BELGIUM – The European Union is set to invest 890 million euros (US$936 million) in vaccine and drug production in Latin America and Caribbean countries, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen has said.

In a joint statement with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, von der Leyen said the new partnership will involve sharing knowledge and technologies, as well as the creation of a robust regulatory environment.

The European Union shipped 237 million doses to Latin American and Caribbean countries and donated a total of 475 million doses to its partners across the world, von der Leyen said at the press conference.

However, in order to prepare for future pandemics, many countries must ramp up their capacity to manufacture and administer vaccines, she said.

The move should boost Latin America’s manufacturing capacity, foster equitable access to safe, effective and affordable health products, and help strengthen health resilience in the region to tackle endemic and emerging diseases, said the Commission.

The health partnership that the EU is launching will contain three building blocks to create more resilient health systems in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The European Union shipped 237 million doses to Latin American and Caribbean countries and donated a total of 475 million doses to its partners across the world

“The first one is we want to get the private sector from both sides into the game,” von der Leyen said.

We will need significant investments to strengthen the vaccine manufacturing capacities and supply chains. And this is why we will organize match-making events between the European Union and Latin American businesses starting this autumn so that they get to know each other, and we are working together on new financial mechanisms of course to support these investments in health and pharmaceuticals in the region.”

From the autumn, events will be organized to foster collaborations between the EU’s private sector and businesses in Latin America.

The partnership follows a similar initiative which was launched last year on manufacturing and access to vaccines, medicines and health technologies in Africa.

The 1-billion-euro (approximately US$1.1 billion) initiative was announced by von der Leyen at the G20 summit in Rome.

The second step is about sharing technologies and knowledge, as the EU will look to build bridges between regional universities, research centers and scientists.

For example, von der Leyen said that they will work together under Horizon Europe, a major research funding program, to act as a bridge between the researchers and the universities from both sides and joint health research projects supported by funds from the EU.

The third pillar relates to the manufacturing of vaccines, as von der Leyen said that the EU will step up cooperation between their different agencies such as the EMA, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and CARA to link with partners in Latin America for a more streamlined regulatory process for vaccines produced in the region.

The partnership is being financially supported by partners including the Inter-American Development Bank, with Team Europe investing 890 million euros (US$936 million) in health projects in Latin America and the Caribbean.

This includes contributions from actors such as the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation, with more support to come on board in the future, von der Leyen said.

The EU is also defining financial support to the biotech sector in Cuba and Mexico, as well as exploring options for support in Chile, Costa Rica, Uruguay and Colombia.

However, at the conference, no strict timeline was given for when these initiatives take off.

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