President von der Leyen’s Opportunity to Change the Course of the Pandemic: Turning Vaccines Doses Into Urgent Funding to Fight COVID-19

This Friday, April 8, we have our eyes set on the 2022 Advanced Market Commitment (AMC) Summit — hosted by Germany and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance — and, in particular, on the role that the European Union (EU) plays in making it a success. The Summit aims to raise at least US$5.2 billion in urgent funds for COVAX — a key component of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) that helps deliver vaccines to low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) around the globe. 

While the EU and other countries have already supported ACT-A’s life-saving work, there is still a substantial funding gap to cross the finishing line. Most of the resources pledged this Friday for COVAX will be used to ramp up vaccination in lower-income countries and cover in-country delivery and ancillary costs — such as storage, syringes, and transportation — that are currently hindering vaccination targets and risking the world’s progress against COVID-19.  

Among the different participants in this Friday’s Summit, the EU has a considerable margin to maneuver to make a significant contribution. In July 2021, the European Commission (EC) announced the EU’s commitment to donate 200 million vaccine doses to LMICs, setting aside €1.3 billion for this purpose. However, despite the welcomed act of solidarity, the EC hasn’t completed the purchase yet, creating a unique opportunity to use this money more wisely. 

Taking into account that the supply of vaccines is no longer the most pressing issue, but rather in-country logistics and distribution bottlenecks, the Commission should redirect those resources to meet COVAX’s target as well as ACT-A’s overall funding gap, currently estimated at €25 billion. The change in priority from vaccines to vaccination has been echoed by health authorities across LMICs. Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. John Nkengasong recently stated that the challenge is on delivery and even warned that “too many doses without the infrastructure or coordination to distribute them could lead to vaccines expiring”. 

The EU’s decision to turn the committed doses into a financial contribution — presently at the desk of the President of the European Commission Ursula Von der Leyen — could become a game-changer in the race to vaccinate the world. It would help drive vaccination rates up and still leave plenty of money to boost the diagnostics and therapeutics pillars of the ACT-A. Or in much simpler terms, such a reallocation of funds would ensure greater impact, while demonstrating that leaders are in tune with the changing realities on the ground.

Calling for Bold Pandemic Action at the EU-AU Summit

African and European civil society organizations (CSOs) call on leaders in advance of the African Union (AU) – European Union (EU) Summit on February 17-18, 2022, to show solidarity in ending not only the COVID-19 crisis but also responding to global epidemics including HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria and put in place mechanisms and resources to build resilience and prepare for future pandemics. It’s time for strong and sustained political will, collective alignment, and integrated end-to-end approaches. We call on leaders to adopt the following actions at the Summit:

  1. Tackle the crisis of inequitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, and support vaccination programs
  2. Address the crisis of inequitable access to COVID-19 tools, including tests, treatments, oxygen, and PPE
  3. Invest in and strengthen the research and development (R&D) capacity in Africa
  4. Support Africa’s mRNA Technology Transfer Hub and agree to waive intellectual property (IP) for COVID-19 vaccines and other medical tools
  5. Support health systems strengthening in African countries to enable prevention, detection and response to new and existing threats
  6. Reform and strengthen multilateralism

Humanity deserves a world where every country is equipped to end the COVID-19 crisis and every country is prepared to stop infectious disease outbreaks from becoming deadly and costly pandemics. 

Read the full letter.

Organizations are welcome to sign on to the letter by Feb. 17, 2022. If your organization would like to sign on, please reach out to Aminata Wurie.

No Time to Relax! Key Questions on the EU’s Plans to Speed Up Global COVID-19 Vaccination

The European Union (EU) confirmed today that they have signed an agreement with drugmakers that includes an option for the companies to deliver vaccines modified for variants within 100 days. Alongside this were the remarks made by President Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday at the closing of the European Council, where she made reference to the production of 300 million doses of vaccines per month in the EU.

All this signals a strong rollout of vaccines, support from governments, and commitments by all to get on top of this crisis. Yet, let’s not sit back and relax too soon.

Based on current reporting, the figures do not look the same when it comes to EU support to low- and lower middle-income countries (LLMICs). The data shows that the EU’s target of 250 million COVID-19 vaccine doses donations by the end of the year appears to be slipping.

And a new roadblock could be developing.

The EU recently reached an agreement to reallocate some of its 2021 budget (EUR1.3 billion to be precise) to secure another 200 million COVID-19 vaccine doses for COVAX. The European Commission has published an Action Document, laying out how it will implement this commitment. The plan would be to procure mRNA vaccines and then give them to COVAX.

