European Commission president announces plan for EU version of BARDA
The EU is to set up an equivalent to the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), after coming under criticism about Europe’s inability to swiftly seal advance purchase agreements for COVID-19 vaccines. The plan was announced on September 16 by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, in her first State of the Union address since coming into office at the start of 2020. The new agency will support capacity and readiness to respond to cross-border health threats and emergencies, “whether of natural or deliberate origin,” she said. At this stage, there are no details about funding or governance of European BARDA, but Von der Leyen said it will build strategic stockpiles to protect against supply chain interruptions, notably for pharmaceuticals.
In a set piece speech to the European Parliament, Von der Leyen, a medical doctor, said COVID-19 has exposed “the fragility all around us” and laid bare “the strain in our health systems.” In response, she is calling for the European Commission (EC) to have more influence over health, an area where currently member states hold – and fiercely defend – all responsibility. In addition to the BARDA lookalike, Von der Leyen said she wants the EU to “reinforce and empower” the EMA and the European Center for Disease prevention and Control. She also took aim at the World Health Organization (WHO), saying it needs reform, but that this should be “change by design – not by destruction,” adding, “I want the EU to lead reforms of … WHO so [it is] fit for today’s world.”