The European Commission is working on all fronts to contain the spread of the coronavirus, support national health systems and counter the socio-economic impact of the pandemic by taking unprecedented measures at both national and EU level.
Examples of how the Commission has helped to tackle the crisis:
Securing safe and effective vaccines for Europe and the world
The Commission's Vaccines Strategy aims to:
help companies ramp up their manufacturing capacities at scale and at speed
ensure sufficient supplies for its Member States through Advance Purchase Agreements with vaccine producers
use the flexibility of our rules to speed up the development, authorisation and availability of vaccines
Securing doses of vaccines and supporting vaccination in EU countries
The Commission has built a diversified portfolio of vaccines for EU citizens at fair prices. Contracts have been concluded with 8 promising vaccine developers, securing a portfolio of up to 4.2 billion doses:
- BioNTech-Pfizer for up to 2.4 billion doses
- AstraZeneca for up to 400 million doses
- Sanofi-GSK for up to 300 million doses
- Johnson and Johnson for up to 400 million doses
- Moderna for up to 460 million doses
- Novavax for up to 200 million doses
- Valneva for up to 1.2 million doses
- HIPRA Human Health for up to 250 million doses
Since December 2020, the Commission has granted six conditional marketing authorisations for COVID-19 vaccine: to BioNTech and Pfizer (21 December 2020), Moderna (6 January 2021), Astra Zeneca (29 January 2021), Johnson & Johnson (11 March 2021), Novavax (20 December 2021) and Valneva (24 June 2022).
Deliveries of vaccine doses to Member States have increased steadily since December 2020. Vaccination gathered pace across the European Union, and by mid-2022, 86% of adult EU population were fully vaccinated.
As new variants of the coronavirus emerged, the Commission mobilised funds for urgent research and continued to conclude advance purchase agreements for booster shots and the adaption of vaccines to new variants.
The Commission has also launched a new joint procurement for medical equipment for vaccination. The Commission also proposed that hospitals and medical practitioners should not have to pay VAT on vaccines and testing kits.
Anticipating the threats of new variants
The European Commission has launched the European Health Emergency preparedness and Response Authority (HERA), which aims to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to health emergencies.
HERA is a shared resource and mission control centre for Member States and EU institutions to better prepare the EU for cross-border health threats.
On the one hand, HERA will anticipate threats and potential health crises, through intelligence gathering and building the necessary response capacities. On the other hand, when an emergency hits, HERA will ensure the development, production and distribution of medicines, vaccines and other medical countermeasures – such as gloves and masks – that were often lacking during the first phase of the coronavirus response.
HERA is therefore a key pillar of the European Health Union and consists in a new health preparedness and resilience mission for the whole of the EU, as announced by President von der Leyen in her 2021 State of the Union address. It will fill a gap in the EU's health emergency response and preparedness.
For this new health preparedness and resilience mission for the whole of the EU, President von der Leyen announced that Team Europe should make €50 billion available.
Ramping up manufacturing
On 4 February 2021, the European Commission set up a Task Force to support the ramp up of the production capacity for vaccines against COVID-19 in the EU acting as a one-stop-shop for manufacturers in need of support, and to identify and address bottlenecks in production capacity and supply chains.
As key achievements, the Task Force has identified and helped remove vaccine production bottlenecks in the EU, mapped EU vaccine production capacities throughout the supply chain, and facilitated partnerships through matchmaking events for vaccine and therapeutics production. It also aims at ensuring sufficient long-term manufacturing capacity in Europe and supporting global vaccine access and vaccine sharing efforts.
The Commission has mobilised more than €660 million under Horizon 2020 since January 2020 to develop vaccines, new treatments, diagnostic tests and medical systems to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and save lives.
The Commission has offered CureVac, a highly innovative European vaccine developer, financial support by backing a €75 million European Investment Bank loan.
The European Investment Bank also signed a €100 million financing agreement with immunotherapy company BioNTech SE to develop a vaccine programme. The EIB financing is backed by both Horizon 2020 and the Investment Plan for Europe.
Ensuring a global response
A global pandemic requires a global solution. This is why the Commission is committed to ensuring universal access to COVID-19 vaccines, including in low and middle-income countries.
In 2020, the Coronavirus Global Response pledging marathon raised funds for universal access to coronavirus treatments, tests and vaccines. It started in May and culminated in a Global Pledging Summit and concert in June 2020.
This includes a pledge of €1.4 billion from the Commission
The European Commission and the European Investment Bank are strong supporters of COVAX, the world's facility for fair and universal access to COVID-19 vaccines.
