France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands have formed what is being described as an "inclusive vaccine alliance" aimed at accelerating the production of a COVID-19 vaccine "on European soil," according to a statement issued Wednesday by the Dutch government. The four countries are in talks with pharmaceutical companies and "exploring several promising initiatives," adding they are "convinced that a joint strategy and investments are necessary for a successful result."
The goal of the alliance is to secure enough vaccines for the EU and other countries, particularly lower-income states in Africa, the Dutch government said. It added that the alliance would like to include the European Commission in the negotiations and offer other EU members the possibility of participating in any initiatives that result from the collaboration.
The move comes as Europe looks to join the global race to secure early access to future coronavirus vaccines, with the EU's executive branch recently asking the bloc's 27 member states for a mandate to negotiate with companies for advance contracts and reservations for doses of promising vaccine candidates, according to an internal memo cited by Bloomberg.
Similar deals struck by US
Under a proposal outlined in the memo, the bloc would seek joint procurement and provide upfront financial support with the condition that member states would have the right to buy the necessary doses from that company. It noted that certain regulatory procedures among member states will need to be streamlined, such as simplifying labeling requirements. Health ministers are expected to discuss details of the plan next week.
The European Commission warned that the move is necessary following similar deals struck by the US, including one with AstraZeneca worth as much as $1.2 billion  to secure at least 300 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine that is being developed by the University of Oxford. The EU indicated that it is looking to mimic the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, which is "financing different projects even before any are proven to work, with the hopes of having two or three successful candidates that allow for quick distribution among US citizens."