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MEPs seek more R&D spending over Covid and other pandemics


Special Parliament committee on EU Covid response identifies R&D funding challenges

MEPs examining the EU’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic have called for increased investment in research and innovation to better prevent and respond to similar public health threats in the future.

“Stepping up research on, and development of, responses to pathogens with epidemic and pandemic potential prior to epidemics and pandemics is crucial,” the European Parliament’s special committee on Covid-19 said in its final report, which it adopted on 12 June.

The World Health Organization has estimated that Covid caused millions of deaths in Europe during the first two years of the pandemic, and potentially millions of other people are still experiencing lingering effects such as fatigue.

The special committee of MEPs, established in March 2022, sought to evaluate the effects of the pandemic on Europe’s health systems and broader society, as well as responses including vaccination campaigns.

Its report, which was adopted with 23 votes in favour and 13 against, said the EU was “not ready to cope” with the pandemic and that “everybody made mistakes” in responding to the “unprecedented situation”.

It added that the EU should now learn from those mistakes to better prepare itself to respond to future pandemics.

Need to boost research

The report said the level of public funding for R&D was “sufficient for the rapid development of vaccines”, although EU member states “faced obstacles” around research funding, and there was a “lack of adequate funding and resources” for monitoring and data surveillance.

It called on the European Commission to use EU strategies for industry, intellectual property and pharmaceuticals to “bridge the persistent gap in research and medicine production” through development partnerships and by creating “open centres” for research and production.

“Robust IP protection” incentivises medical R&D, it stressed, adding that major pharmaceutical companies enhanced the production and supply of medical tools through “ownership of IP, technologies and data”.

The report also called for more research on the long-term effects of Covid on health.

The European Parliament is expected to vote on the committee’s report in July.

MEP Dolors Montserrat, the lead author, said: “We must strengthen the EU further to protect our health workers, not neglect any disease, and help the most vulnerable.

“We must boost research, fight against fake news and cyberattacks, and create a competitive pharmaceutical sector that enhances the EU’s strategic autonomy in health.”