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EU Policy. Commission secures 40 million vaccines against avian flu pandemic

The European Commission announced the joint purchase of pre-pandemic vaccine doses targeting avian influenza.
The European Commission announced the joint purchase of pre-pandemic vaccine doses targeting avian influenza. Copyright Bob Edme/Copyright 2021 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Bob Edme/Copyright 2021 The AP. All rights reserved
By Marta Iraola Iribarren
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With outbreaks of avian influenza being reported in several countries across the world, the European Union has secured a batch of preventive vaccines to prepare for possible spread among humans.

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The European Commission has joint purchased 665,000 pre-pandemic vaccine doses targeting avian influenza and taken an option for 40 million doses over the next four years, the executive announced today (11 June).   

The contract was signed by the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) on behalf of fifteen member states.     

“HERA is showing again the European Health Union in action by making sure that we are prepared,” a Commission spokesperson told a press conference in Brussels.    

While several outbreaks of avian influenza have been detected in farms across the globe, transmission to humans is still rare and limited to those in close contact with infected animals and contaminated spaces.     

One of the latest reports comes from Mexico, where a 59-year-old man died on 24 April after being infected with avian influenza H5N2, confirming the first human infection with this strain of the virus.   

Four other cases of human infections have been reported in the United States since 2022, three of them since the beginning of this year, all among dairy farm workers.   

The US Centers for Disease Prevention and Control assesses the current public health risk as low and is currently monitoring outbreaks in poultry and dairy cows.   

According to a press release, the European Commission is in contact with third countries' authorities to exchange information on the situation as well as measures for prevention and management.   

So far, no human-to-human infections have been reported anywhere, and the risk of zoonotic influenza transmission to the general public is considered low, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has reported.    

The Commission also said that there have been no reported active cases of avian influenza infection in humans in the EU.     

The first shipments of vaccines are already being prepared and will be sent to Finland for immediate vaccinations of workers at risk of exposure such as poultry farm workers and veterinarians.  

The fifteen member states participating in this purchase are doing so through the EU's Joint Procurement Agreement for Medical Countermeasures. This mechanism allows participating countries to jointly procure medical countermeasures on a voluntary and flexible basis.      

Such countermeasures include vaccines, therapeutics, and medical devices, and these can be used as an alternative or to complement any procurement at the national level. 

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