August 2, 2020, 01.13 PM

BRUSSELS, KOMPAS.com – The European Union is encouraging its member-states to consider a joint procurement in anticipation of equipment shortages once a Covid-19 vaccine is discovered.

The EU has assessed a possible risk of shortages of syringes, wipes, and protective gear needed for mass vaccinations against the deadly novel virus.

Aside from early preparations to mitigate equipment shortages, EU governments have also been asked to consider a joint purchase of additional influenza shots.

Read also: Johnson & Johnson in Talks with Japan, EU, Gates Foundation for Covid-19 Vaccine Supply

The European Union is also asking its member-states to increase the number of people vaccinated to reduce the risk of simultaneous flu and Covid-19 outbreaks in the autumn.

No vaccine against Covid-19 has yet been fully developed or approved, but countries around the world are seeking to secure supplies of potential shots.

If and when vaccine candidates prove effective, immunization campaigns can start quickly.

Some countries hope that may be as early as this year.

Read also: Indonesia Eyes Local Covid-19 Vaccine Mass Production by Mid-2021

Should a shot prove effective, manufacturing and distribution issues could become hurdles.

"Covid-19 vaccines, once developed, may come without syringes and other items," the EU Commission, the bloc's executive arm, told health experts from European countries at a meeting last week, according to a summary report on its website.

"There could be shortages," it warned, asking governments about their stocks of syringes, wipes, alcohol, and personal protective equipment such as face masks.

It urged EU states to consider joint procurement, with representatives of Italy and the Netherlands expressing interest, according to the document.

Joint purchase schemes are considered useful to obtain better prices and avoid EU governments vying against each other.

Read also: EU Leaders Seal the Deal on $2.1 Trillion Coronavirus Recovery Fund

A spokeswoman for the Netherlands' National Institute for Health confirmed the EU's plans and said the country of 17 million had already begun a process on its own to acquire 10 million syringes and needles.

A spokesman for the Commission declined to comment, as preparations for the possible launch of procurements are confidential.

The EU executive also said at the meeting that it had approached vaccine makers about whether additional doses of influenza vaccine were available, according to the document.

EU governments were invited to communicate their interest by July 24 on the joint purchase of flu vaccines. The Commission declined to comment on the process.

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio; additional reporting by Toby Sterling in Amsterdam; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Nick Macfie)

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