Covid-19 Response

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National academies call on European Commission to reduce obstacles to vaccine development

The European Commission must encourage greater collaboration between universities and drug companies on the research and development of vaccines, and tackle problems in clinical research, including shortfalls in clinical trials, according to a report published today (9 May 2006) by EASAC, an umbrella body for the national science academies of the European Union.

The report, entitled Vaccines: innovation and human health, was prepared by a working group drawn from eight European countries. It also urges the Commission to reduce obstacles to the commercial manufacture of vaccines, as the threat grows from infectious diseases, such as influenza.

Dr Volker ter Meulen, chairman of the working group and President of the Leopoldina German Academy of Sciences, said: Vaccines are a crucial part of the armoury for dealing with infectious diseases. The European Commission, Parliament and Centre for Disease Control need to give better leadership in developing and implementing the strategies for producing and distributing vaccines. And the Commission should find ways of reducing obstacles to the commercial manufacture of vaccines. As the threat of infectious diseases grows, these matters will become more and more urgent.

The report indicates that the Commission should work with member states on how to identify and agree priorities in advance of outbreaks of infectious diseases, and to enable access to vaccines. The European Centre for Disease Control must become active in the EU-wide surveillance of current and emerging infection, and in co-ordinating and sharing best practice to ensure that Member State authorities provide standardised and detailed surveillance statistics.

The EASAC report also points out that vaccines have high social value, but manufacturers returns on investment may be less than for other pharmaceutical products. The Commission should find ways of tackling this and other incentives by, for example reducing their exposure to legal claims and providing effective patenting systems.

The report also recommends that the Commission tackles current strategic weaknesses in the size and number of clinical trials funded by the public sector, and a lack of priority setting in clinical research.

In addition, the reports calls for more support for the research community in articulating the value of vaccines, warning of the need to combat anti-vaccination lobbies and to improve communication with the public-at-large on the balance of benefit and risk.

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