BRUSSELS — In a bid to coordinate a patchwork of Covid-19 measures across the European Union and centralize responses to the pandemic, the bloc’s executive arm on Wednesday proposed a “European Health Union.”
The proposal by the European Commission, which would need to be approved by the European Parliament and member countries, would create an E.U.-wide plan to prepare for future health crises, as well as coordinate Covid-19 testing across the bloc.
The commission also wants to reinforce Europe’s health agencies — the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, and the European Medicines Agency — and set up a health task force, which could be deployed quickly within the bloc and to third countries.
The aim is to strengthen the ability of the agencies to manage issues, like medicine and medical device supplies, and issue recommendations on different Covid-19 measures.
“In times of crisis, citizens rightfully expect the E.U. to take a more active role,” the bloc’s health commissioner, Stella Kyriakides, said at a news conference on Wednesday. “The European Health Union is all about preparing for and facing up to common health threats together, as a union. We need to do this in order to meet the expectations of our citizens.”
Asked whether national governments were ready to endorse the proposal, Ms. Kyriakides said she was “optimistic” that they will see the plan as “the step in the right direction.”
The commission’s effort comes a day after it announced a deal with the drugmaker Pfizer and BioNTech, a German company, which will allow member countries to order up to 300 million doses of their Covid-19 vaccine.
On Tuesday, the two companies announced preliminary results of a trial showing that their vaccine was more than 90 percent effective in preventing the disease among trial volunteers who had no evidence of prior coronavirus infection. However, the vaccine will not be available for several months.
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