We were surprised to see that the Action Document states some quite big risks to this plan — “there is a very high risk of not meeting the envisaged delivery by mid-2022, as the required duration of the procedure is 9-12 months” and “the manufacturers may not respond to an unattractive call for tender for mRNA vaccines… this will cause delays to procurement.

So we posed some questions to the European Commission to try to work out why, when we know that COVAX has options available on 200 million doses that would allow for delivery by mid-2022, they choose to purchase doses themselves — a move that could delay rollout and potentially set a dangerous precedent by hindering COVAX from playing its role as a global risk mitigation instrument to continue accelerating global access to COVID-19 vaccines.

We asked President von der Leyen the following clarification questions:

  •  What evidence does the European Commission (EC) have that the EC directly purchasing vaccines would be the speedier option in terms of delivery on the ground?
  •  What rationale is there for favouring mRNA vaccines, and even using the Omicron variant’s spread as a justification, when the science on the relative effectiveness of vaccines to fight Omicron is still being determined and given that LLMICs need a range of vaccines suitable for a range of settings?
  •  What discussions have taken place with Member States on the merits of the EC’s approach and the risks outlined in the Action Document, and do Member States agree with this decision?

We have sent these questions to President von der Leyen and are waiting for her response.

Civil Society Recommendations for the Final Stage of the 2022 European Union Budget Negotiations

COVID-19 is one of the worst global health emergencies this world has ever seen, and new variants continue to increase the urgency of quickly minimizing the virus’ spread. Significantly more funding is needed for the global fight against COVID-19. The Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) is still facing a US$16.4 billion funding gap for 2021, and the latest estimates anticipate that it will cost at least US$50-66 billion to fully vaccinate the world — likely much more when end-to-end delivery costs are factored in. The European Union (EU) has shown global leadership and solidarity committing €500 million in grants to support global access to vaccines. However, not all of these commitments have been turned into actual payments yet.

Time is of the essence: the EU must mobilize those resources without delay.

The fight against COVID-19 must not be funded to the detriment of other global health and human development priorities or we will be trading off one crisis for another. More than 2 billion people remain affected by diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and neglected tropical diseases. COVID-19 has also posed an unprecedented shock to human development, which is on course to decline for the first time in three decades.

This is why civil society organizations (CSOs) have identified four priority budget lines that play a vital role in mitigating the effects of the pandemic and are urging the EU to protect them in the conciliation period. Ahead of the vote in the European Parliament Plenary, the CSOs support the amendments laid out in a set of recommendations to restore the Draft Budget for 2022, reverting the cuts made by the Council. Read the recommendations here.

Call for the EU to Immediately Use the Flexibility Instruments for the Global COVID-19 Response

COVID-19 recovery is at the top of every political agenda, with many donors — including the European Union (EU) — supporting the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), a global collaboration mechanism aiming to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tools. But significantly more funding is needed for ACT-A to complete its work.

The latest estimates anticipate that it may cost between $50-66 billion to fully vaccinate the world, plus additional investments needed to cover the cost of delivery in low- and middle-income countries. Meanwhile, ACT-A is still facing a $16.8 billion funding gap for 2021. Along with partners at Aidsfonds, CARE, DSW, Global Citizen, Global Health Advocates, and ONE, we call on the EU to contribute €1.3 billion more to meet their “fair share”.

To do this, the EU should turn to the budget lines designed for crises exactly like this:

  • The Emerging Challenges and Priorities Cushion (the cushion)
  • The rapid response pillar within the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) / Global Europe instrument.

Read more here.

Calling on the European Union to Fund the Global Fight Against COVID-19

Significantly more funding is needed to accelerate the end of the COVID-19 pandemic for everyone. The Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) is facing a US$16.9B funding gap in 2021 as of late June 2021, and latest estimates anticipate at least US$50B-55B to fully vaccinate the world.

With the European Union (EU) currenting negotiating its budget for 2022, Pandemic Action Network is joining other civil society organizations (CSOs) to call on the EC to contribute its fair share of another €1.2B for ACT-A in 2021 and more in 2022 to fully fund any future roadmaps to vaccinate the world. This funding should not be at the detriment of other global health and human development priorities but should come from other recommended budget lines.

Read the letter here. If your organization wishes to join the letter, please email Isabelle De Lichtervelde.

