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Safe COVID-19 vaccines for Europeans

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In line with the Vaccines Strategy proposal of June 2020, the European Commission negotiated intensely to build a diversified portfolio of vaccines for EU citizens at fair prices. Contracts were concluded with 8 promising vaccine developers, securing a portfolio of up to 4.2 billion doses. 

Deliveries of vaccine doses to European Union countries increased steadily after December 2020.  

By the summer of 2023, roughly 84.8 % of the EU’s adult population had received primary vaccination (one or two doses) against COVID-19. The Commission also negotiated three additional contracts with pharmaceutical companies to secure more COVID-19 vaccines – for young people, for the EU’s international partners, for booster shots and to guard against new variants. In September 2022, it authorised two adapted booster vaccines. 

Effective and broad vaccination was the best strategy to overcome the pandemic. Based on evidence from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, all vaccines authorised in the EU were highly protective against hospitalisation, severe disease and death, with an effectiveness in the general population of over 80%. 

There was a clear link between the level of vaccination and hospitalisation and death rates: the higher the vaccination rate, the lower the risk of being hospitalised or dying. 

Increasing vaccination rates of all eligible groups, particularly of the elderly, the vulnerable and healthcare workers across the EU, was therefore the first priority to control the spread of COVID-19.  

Evidence showed booster doses offered a significant increase in protection against infection and severe diseases. In July 2022, in view of the resurgence of COVID-19 infections, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the European Medicines Agency recommended a second booster dose of COVID-19 vaccines for people between 60 and 79 years old and people with medical conditions putting them at high risk of severe disease. 

While the WHO announced on 5 May 2023 that the pandemic no longer constitutes a global health emergency, the EU remains vigilant and continues to ensure vaccination of the vulnerable. 

To secure enough doses, the Commission also worked closely with the industry to step up vaccine manufacturing capacity in the EU. At the same time, the Commission started work to anticipate and tackle new variants of the virus and to rapidly develop and produce vaccines effective against those variants on a large-scale, launching HERA, the European Health Emergency preparedness and Response Authority. HERA anticipates threats and potential health crises, through intelligence gathering and building the necessary response capacities to enable rapid response to health emergencies. 

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