EU to launch programme for ‘second generation’ COVID-19 vaccines

Ursula von der Leyen speaks to the press in the European Parliament on 10 February 2021. [Europe by Satellite]

The EU will launch a programme to study COVID-19 variants and produce “second generation” vaccines against future strains, the Commission president has said.

The “HERA incubator” programme, which begins Wednesday (17 February), will bring together the pharmaceutical industry, laboratories, health authorities and researchers, Ursula von der Leyen told French daily Les Echos on Tuesday.

“The virus has evolved and will continue to evolve,” said a spokesperson for the bloc – which has been criticised for its slow rollout of vaccines so far.

MEPs grill von der Leyen over shaky COVID-19 vaccine strategy

EU lawmakers questioned Commission President Ursula von der Leyen for hours on Tuesday (2 February) over the slow rollout and shortage of COVID-19 vaccines as she took responsibility for an export control plan that angered Britain and Ireland.

“It is important we prepare for mutations.”

Member states will also be asked to contribute additional funds so the EU can adapt and modify contracts already signed with vaccine providers and secure doses against future variants, Bloomberg reported.

The EU Commission did not comment when contacted by AFP.

With delays to deliveries of three already-authorised vaccines by AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, the EU’s medicines regulator is under pressure from European capitals to speed more into service.

US pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson is the latest to apply for authorisation for its coronavirus vaccine in the EU with a decision possible by the middle of March, Europe’s drugs regulator said Tuesday.

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