Civil Society Leaders Urge Kristalina Georgieva to Do ‘Whatever It Takes’ to Vaccinate the World

Dear Kristalina Georgieva,

We are writing from a wide range of organizations to thank you for the leadership you have shown in convening a task force to implement a roadmap to vaccinate the world. We would like to call on you to bear the following principles in mind as you take that work forward:

Draw up the plan, commit to doing whatever it takes to vaccinate at least 70% of people in all countries, and get them the tests, treatments, and PPE they need alongside vaccines. A comprehensive, coordinated strategy to get to global herd immunity as soon as possible is urgently needed. Many organizations are drawing up such plans, but you are in a position to draw all of these strands together and make sure there is a one-stop-shop costing that is not limited by numbers, mandates, or politics, but focuses on setting out what it will take to end this pandemic.

Make US$50B the floor; the ceiling will be much higher: Most existing calls for funding are focused on procurement.  Yet multiple studies show that it will take billions more on to fully deliver a global response that enables countries to deliver a COVID-19 response and mitigates the impacts of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable. Your plan needs to include a comprehensive costing and analysis covering all elements of the global response. This should identify gaps in supply, procurement, as well as resources needed in-country for the delivery of vaccines, tests, and treatments – ACT-A finance, for example, does not cover rollout costs from “tarmac to arm” of its own vaccines. Ensuring the costs needed to administer vaccines and other COVID-19 tools — including to health systems and health workers, including frontline and community health workers — are also met, so that vaccines and other tools are not just available but also delivered and administered, as part of a fully-costed global plan to reach global herd immunity.

Maximize grant funding for the global response: As you have said ‘vaccine policy is economic policy’, and until countries are vaccinated to at least 70%, all other COVID-19 tools — tests, treatments, PPE, and the ability to deliver all tools — are an integral part of the strategy. We are looking at a situation in which the best investment high-income countries (HICs) could make is investing in the global response, and they should do this from their own reserves, outside of ODA budgets. We ask that you maximize grant funding for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) within this plan and get HICs to agree to a burden-sharing model to set out fair share contributions leveraging funding streams outside of ODA budgets.

Maximize the 650B in SDRs, frontloading whatever is possible: Your team is looking at recycling options for the 650B in SDRs. Announcements so far suggest that 100B of this might be available for LMICs. We should make as much of the 650B as possible available for LMICs to both help their domestic budget situations and fund the global deployment of COVID-19 tools as well as potentially freeing up funding for climate needs as set out in the G7 communiqué. We urge you to look at ways to free up as much of the 650B for LMICs, and to maximize the amount that can be freed up in the short term to contribute to funding the global COVID-19 response. 

Bring stakeholders into the War Room: Representatives from LMICs, health ministries, health agencies, and civil society can all help advise on your work. Bring us in, we are ready to contribute. 

We would welcome the opportunity to discuss these urgent matters with you in the coming days, at your convenience — we have no time to waste. Many thanks for your attention to these issues, and we look forward to hearing from you. 

Your sincerely,

Eloise Todd
Co-founder
Pandemic Action Network

On behalf of:


PATH

 

If your organization would like to sign on, please email Hanna Hwang

Why We Need a ‘Rome Roadmap’ to Vaccinate the World

By Friederike Röder, Global Citizen; Eloise Todd, Pandemic Action Network; and Emily Wigens, The ONE Campaign

We need a global roadmap to vaccinate the world — and we need it now. The scenes emerging from India are a harrowing reminder that unequal distribution of vaccines puts everyone at risk. More contagious forms of the virus are already evolving, increasing the risk of a new mutation that resists current vaccines.

Global access to vaccines is the fastest way to end the pandemic, but if rich countries monopolise supply and only vaccinate themselves, twice as many people could die — and the costs could stack up to an additional US$9 trillion. As of May 2021, just 0.3% of COVID-19 vaccines had been administered in low-income countries and COVID-19 deaths in low- and lower-middle-income countries now account for 30.7% of global deaths, compared to 9.3% a month ago.

