EU vaccines joint procurement agreement due to come into force within two weeks

Out-Law News | 25 Jun 2014 | 9:51 am | 2 min. read

Measures which will enable European Union countries to join together to procure pandemic vaccines and other medicines for infectious diseases will come into effect within two weeks, after 14 EU states signed up to the agreement.

The UK is among the 14 countries which signed the agreement at a ceremony in Luxembourg, a European Commission spokesman told Out-Law.com. A further 13 countries including France and Germany have also declared their intention to participate in the voluntary joint procurement agreement. Only Poland has yet to declare its stance on the measure.

The joint procurement agreement is designed to ensure that pandemic vaccines and medicines are available in sufficient quantities and at a "correct price" in the event of a cross border health threat, the Commission said. It has been introduced following concerns expressed by some member states in the wake of the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, which is also known as swine flu.

The joint procurement agreement was approved by the European Commission in April.

At the time European health commissioner Tonio Borg said: "Joint procurement of pandemic vaccines and other medical countermeasures is a key achievement of our work to protect citizens from serious cross-border threats to health. Through joint procurement, all member states, big and small, can be better prepared for future health threats."

"They will be able to provide their citizens with the necessary medicines and to obtain them under better conditions than in the past," said Borg. "I call on all member states to sign the joint procurement agreement as soon as possible so that we can proceed to the first procurement of pandemic vaccines."

According to the Commission, the 2009 swine flu pandemic highlighted "weaknesses" in the mechanisms in place in EU countries for procuring vaccines and medications.

"It underlined the need to introduce a common procedure for the joint procurement of medical countermeasures, and in particular of pandemic vaccines, to allow member states, on a voluntary basis, to improve their purchasing power and have equitable access to vaccines and antivirals," said a statement by the Commission. "The (joint procurement) mechanism will benefit all EU countries, in particular the ones which encountered difficulties in purchasing vaccines developed for the H1N1 pandemic in 2009."

Under the joint procurement agreement, any EU state will be able to make a proposal to other participating member states to procure medical countermeasures together.

The process will be guided by a Joint Procurement Agreement Steering Committee which will have responsibility for all issues relating to the joint procurement agreement and the Specific Procurement Procedure Steering Committee, which will be in charge of matters relating to specific procurement procedures.

The Joint Procurement Agreement Steering Committee will convene for the first time once ten participating EU countries have ratified the joint procurement agreement and will discuss the first vaccines and medicines which are to be procured jointly.

Signing the joint procurement agreement will not imply any immediate financial commitment for member states, said the Commission.  A financial commitment will only be required when member states sign a contract following procurement procedures which have been launched on the basis of the agreement.