Together with the EU Member States, Team Europe has so far pledged over €3 billion to COVAX, which makes the European Union one of COVAX's biggest donors.
EU leaders have agreed to a recovery package of €2.018 trillion (in current prices) that combines the EU budget for 2021-27 and NextGenerationEU. Under the agreement the Commission will be able to borrow up to around €800 billion (in current prices) on the markets.
On 15 June 2021, in its first NextGenerationEU transaction, the Commission has raised a €20 billion via a ten-year bond due on 4 July 2031 to finance Europe's recovery from the coronavirus crisis and its consequences. Including other transactions in June and July, the Commission has so far raised €45 billion under NextGenerationEU. The funds will now be used for the first payments under NextGenerationEU, under the Recovery and Resilience Facility and various EU budget programmes. The first disbursement under NextGenerationEU already took place at the end of June, and was carried out under the REACT-EU programme.
By end August, the Commission has assessed and approved 19 of the national recovery and resilience plans that have been submitted. The first disbursements, worth more than €49 billion, have already reached Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Portugal, as of 21 September.
In 2020, the European Commission has adopted various measures of support, such as:
economic measures that complement the European Central Bank’s €1,850 billion Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme in addition to the €120 billion programme decided earlier
triggering the ‘escape clause’ that allows maximum flexibility to our budgetary rules. This will help EU countries support healthcare systems and businesses, and secure people’s jobs during the crisis
screening of foreign direct investment. The Commission has issued guidelines to help Member States protect critical European assets and technology in the current crisis
The European Semester Spring Package provided economic policy guidance to all EU Member States in the context of the pandemic. The recommendations focus on cushioning the impact of the crisis in the short term and building growth in the long term, in line with our green and digital goals.
The Commission’s Temporary Support to mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency (SURE) is designed to help people keep their jobs during the crisis. SURE support is issued as social bonds, to make sure every euro has a clear social impact. Nineteen countries have received a total of over €94 billion in support under this instrument.
In addition, the Commission presented guidelines to ensure the protection of seasonal workers in the EU during the pandemic. It provides guidance to national authorities, labour inspectorates, and social partners to guarantee the rights, health and safety of seasonal workers, and to ensure that seasonal workers are aware of their rights.
- The EIB Group is investing an additional €20 billion in small and medium-sized businesses.
- The Commission is mobilising €8 billion to help at least 100,000 companies, together with the EIB Group.
The Commission tabled an investment initiative to provide Member States with immediate liquidity. It consists of unspent cohesion policy funds and includes:
- new methods to reach the most vulnerable under the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived, such as home deliveries and the use of electronic vouchers to reduce the risk of spreading the virus
- support to fishermen and farmers
- launched exceptional measures to support and stabilise agricultural markets
- adopted an additional package of exceptional measures to support the wine sector. On 4 May 2020, the Commission adopted another package of measures to further support the agricultural and food sectors most affected by the coronavirus crisis.
A step towards a European Health Union
On 11 November 2020, the Commission laid the first bricks of a European Health Union, based on two pillars:
- A stronger health security framework, which will entail:
Harmonising European, national and regional preparedness and response plans. These plans would be stress-tested and audited regularly by the Commission and EU agencies.
An EU emergency system. It would trigger increased coordination and rapid action to develop, stockpile, and procure the equipment needed to face the crisis.
- More robust EU agencies:
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control will monitor the epidemiological situation based on common data.
The European Medicines Agency's mandate will cover the safety of medicines and medical devices, risk of shortages and clinical trials of medicines.
A new Health Emergency Response Authority (HERA) will be created.
Medical guidance for EU countries
The Commission’s panel of 7 independent epidemiologists and virologists provides science-based guidelines and advises upon
- response measures for all Member States
- gaps in clinical management
- prioritisation of health care, civil protection and other resources
- policy measures for long-term consequences of coronavirus
Based on scientific advice from this panel as well as the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the Commission took the following steps
- 19 March 2020
Recommendations on community measures, such as physical distancing
- 8 April 2020
Issued guidelines to optimise the supply and availability of medicines as well as antitrust guidance on allowing limited cooperation among businesses, especially for critical hospital medicines. The Commission also set up a ‘Clearing house for medical equipment’ that helps identify available supplies, including testing kits, and accelerate their matching with national
- 15 April 2020
Guidelines on testing methodologies, to support the efficient use of testing kits by Member States, in particular when confinement measures are lifted.
- 16 April 2020
Guidance on how to develop tracing mobile apps that fully respect EU data protection rules, in the context of the gradual lifting of containment measures.