That’s why the EU and its Member States must seize the opportunity of the Global Health Summit on 21 May and the 24-25 May European Council meeting by taking the following actions: 

  • Develop a global roadmap to vaccinate the world to reach global immunity as soon as possible, raising the level of ambition and offering the political leadership needed to deliver vaccines across the world. The EU and Member States should coordinate globally so that all efforts to deliver COVID-19 vaccines are mapped, mutually reinforcing, and avoid duplication. This strategy should include a comprehensive costing to show what it would take to vaccinate 70% of the world, and should also include analysis to identify gaps in supply, procurement, and resources needed in-country for the delivery for vaccines, treatments, and tests.
  • Immediately contribute to the call for high-income countries to share 1 billion doses by September, and 2 billion by the end of the year, sharing surplus doses via, or in coordination with, COVAX. This year, EU Member States will have at least 690 million doses more than they need to vaccinate 100% of their populations, and in many EU Member States the supply of COVID-19 vaccines will soon outstrip demand. Several Member States have stepped up with commitments to share doses, other leaders should urgently follow in their footsteps. Unearmarked doses should be donated immediately, in parallel with national vaccination rollouts, or when countries have vaccinated 20% of their populations at the latest. Moving forward, the EU should avoid purchasing more doses than necessary to fully cover its own population and should make its own contracts conditional upon pharmaceuticals making deals with COVAX at not-for-profit pricing.
  • Contribute their fair share towards fully funding the current and future ACT-Accelerator funding gaps, estimated to be at least $66 billion, in 2021 and ensuring a fair distribution between the Therapeutics, Diagnostics and Vaccines Pillars, as well as the Health System Connector. The European Commission should contribute at least an additional €1.2 billion and all EU Member States should meet their fair share in financing for ACT-A. This is the best investment they can currently make. This should pave the way for the whole of the G7 to close the current funding gap of $18.5 billion by at least 60% as soon as possible.
  • Support all means necessary to increase global supply of COVID-19 tools. It is imperative that governments and industry use every tool in their toolbox to dismantle the barriers that delay truly global access to COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and medicine. The world needs a total of 11 billion vaccine doses to achieve herd immunity, but according to estimates, we’re at best at a capacity level of 8.5 billion. The EU should lead the way on building a roadmap on producing those additional vaccine doses and future boosters, using all means necessary, both in lifting IP barriers and in ensuring sufficient manufacturing capacity. This could range from the temporary waiver of COVID-19 intellectual property rights, alongside additional licensing, technology transfers, and the elimination of trade-related barriers such as export bans. In parallel, the EU should launch an initiative to increase manufacturing capacity in LICs and LMICs, helping to bring private investors on board, and support the WHO’s mRNA Tech-Transfer Hub.

European leadership should take the fight against COVID-19 to the next level by taking urgent action now, with the aim to protect every person in the world, save the maximum amount of lives, and stop the spread of dangerous variants that will harm all of us. The world is playing catch-up on an equitable response. Now is the time for a reset with a strategic plan to reach 70% globally, dose sharing immediately, and investment in purchasing vaccines and other life saving tools — as well as action to kickstart medium-term supplies through licensing, tech transfer, and investment in production capacity. All these elements are needed.

It’s time for the EU’s leaders to deliver, at the Global Health Summit and at their Summit next week.

Friederike Roder is the vice president for global advocacy at Global Citizen, Eloise Todd is the co-founder of Pandemic Action Network, and Emily Wigens is the EU director at The ONE Campaign.

Now is the Time: EU Must Demonstrate the Political Leadership Needed to End the Pandemic

The COVID-19 crisis has deeply affected the world, and the effects will be felt for years to come. While scientific progress to fight the virus has been astonishing, the current level of ambition for both the COVID-19 response and what is needed to pandemic-proof the planet does not go far enough. We urge world leaders to apply the same ingenuity, political will, and public-private partnerships that brought us these novel vaccines in record time to speed up efforts to end this pandemic and act on lessons learned.

The scenes emerging from India are a painful reminder that global access to COVID-19 tools is the only way to end this pandemic quickly, and avoid countless deaths and the trillions of euros lost. The longer the virus is able to travel the world, the greater the risk of mutations and the greater the risk that the vaccines we do have will become ineffective. Yet, as of May 2021, just 0.3% of COVID-19 vaccines had been administered in low-income countries and COVID-19 deaths in low and lower-middle income countries (LMICs) now account for 30.7% of global deaths, compared to 9.3% a month ago.

At the Global Health Summit this week and the EU leaders summit next week, the EU and its Member States must urgently offer the political leadership needed to deliver vaccines across the world and develop a global roadmap to vaccinate the world. They must coordinate globally so that all efforts to deliver COVID-19 vaccines are costed and mapped, mutually reinforced, and avoid duplication.

