Improving the Attractiveness of the Vaccines Industry in the European Union

Vaccination is one of the most successful health prevention tools, protecting against several infectious diseases. It has allowed us to eradicate smallpox, eliminate polio from nearly every region of the world and control diseases like measles, rubella and pertussis, among many others. Vaccination brings significant value not only to public health but to the economy as well, and should be viewed as an investment, rather than a cost. To take full advantage of the benefits that vaccination brings, we need the right environment to encourage vaccine innovation. However, findings from a recent report, highlight several challenges faced by the vaccine industry in Europe across the value chain.

The EU has been a leader in vaccine research, development and manufacturing, hosting approximately 22% of global vaccine clinical trials over the past two decades as well as research facilities affiliated with the world’s largest vaccine companies. The COVID-19 pandemic further cemented the EU’s footprint as a leader in the vaccine ecosystem when by January 2022, the EU had contributed to nearly 40% of the world’s COVID-19 vaccine exports. However, the vaccines industry in the EU is also grappling with many challenges. Limited funding, incentives and support for diverse vaccine types and platforms are barriers to early-stage vaccine research. Further, complex clinical trial requirements and lengthy timelines have contributed to a 35% relative decline in the share of global vaccine clinical trials conducted in the region since 2000. 

The research strength of the EU vaccines industry was highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw 47% of patent applications for COVID-19 vaccines coming from European companies.

While access to vaccines and other health innovations is a Member State competence, the EU can play a supporting role in improving the landscape of uptake and equity. A key issue on this front is the significant disparities in reimbursement timelines across Member States. Data shows that in 30% of EU countries, it often takes over 6 years for a new vaccine to be reimbursed. This further supports the need for innovative primary prevention solutions and improved decision-making process at the Member State level.

All of these factors need to be addressed to foster vaccine innovation and improve the attractiveness of the EU for the vaccine industry. Therefore, Vaccines Europe is calling for:  

  • sufficient levels of funding and investment to sustainably support vaccine research
  • appropriate infrastructure and skilled workforce for vaccine R&D, manufacturing and assessment
  • greater coordination between the EU and Member States to enable streamlined and harmonized processes, providing more timely access to innovative vaccines
  • ensuring the regulatory and access environment has the necessary flexibility to support the assessment of innovative vaccines
  • greater accountability and EU-wide policy prioritisation of prevention and immunisation to support more equitable population access to vaccines
  • consistent support from the EU for the European vaccine industry in global policy debates

The EU vaccines industry is a ready and willing partner in innovation. The opportunity is now to collaborate toward sustained leadership within the vaccine ecosystem.

“The EU was the home of vaccine production and innovation before the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, this footprint grew as we witnessed major contributions in the areas of research, development and manufacturing. Now, we see potential for even more growth through the pipeline of new vaccine candidates. The vaccines industry is recognized as a key infrastructure for Europe. To ensure its sustainability and growth, we need this recognition to be translated into policy actions, maintaining the EU’s position as a leader within the vaccine ecosystem.” 

Sibilia Quilici, Executive Director, Vaccines Europe

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Sibilia Quilici

Sibilia is currently Executive Director of Vaccines Europe. Previously, she was Director Public Policy Vaccines Europe at MSD. Economist and Statistician by background, she has over 10 years of experience in European Public Policy, Market Access, Health Economics and Outcomes Research dedicated to Vaccines. She uses her skills in economics combined with planning & decision making in an international environment to develop public-private partnerships to emphasize the importance of the value of health and prevention in Europe.