- 16 June 2020
EU Member States, with the support of the Commission, have agreed on technical guidelines to ensure a safe exchange of information between contact tracing apps and interoperability
- 3 July 2020
Granted a conditional marketing authorisation for the medicine Remdesivir, making it the first medicine authorised at EU level for treatment against coronavirus.
- 29 July 2020
Signed a €63 million contract with the pharmaceutical company Gilead to secure treatment doses of Veklury, the brand name for Remdesivir. Batches of Veklury are made available to Member States and the UK, with the coordination and support of the Commission.
- 19 October 2020
A European Gateway Service was launched to interlink contact tracing apps. By mid-December, 13 apps should be connected to the service.
- 2 December 2020
Strategy to help keep safe from COVID-19 during the winter, recommending continued vigilance and caution into 2021 when the roll out of safe and effective vaccines will occur.
Personal protective equipment (PPE)
To aid the production and availability of personal protective equipment (PPE), the Commission is
- working closely with Member States to assess the available stock of PPE in the EU, the production capacity and anticipated needs
- ensuring conformity assessment and market surveillance to increase the supply of PPE without compromising health and safety standards
- discussing with industry how to convert production lines to supply more PPE and providing manufacturers with guidance to increase production of PPE, hand sanitisers and disinfectants
The Commission issued a recommendation to Member States on testing strategies, including the use of rapid antigen tests.
€100 million from the Emergency Support Instrument has been invested in the purchase and delivery of such tests in the Member States. In parallel, the Commission has launched a joint procurement to help EU countries get more of these tests.
In addition, the Commission has given €35.5 million from the Emergency Support Instrument to the International Federation of the Red Cross to scale up COVID-19 testing capacity in the EU, train volunteers and protect the most vulnerable.
Borders and mobility
During the pandemic, the Commission has issued recommendations to make sure Member States act in a coordinated way to both contain the spread of the virus and keep the free movement of people, goods and our economies working.
The Commission proposed Digital Certificates to facilitate safe free movement within the EU during the pandemic.
The EU Digital COVID Certificate Regulation entered into application on 1 July 2021. EU citizens and residents are now able to have their Digital COVID Certificates issued and verified across the EU. The digital or paper-based certificates are free of charge, and can be used as proof of vaccination, test or recovery.
During 2020, the Commission issued:
- guidelines for border management measures to protect health and ensure availability of goods and essential services
- guidance to ensure the free movement of workers, especially in the health care and food sectors
- guidance on health, repatriation and travel arrangements for cruise ship passengers and cargo vessel crews
- Proposals to ensure that any measures taken by Member States that restrict free movement due to the pandemic are coordinated and clearly communicated at the EU level, with a single set of colours to represent risks and a single set of rules to follow. The Commission will also work with Member States on a common approach to quarantine practices
- guidance on travellers to be exempted from the temporary travel restrictions
- a testing protocol for aviation and an EU Passenger Locator Form are in the making, to facilitate safe travel
Re-open EU provides essential information regarding the safe relaunch of free movement and tourism across Europe. A Re-open EU app launched in December 2020. You can find real-time information on
- available means of transport
- travel restrictions
- public health and safety measures
- a map with a clear colour code
The Commission is in close contact with social media platforms regarding measures to promote authoritative content, improve users' awareness, and limit coronavirus disinformation and advertising related to it.
So far more than 700 disinformation narratives on the coronavirus have been exposed, published and updated on www.EUvsDisinfo.eu. The Commission’s fighting coronavirus-disinformation page also provides materials for myth busting and fact checking.
The Commission is deploying all available tools and funding research to help in the fight against coronavirus-related misinformation and disinformation.
The Commission and the European External Action Service are working closely with other EU institutions and Member States, including through the Rapid Alert System set up in March 2019, as well as with international partners from the G7 and NATO.
On 10 June 2020, the Commission presented a series of actions to step up fighting disinformation around the coronavirus pandemic, such as strengthening strategic communications and public diplomacy in the EU's immediate neighbourhood and around the world as well as its support to independent media and journalists.
These actions are feeding into further EU work on disinformation and the Commission proposed two new texts in December 2020. The first one is a European Democracy Action Plan that further strengthens the EU’s work to counter disinformation and to adapt to evolving threats and manipulations, as well as to support free and independent media. The second one is the Digital Services Act setting out rules to ensure greater accountability on how platforms moderate content, on advertising and on algorithmic processes.
The monthly monitoring programme established with the signatories of our Code of Practice against disinformation online now also provides information on actions against vaccines mis- and disinformation. In March 2021, the Commission proposed to reinforce the Code in several areas to make it strong, stable and flexible.