As part of this global plan, the EU and its Member States must contribute to fully funding the $18.5 billion gap of the ACT-Accelerator in 2021 and ensuring a fair distribution between the Therapeutics, Diagnostics and Vaccines Pillars, as well as the Health System Connector. Every Member State should contribute its fair share, and the European Commission should contribute at least an additional €1.2 billion. In addition, EU Member States must immediately contribute to the call for high-income countries to share 1 billion vaccine doses by September and 2 billion by the end of the year. EU Member States will have at least 690 million doses more than they need to vaccinate 100% of their populations, and in many  Member States, the supply of COVID-19 vaccines will soon outstrip demand. Several Member States have stepped up with commitments to share doses, and other leaders should urgently follow in their footsteps.

Fully funding ACT-A and sharing vaccine doses are only two, yet essential, elements of the global roadmap to vaccinate the world. The EU must also support all means necessary to increase global supply of COVID-19 tools, including through increasing vaccine manufacturing capacity as soon as possible.

Advocates will be watching whether the EU seizes the opportunity of the Global Health Summit and upcoming European Council to offer the political leadership that has been so desperately needed since the beginning of the pandemic.

A hopeful EU Speech, a Disappointing G20 Communique – And Opportunities Ahead

By Eloise Todd, Co-Founder Pandemic Action Network

Following the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board’s report launch on Monday, this week also saw the European Commission (EC) President Ursula von der Leyen give her first State of the Union speech to a masked up, socially distanced European Parliamentary chamber and the G20 Joint Finance & Health Ministers’ meeting published their conclusions. What happened?

First, President von der Leyen’s speech on 16 September. Here are five announcements that could help the fight for a better prepared world and an equitable COVID-19 response:

1. Get ready for a Global Health Summit in 2021 focusing on lessons learned from this crisis. It will be co-hosted by the EU and the Italian G20 Presidency. President von der Leyen said “we need to strengthen our crisis preparedness and management of cross-border health threats.” The fact that this issue will be a priority for the Italian Presidency of the G20 is another huge plus.

2.The EC also wants the WHO changed “by design – not by destruction” to help build “a strong World Health Organisation that can better prepare and respond to global pandemics or local outbreaks – be it Corona or Ebola.” The WHO needs this kind of constructive approach towards reform.

3. Stronger EU health agencies – and a brand new ‘BARDA’. The European Medicines Agency and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) will both be strengthened, and a brand new European agency will be created too – a Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency (BARDA) – to build Europe’s pandemic preparedness capacity and respond to cross- border threats and emergencies (from nature or terrorism).

4. No to vaccine nationalism, yes to vaccine cooperation, said the President loudly and clearly: “safe vaccines are available not only for those who can afford it – but for everyone who needs it.” The EU will have to walk the walk on this in its own vaccine dealings. The COVAX Facility was also mentioned, along with the €400mn the Commission pledged just last week – and the President surely knows that the EC will need to do more in the coming months to help close the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A)’s $38bn funding gap.

5. Last but definitely not least, the President carefully raised “the question of health competences” – suggesting that during its upcoming review of the EU’s Treaty basis, the Conference on the Future of Europe examine the powers the EU has on health policy in times of crisis. If the EU leads such a reform, it could open up Europe’s ability to act as a unit across the Union and possibly multilaterally in times of crisis.

Second, on 17 September was the G20 Ministerial outcome, which by contrast majored on warm words and not in concrete commitments. We are disappointed with the outcome, and have laid out three key points that need to be converted from abstract notions to clear directives in time for the G20 Leaders’ Summit in November:

The Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) were called upon to “swiftly consider ways to strengthen the financial support for countries’ access to COVID-19 tools.” The urgency of this support cannot be overstated; there is a $38bn funding gap in the ACT-A – $15bn of which must be found this year and the remaining secured by the end of the first quarter of 2021. Help from the MDBs is much needed – and the same kind of innovation by multilateral institutions that has helped countries deal with the impact of COVID-19 at home needs to be deployed to ensure an equitable crisis response.

Pandemic preparedness needs to shift from words to action. The communique included the Ministers “taking note” of developments, “looking forward” to the work of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (which will not release its report until next May), and many other noncommittal statements. For inspiration as to concrete policies to pursue, they should read my colleague Carolyn Reynolds (Pandemic Action Network Co-Founder) and the Center for Strategic and International Studies’s J. Stephen Morrison’s piece on what the IPPR should do on pandemic preparedness.

