needed, ”said Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the Internal Market.
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HERA will be able to tap into several Byzantine EU budget lines for a total of nearly 30 billion euros ($ 35 billion). However, this excludes investments at the level of member countries and the private sector.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who first announced plans for such a medical response agency last year, said this week that the overall total through 2027 could reach 50 billion euros ($ 59 billion) by 2027.
During the crisis, the EU saw the limits of its health reach as the essence of pandemic policies is still managed at national level. The EU was slow to get the first shots in the arms of citizens, and the public outcry over the initial shortages was such that the need for HERA quickly became evident.
“HERA will have the clout and budget to work with industry, medical experts, researchers and our global partners to ensure that critical equipment, drugs and vaccines are quickly available when needed,” said declared the Vice-President of the European Commission, Margaritis Schinas.
While some countries like the United States and Britain have focused entirely on vaccinating their own populations, the EU has continued to export doses amid the pandemic. Von der Leyen pointed out that in addition to providing 700 million doses of vaccine to Europeans, the bloc of 27 countries had also sent as many vaccines to 130 countries.
“We are the only region in the world to achieve this,” she said Wednesday in her State of the Union address.
HERA is expected to be fully operational early next year.
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