JAKARTA, May 31 — ASEAN and EU experts had discussed the emergence of new COVID-19 variants, the scaling up of vaccine manufacturing capacity and the possibilities and challenges of vaccine rollout, at the recent second EU-ASEAN Expert Dialogue on COVID-19 Vaccines.
Vietnam news agency (VNA) reported that ASEAN Deputy Secretary General for Socio-Cultural Community Kung Phoak in his remark noted that this cooperative undertaking reaffirms ASEAN’s commitment to vaccine security and self-reliance which underscores the need to strengthen cooperation and stakeholder efforts through knowledge sharing, capacity building and other developmental actions.
He further highlighted that the ASEAN health ministers adopted the Regional Strategic and Action Plan on ASEAN Vaccine Security and Self-Reliance for 2021-2025 on May 14, which will now further accelerate cooperation in vaccine-related initiatives in the region.
EU Ambassador to ASEAN Igor Driesmans, for his part, also noted that the event presents an opportunity to engage a unique mix of medical specialists, policy practitioners, and industry representatives from BioNTech. This is the latest example of the strong partnership which EU and ASEAN have forged since March 2020 to tackle the COVID-19 crisis, he said.
According to him, the EU and its member states are the leading supporters of the COVAX Facility, pledging more than 2.47 billion to it.
The Facility aims to provide access to vaccines for every country, in addition to the dedicated EU assistance to Southeast Asia, which includes the €800 million “Team Europe” package, to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 to ASEAN and a €20 million support programme for WHO activities in the region.
VNA’s report said that additionally, the EU has also exported half of its vaccine production, or over 205 million doses, to 45 countries across the globe, including 3.8 million doses to Singapore and 2.5 million doses to Malaysia.
ASEAN is set to receive over 32 million doses through the facility by the end of 2021.
Dr Sierk Poetting, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer of BioNTech, called the scale up of manufacturing capacity a key priority. He noted the increase of their own capacities from about 1.3 billion doses to up to 3 billion doses within six months and promised to further explore additional means of doing so, such as through licensing agreements with experienced partners.
The ASEAN and EU had held expert dialogues on COVID-19 vaccines at the 23rd ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting on Dec 1, 2020.
Its first edition took place a week later, covering strategies and practical aspects of vaccine authorisation, production, and distribution and attracting over 100 experts.