There is still time for the G20 to make a difference. Ministers are updating the G20 Action Plan which will be presented at the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors’ meeting in October 2020, and then to the Leaders’ Summit itself in November. At the Pandemic Action Network we will be coordinating with our brilliant partners to ensure the Action Plan prioritizes strong and necessary measures to prevent and prepare our world for future outbreaks.

Leaders across the world need to move with urgency and speed to deliver concrete actions to make sure we end COVID-19 equitably and swiftly across the world, and take the actions needed on preparedness and prevention to make sure this can never happen again. If your organization wants to join the fight, please get in touch today. We have no time to lose.

 

Will EU Leaders Act as Pandemic Preventers at Their First Face-to-Face Meeting This Week?

Will EU leaders act as pandemic preventers at their first face-to-face meeting this week?

On 17-18 July, EU leaders will meet for their first face-to-face European Council meeting since the beginning of the pandemic. They will discuss the EU recovery plan to respond to the COVID-19 crisis and the next long-term EU budget.

As they meet in Brussels, European leaders must lead by example by covering their face to protect those around them and encourage all EU citizens to follow suit. In their negotiations, they must ensure that the global COVID-19 response and pandemic preparedness and prevention efforts are protected and even increased. Proposed cuts to Heading VI (external action envelope) must be rejected.

Face mask use results in a large reduction in risk of infection. In the absence of a vaccine or medicine to fight COVID-19, hand hygiene, social distancing and mask wearing are the best tools we have against the disease. A simple barrier over the mouth and nose, even one that’s homemade, can trap the respiratory droplets that an infected person may release (including asymptomatic and presymptomatic individuals) and hence stop the virus from traveling onto other people. EU leaders should set an example for their citizens and encourage them to cover their face in public to become pandemic preventers. Giving the advice to wear a mask or homemade cloth face covering costs nothing; not doing so costs lives.

As they discuss the EU’s COVID-19 recovery plan and next 7-year budget, EU leaders must protect vital support to the global response to COVID-19 under the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) and under the Humanitarian Aid Instrument. They must reject proposed cuts to EU aid in President Michel’s most recent negotiating box. EU Member States should endorse the Commission’s May 2020 proposal of €118 billion for Heading VI (external action envelope).        

They should also commit in the Council Conclusions to support the adoption of a global plan on pandemic preparedness and prevention to ensure that every country has the capacity to detect, prevent and respond to future outbreaks before they become deadly and costly pandemics and signal Europe’s willingness to invest billions today to save trillions tomorrow.

COVID-19 doesn’t recognise borders. Until we get rid of this disease globally everyone – including EU citizens – will be at risk. It is also essential that the world’s response to COVID-19 leaves a legacy for the future. Once and for all, we must break the deadly and costly cycle of panic and neglect that has left the world so vulnerable to pandemic threats.

What Happened? Global Citizen and European Commission’s Global Goal: Unite for Our Future

For anyone that missed Saturday’s Global Goal: Unite for our Future, here’s what happened. 

First, sitting down to a pledging summit, you don’t necessarily expect to be entertained, educated and inspired. Saturday’s Summit managed all three–and that was before the concert event started. The two hours were dedicated to short, sharp panel discussions between the video clips of leaders giving pledges as well as featuring some partners. The Summit highlighted the role of the real heroes of this pandemic – the health care workers, the scientists, the front line workers, the researchers working hard to keep us safe, treat COVID-19 patients and find cures for and vaccines against this killer disease. Highlights included Miley Cyrus teaming up with Erna Solberg and some moving conversations about the Black Lives Matter protests across the world. Connections were made about the disproportionate suffering of Black people and other minorities in the pandemic as well as through racism. These racial justice segments deeply enriched the Summit and were very rooted in the moment.

But what did the Summit concretely achieve? Two key things: finance for international aspects of the COVID-19 fight and strong political support for making sure this pandemic is ended globally. On finance, the event raised an astonishing $6.9bn in grants and loans to fight COVID-19. Host Ursula von der Leyen got the afternoon off to an incredible start by announcing a €4.9bn loan from the European Investment Bank for the global recovery. 

Other notable contributions included a €383m pledge from Angela Merkel and smaller contributions from a wide range of countries. Global Citizen helpfully published more details after the Summit. Much of the funding raised will go to the Action for COVID Tools Accelerator, with other funds to the World Food Programme, UNFPA and others to combat the impacts the disease is having on many poor communities. Much-welcomed pledges to the WHO were made by Belgium, Qatar, Sweden and others. Increasing multi-donor support for WHO will be more important than ever to fill the financing gap looming with the recent US announcement of its intent to terminate relations with WHO.

The Pandemic Action Network and others have been calling on the European Commission to work with the EIB to extend much-needed liquidity for the global response. Just as countries (and regional blocs like the EU) have borrowed huge amounts to help their own economies recover, we need the same level of ambition for the global recovery and this is a great start.

Thanks to Global Citizen’s policing of the pledges, every announcement referred to new money (a few leaders included references to money pledged before in their video submissions, but they didn’t count in the total) – a huge leap forward in transparency that will help all of us better track funding and disbursements and save precious time. 

Second, the breadth and depth of global solidarity was on full display. Leader after leader pledged money, but also strong commitments to working together across the world to end this pandemic. President von der Leyen set the tone by calling Saturday a ‘stress test for solidarity’. Jacinda Ardern ended her piece with ‘we are all in this together’ and leaders from France, Canada, Belgium, Spain, Norway, Singapore, Switzerland and the US ambassador to the UN all called for this crisis to be resolved multilaterally. It was also great to hear Johnson & Johnson commit to producing a COVID-19 vaccine on a not-for-profit basis.

The model for Saturday’s Summit changed the way we will do business during this time of COVID, this time of increased poverty, and amid the racial justice protests that have spread across the world to stand up for equality. When President von der Leyen closed the Summit with “we are in this for the long haul, and we will use all of our convening power for the common good” there are many of us that welcome that statement and we will hold her to it! The collective leadership shown on Saturday is needed for the long haul. Now we need to plan how to raise the rest of the emergency funds the world needs as well as the investments needed to make sure this never happens again. We simply cannot afford not to.

EU Launches Vaccine Strategy: Will It Be Global?

Today the European Commission proposed a new Vaccine Strategy for the EU. While the strategy at its core has the objective of securing the necessary volumes of a safe vaccine for EU citizens at a good price, the EC also expressed its commitment to make it accessible for all the regions of the world, in particular the most vulnerable countries who struggle to secure vaccines for their populations. This is good news and opens the door to this being a global instrument, not just one for Europeans.

At the Pandemic Action Network, we’re committed to ensuring the EU delivers a truly global, equitable response to COVID-19. The EU vaccines strategy set out by President von der Leyen this morning must expand globally. The “buyers’ group” could see richer countries negotiate additional tranches of vaccines that will cover citizens in LMICs, LICS and fragile states.

As the EC communication sets it “this is not only a European challenge, it is also a global one. All regions of the world are affected. The spread of the virus has shown that no region is safe until the virus is under control everywhere.”

COVID-19 anywhere means it is a global threat, including EU citizens, and a global strategy is the only way to sustainably eradicate the virus. We hope that EU leaders have the foresight to use this opportunity to deliver on the strong verbal commitments they have all made to ensure a truly global, equitable response.

The Network’s Initial Reaction to the European Commission’s Recovery Plan: Promising Signs for Pandemic Preparedness – Now for a Broader, Global Resilience Agenda

This week the European Commission put forward a proposal for a major recovery plan for the EU. The EU decided to reboot its 7-year budget proposal in light of the COVID19 crisis. The overall Multiannual Financial Framework covers the funding period from 2021-2027 and was boosted by an additional €715 billion to €1.85 trillion – including a €750 billion ‘Next Generation EU’ recovery fund – gave us all a glimmer of hope for tomorrow.

At the Pandemic Action Network, we are focused on securing long-term solutions to resolving this COVID19 crisis so that future pandemics can be prevented.

Here are the 10 things we’ll be watching in the EU’s newly proposed recovery plan:

  1. A new standalone programme for pandemic prevention and preparedness – The Commission is proposing to create a new EU4Health programme, with a budget of €9.4 billion to invest in prevention and crisis preparedness and help deliver well-performing and resilient public health systems. Although it represents only a small proportion of the overall plan, having a pot of money dedicated to strengthening health security and prepare for future health crises is a major step forward.
  2. A new Resilience and Crisis Response budget: The EU4Health is part of a new resilience and crisis response budget line alongside security and defense, under a renamed ‘Heading 5: Resilience, Security and Defence’ (previously ‘Security and Defense’). The Resilience and Crisis Response budget sees a big boost with an additional €12.8 billion, totalling €14 billion (the majority of which will come from the Next Generation EU funding). Also, under this budget line, RescEU, the Union’s Civil Protection Mechanism, gets an extra €1.9 billion, to €3.1 billion, to better prepare for and respond to future crises.
  3. A Commitment to international cooperation and common solutions for all – The EU is committed to support the global response to Covid-19, including by ensuring universal and affordable access to treatment, testing and any future vaccine. The plan proposes an additional €6.78 billion for the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDCI), to €86 billion, and another €5 billion for humanitarian assistance, reaching €14.8 billion.
  4. Creativity in finding new resources. The Commission will use its strong credit rating (and temporarily raise the EU’s own resources ceilings) to exceptionally borrow up to €750 billion in low interest loans at long maturities on the market. It will then channel borrowed funds (partly recycled as grants) to regions and sectors most vulnerable to COVID-19 in Europe and for pandemic preparedness and prevention. In addition, in order to make funds available as soon as possible, the Commission proposes to amend the current budget (covering 2014-2020) to make an additional €11.5 billion available already this year.
  5. European medicines agency– The Commission will propose to strengthen the European Medicines Agency in monitoring production and supply of essential medicines in the EU to avoid shortages.
  6. European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC): It will also give a stronger role for the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in coordinating surveillance, preparedness and response to health crises.
  7. More flexible emergency reserves for better crisis management. The Commission is proposing to create EU-level reserves of essential supplies and equipment to be mobilised in response to major emergencies and to strengthen its emergency financing tools (such as the EU Solidarity Fund, the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund, and the Solidarity and Emergency Aid Reserve) and make them more flexible to enable a rapid response to crises both within and outside the EU. Together, these instruments would provide for up to EUR 21 billion in additional emergency financing.
  8. Better and simplified regulation – The Commission will set up the ‘Fit-for-Future Platform’ involving all stakeholders to simplify and modernise EU legislation to alleviate unnecessary regulatory burden. The Commission will also present a Communication on Better Regulation later this year to ensure law and policy making are based on robust evidence and assessments.
  9. Investment in research and innovation. The Commission is proposing to reinforce ‘Horizon Europe’ by €7.8 billion, to €94.4 billion, to scale up vital research in health, resilience and the green and digital transitions.
  10. Fight Infodemics. The Commission plans to address disinformation challenges linked to the pandemic and build resilience for the future.

It’s now down to the European Parliament and the 27 Member States to carry on negotiations and reach an agreement on the long-term budget to equip the EU with the right tools to fight this pandemic and prepare for the next.

These initiatives are a great show of leadership from the EU to develop a resilience budget that can prepare us for future crises. PAN will be working with partners to make sure this proposal is protected, and even strengthened, in the negotiations between Member States and the European Parliament. PAN will also work to ensure the same kind of plan is adopted in other countries and at the global level, in particular resilience budgets and standalone mechanisms for pandemic preparedness. In addition, President Von der Leyen announced today that extra funds for international cooperation will be raised at a Global Pledging Summit on 27 June backed by the European Commission, 15 countries so far, and delivered by Global Citizen and partners.

Other countries and organisations should also explore innovative ways to raise funding for the global effort, to ensure the poorest countries can also fight this pandemic and be ready for the next. No-one is safe until everyone is safe

All figures are in 2018 constant prices

Background Information

The Commission is putting forward a two-fold plan totalling €1.85 trillion

  • Reinforced long-term EU budget (known as the Multiannual Financial Framework, or ‘MFF’) for 2021-2027 (€1 100 billion)
  • ‘Next Generation EU’ to boost the EU budget with new financing raised on the financial markets for 2021-2024 (€750 billion)

The money from Next Generation EU will be invested across three pillars, through €500 billion in grants and €250 billion in loans to Member States.

  1. Supporting Member States to recover
  2. Kick-starting the economy and helping private investment
  3. Learning the lessons from the crisis (including pandemic preparedness and prevention)

Proposed timeline:

  • May 27, 2020: Commission proposal for the revised Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020 & 2021-2027 and Own Resources Decision + sectoral legislation
  • July 1, 2020: German Presidency of the EU begins
  • By July 2020: European Council: Political agreement on Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020 & 2021-2027 and Own Resources Decision
  • By summer 2020: European Parliament’s consultation on Own Resources Decision
  • Early autumn 2020: Adoption of the revised Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020 + corresponding sectoral legislation
  • October 2020: European Council
  • December 2020: Adoption of the revised Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 (European Parliament’s consent) Adoption of the Own Resources Decision (Ratification by all Member States in line with their constitutional requirements)
  • January 1, 2021: Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 implementation starts

More information here: