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27 January 2021 morning

2021 - First part-session Print sitting

Sitting video(s) 1 / 1

Opening of the sitting num 5

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:04:03

Good morning, dear colleagues.

May I ask that those present in the room would please be seated?

Thank you, please be seated or if you have a discussion, which we can understand, please take it outside. If not, be seated.

The sitting is open.

The item of business this morning is a debate on the report titled "Covid-19 vaccines: ethical, legal, and practical considerations". This is the document 15212 presented by Ms Jennifer DE TEMMERMAN on behalf of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development.

We have Dr Tedros ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, Director-General of the World Health Organization who will be with us. He has a little bit of delay, so he will be with us around 10:20 to 10:30. So we will just proceed and from the moment I see that Dr Tedros ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS is on board we will give him obviously the floor, be it after the intervention of the rapporteurs, be it after a few interventions of colleagues on behalf of groups.

We expect to conclude the list of speakers at about 12:25. This will allow time for the reply and the vote.

As I see it, we have 32 people inscribed, so I hope that, if everyone respects the time limits and even if they could be shorter than normal, maybe we will be able to have the complete list of speakers done.

So without any further delay, I would wish to call Ms Jennifer DE TEMMERMAN.

You have 10 minutes to present the report and take into account that you have 3 minutes to reply to the debate.

Ms DE TEMMERMAN, you have the floor

Debate: Covid-19 vaccines: ethical, legal and practical considerations

Ms Jennifer DE TEMMERMAN

France, ALDE, Rapporteur

10:06:05

Mr. Speaker,

Dear colleagues,

Thank you for entrusting me with the preparation of such an important report as the one on vaccines against COVID-19. Thank you for your presence, either physical or virtual, and for the presence of Dr Tedros ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, who will join us shortly.

I would like to begin by offering you all my best wishes at this somewhat gloomy and uncertain beginning of the year. I remember that a year ago the WHO was already talking about a pandemic. I was following this on my UN Info mobile application, while here in France we were told that the epidemic was confined to China and that it was only a flu. On the other side of the ocean, they were even accusing the WHO of being in the service of hostile forces. Thankfully, those days are over and the United States is coming back with us in the WHO and in the Paris agreements in particular, and I welcome the election of President Biden.

In one year, our world has changed. December 27 is now the day of struggle, the International Epidemic Preparedness Day. Around the world, the VIDC-19 pandemic has changed our lives. To date, more than 90 million cases have been recorded worldwide and more than two million people have lost their lives. The disease burden of the pandemic itself and the public health measures needed to combat it have ravaged the global economy, exposing pre-existing fractures and inequalities and causing unemployment, economic decline, and poverty. International Epidemic Preparedness Day is set for 27 December. It is the birthday of Louis Pasteur, the French biologist responsible for vaccine research. I thank in passing all those who continue research on these essential subjects. This is our only hope at the moment.

However, I would like to take this opportunity this morning to draw your attention to a danger: that of stigmatization. A year ago, we were told that it would take 18 months to two years to develop vaccines; today, they are already there. So, I think it is normal that some of us have doubts. Like many French people my age, I grew up under two lights: that of Cartesianism and the Christian religion. From systematic doubt to the Parable of the Prodigal Son, I know that doubt is important. Faith, whether it is in God or in science, has value only if it is tested. So, I would like us to stop stigmatizing those who doubt and not to lock them into a category, sending people back to back, stigmatizing our society even more and making it a little more fragile.

On the contrary, when it comes to vaccination, we must convince and not coerce. Coercion is the weapon of the weak. That is why the report places particular emphasis on the importance of communication and transparency. When I hear a biologist from Nantes condemned for insulting another biologist from Marseilles, for example, what do you want the French to give credence to their words? This is just one example, that of my country, but I am sure that you are experiencing the same thing everywhere. Let us beware of hatred and insults. We must face it together.

As Secretary General António GUTERRES said, "the peril of one is the peril of all". That is why solidarity and coordination are essential. That is why I am concerned that some States are exercising a kind of monopoly on already insufficient doses while some are unable to vaccinate their at-risk people. Access to the COVID-19 vaccines must be guaranteed to the population, to everyone, regardless of gender, race, religion, legal or socio-economic status, ability to pay, location or any of the factors that often contribute to inequalities within the population. Persons in the same priority group must be treated in the same way.

I would like to draw your attention to the declaration of the DH-BIO, our Bioethics Committee at the Council of Europe, concerning equity in access to COVID-19 vaccines. On this point I fully agree with our experts, but an equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines, as I said, must also be ensured at the global level and not only within Member States. Vaccines should be a public good, as requested in Amendment No 3. As the pandemic is a global health crisis, it is in the interest of each country to cooperate to ensure global equity in access to vaccines. We must continue to support the World Health Organisation and work together in solidarity to put an end to this pandemic.

Although many Member States have expressed their support for international efforts to ensure the global allocation of the COVID-19 vaccines, support is, in reality, lacking in practice. Instead of investing more by using the COVAX mechanism, which guarantees equitable access for all, many Council of Europe Member States are buying up stocks of vaccines, also by concluding bilateral agreements for billions of doses, thus reducing the reserve which should be equitably distributed throughout the world. So far, rich countries, representing barely 14% of the world's population, have bought more than half of the available vaccines, up to five times their population. Only 25 doses have been administered in the poorest countries. Vaccine nationalism and stockpiling could ultimately force us to live with this pandemic longer than necessary. They could even allow the virus to mutate further, thus weakening the most effective instrument to date.

Who is at risk? This is a phrase we have heard a lot of lately. Who are they? Who do we need to vaccinate first? This report also looks at that. As far as we know, because variants continue to add uncertainty, it is the elderly and those with co-morbidities. It is also our caregivers, physicians, nurses, hospital and home care workers, our health care guardians, who we must continue to applaud. Those who provide the services every day that keep us going. And I have a special thought for my former teaching colleagues, those who support our youth so that they don't get completely lost. Our youth, our children, must continue to occupy our thoughts in every decision we make. Last night was the screening of Legacy, Yann Arthus-Bertrand's latest film. From Severn Cullis-Suzuki to Greta Thunberg, we can see how much we have given up our youth. Youth: it is not enough to accompany it as we can in palliative care. We have to offer them a better future, we have to listen to them better, we have to hear them. And I can't praise enough the work of our colleague, Baroness Doreen MASSEY.

As you will have understood, many points are addressed in this report and youth is of particular concern to me. However, we cannot accept that some rich countries vaccinate their young people, who are not part of their risk group, while other countries cannot vaccinate their health workers and vulnerable groups. This is a matter of human rights and human dignity. That is why I support Amendment No 1.

Governments must act now to build confidence and to combat dangerous misinformation about vaccines in a respectful manner. This requires coherent, effective, transparent communication on decision-making processes, achievements and arguments to gain trust; trust, because that is what we are talking about. Governments should require pharmaceutical companies that receive public funds to develop vaccines to be transparent about the price, the cost and any adverse effects that may occur. Vaccination certificates should be used to monitor the effectiveness of the vaccine and not as a vaccination passport. We here are in favour of defending freedoms. We cannot condone freedom giving way to fear. That is why I also support Amendment No 2.

Above all, there are three valuable lessons to be learnt from the pandemic: we depend on each other; our health and our economy are inseparable; in the face of epidemics, public health systems and health security must adopt a "one health" approach, as my colleague, Mr Andrej HUNKO, pointed out in his June 2020 report. More than ever, the 2030 agenda, its coherence is at work and important.

Thank you once again for entrusting me with this report.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:16:06

Thank you very much, Ms DE TEMMERMAN.

I am consulting with the Secretary General as to whether the Director-General of WHO is on board. No.

Then we will start the list of speakers and take the first five, and then, if the doctor is on board, we will give him the floor.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:16:32

So, speakers on behalf of the political groups, I remind you that each and every one of you has got three minutes.

If you can do with less we would appreciate it because we've got 32 people on our list of speakers and it might be possible to do so.

So first on my list is Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE.

You have the floor. I already see you. Go ahead!

Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE

Turkey, SOC, Spokesperson for the group

10:16:51

Thank you very much, Mr President, on behalf of the Socialist Democrats and the Greens Group I congratulate the rapporteur for a very timely written and diligent report.

We are only as healthy as our neighbour. Only as safe as the rest of humanity. And coronavirus is a strong reminder that building high walls around our own rights while turning a blind eye to the rights of others is not sustainable. Our right to health is only fulfilled if each and every individual's right to health is guaranteed, including those from the north, those from the south, including refugees and those who are under occupation. All people.

So the pandemic has been a clear reminder of a need for a rights-based world order and the need for a strong welfare state. And now these inequalities are evident in vaccination. And humanity faces two questions: ethics and vaccine justice. Supply is constrained, demand is high: who will get the vaccine first? Those who need it most? Those who are under the most risk? Or those who have the money and the connections?

Now, according to the World Health Organization, high-income countries hold 14% of the world population but have made arrangements to buy 56% of vaccination. In 49 high-income countries, 39 million were vaccinated. But in a single low income country only 25 were: not million, not thousands, only 25. This is a moral catastrophe. We have to hear the World Organization and support their efforts.

Inequality is deepening. The tragedy of the commons is playing out: a problem in economics that occurs when decision-making is driven by personal gain rather than public well-being, leading to overconsumption by some and depletion of the common goods at everybody's loss.

We need to change course. We need to ensure a fair and equal distribution of vaccine. We need multilateralism and solidarity. We need to define a regulatory framework to make vaccines and vaccination public goods and a global public good. We need to do this not only to ensure equality, but to do it to guarantee human rights. Vaccination is a human right. And human rights can only be guaranteed by a welfare state that provides vaccines as a universal basic service, free of charge for everybody, both nationally and internationally.

And we should be reminded that expensive publicly-funded research lead the path to prospective vaccines. However, extensive commodification of health services and the patent rules in the international production of medical goods and trade create monopolistic markets at the expense of public health.

Patents should become public. Treatment and vaccinations should become generic. Vaccinations will liberate us from COVID restrictions and for this we should liberate vaccinations from Big Pharma. Allocation rules, pricing arrangements with firms, research has to be made public and transparent.

Social democrats and socialists in Turkey often chant "either all together or none of us". It is now time to chant this globally: either all together or none of us!

We support this report.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:20:08

Thank you very much. Thank you very much.

Now we come to Ms Laurence TRASTOUR-ISNART. Madam TRASTOUR-ISNART, you have the floor.

We're having a little problem.

I now come to Ms Béatrice FRESKO-ROLFO. You have the floor, Madam.

Ms Béatrice FRESKO-ROLFO

Monaco, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group

10:21:06

Thank you, Mister Speaker,

Madam Rapporteur,

On behalf of the ALDE Group, I would like to congratulate you on the report you are proposing today.

The particularly clear and precise explanatory statement enables us to grasp all the issues relating to the COVID-19 pandemic and the deployment of the vaccine weapon.

You have reminded us that all non-pharmaceutical protection measures are essential and will remain so for a long time to come in order to slow down the progress of this pandemic.

You have presented us with meticulous attention to detail the complexity of the deployment of a mass vaccination, a deployment that can only hope to be effective if it is undertaken rapidly and on a global scale. By reminding us of the Parliamentary Assembly's support for the UN Secretary General's vision of the COVID-19 vaccine as a global public good, accessible to all and everywhere, you put us at the heart of the matter.

For this is indeed the point of convergence between the fundamental human and ethical imperatives; the scientific conditions for full efficiency of vaccination; and the need for a reversal of the alarming curves of all the economic parameters.

You cite the COVAX initiative at the international level and the hopes that it has of contributing to the achievement of the virtuous convergence I have just mentioned. Only a few days ago, announced to us was the signing, within the framework of the COVAX mechanism, of an advance purchase contract for 40 million doses of the PFIZER-BioNTech vaccine. In addition, 150 million doses of ASTRA-ZENEKA vaccine are expected to be available as soon as the WHO emergency use authorization is in place. Thus, the delivery of at least 1.3 billion doses to 96 low-income countries and territories by the end of the year, the target of the COVAX initiative, appears to be well on track.

The Director-General of the World Health Organization said: "The urgent and equitable deployment of vaccines is not only a moral imperative. It is also a health security, strategic and economic imperative."

Dear Colleagues, it is not a question in these troubled times of distributing good or bad points, of rewarding the country that is doing best. What we need to do today is to support this report, which proposes, in addition to fair access to vaccination, to ensure the independence of the bodies responsible for evaluating vaccines, to combat misinformation about them and, of course, to support high-quality trials for the vaccination of children.

Through our vote, we shall emphasise that the spirit of international solidarity must prevail for the common good of all.

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:23:57

Thank you very much.

Is Ms Laurence TRASTOUR-ISNART on board?

No, she's still not.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:24:06

So then we come to Sir Christopher CHOPE.

Christopher, you have the floor.

You have the floor, Mr CHOPE.

Christopher, if you can ask for the floor again please. We are experiencing a few small problems here.

Christopher, you have to go on "floor" on your machine, otherwise we've got a double sound.

Down left on your screen you have the translation, you have to put that on "floor".

There you go. You have 3 minutes.

Sir Christopher CHOPE

United Kingdom, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group

10:25:41

Thank you.

Can I start by saying that the socialist speaker attacked Big Pharma, but without Big Pharma we wouldn't have got the vaccines that we've got. So I think we should be congratulating Big Pharma and enterprise.

But the reason why I really wanted to speak was because I'm worried about the most fundamental human right of liberty. And governments across the globe have justified draconian restrictions on liberty on the need to protect public health, and I think we all go along with that.

But when individuals no longer pose a threat to public health, for example, when they've had the vaccine for over 14 days, the government is not restoring their freedom or exempting them from criminal sanctions. Why is that? Surely we should not allow governments to show their tyrannical instincts by continuing to restrict liberty even when there's no justification for it.

And in the United Kingdom more than 7 million citizens have now been vaccinated and developed antibodies against the virus. A similar number have recovered from COVID-19 and got T-cell protection and strong antibodies. Why are those with immunity not permitted to meet each other in private? Why can they not exercise that freedom?

I've got lots of constituents who are in their 80s who have been isolated for over a year, and they are looking forward to being able to meet up with other octogenarians, all of whom have had their vaccines, or other members of their family. They're not being allowed to by the government.

And so I put this question to prime minister Boris Johnson, and he replied by saying that my argument has, and I quote, "a logic".

But unfortunately he still refused to give the benefit of freedom to these people, because, I think, of administrative convenience. It is much easier to keep everybody in prison rather than allow a few people out on parole.

So my view is that vaccines should be a catalyst for restoring individual liberty.

We should continue to press strongly that case and, quoting Benjamin Franklin, as so many have during this pandemic: those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety, but those who would actually take away that liberty even when it's not going to deliver any safety, deserve even less.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:28:35

Thank you.

We now have word that Dr Tedros ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS is on board, so I will suspend the list of speakers at this stage and I wish to welcome Dr Tedros ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS.

Welcome again, Mr Director-General. We had already the pleasure having you on board in the Standing Committee, so we are very happy that we can have you now whilst considering a report on vaccinations. As has been communicated with your services we would appreciate if you give your insights on what is happening and if it would be possible to restrict yourself to 15 minutes. I know we could discuss days on this, but if it is possible to essentially keep it under 15 minutes if possible that would be helpful because we've got so many people who wish to intervene.

Now without due delay and thanking you again, I give you the floor, Dr Tedros.

Mr Tedros ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS

Director-General of the World Health Organization

10:29:36

Thank you.

Thank you your Excellency, thank you. 

Mr Rik DAEMS, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe,

Ms Jennifer DE TEMMERMAN, rapporteur of the resolution,

Excellencies,

Honourable members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe,

Thank you for inviting me to join you today.

Let me start by commending the Parliamentary Assembly for your commitment to keeping the COVID-19 pandemic response at the top of national agendas.

I also commend the report under discussion today for its emphasis on international cooperation for the fair and equitable distribution of vaccines which was equalled in the Council of Europe's recent statement.

I commend the resolution you will discuss today which will recognise the COVID-19 vaccine as a global public good.

It is in times of crisis such as this that our higher principles are most important. This pandemic has tested as like never before. Now, even as we have developed vaccines in record time, it's testing us again. Vaccine equity is not just a moral imperative. Ending this pandemic depends upon it. This fundamental principle is one that many European governments and the European Commission recognised with their support of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator. For the last nine months this landmark partnership has been laying the groundwork for the equitable distribution and deployment of life-saving tools.

We have new rapid tests that provide results in less than 30 minutes which are being rolled out soon. We have identified dexamethasone to treat severe disease, which is being stockpiled for use in low and lower middle-income countries. The development and approval of safe and effective vaccines less than a year after the emergence of this new virus is stunning scientific achievement. It gives us all a much-needed source of hope.

One vaccine now has WHO emergency use listing, and three are authorised for emergency use by stringent regulatory authorities. The WHO is working to expedite the regulatory review of several other vaccines for emergency use listing in collaboration with national governments and regional bodies such as the European Medicines Agency. COVAX has now secured two billion doses from five producers with options on more than one billion more doses for 2021 and early 2022. We expect COVAX to make its first deliveries next month. In short, COVAX is ready to deliver what it was created for.

I want to thank our partners GAVI and CEPI for their exceptional work bringing us to this point. Together we have overcome scientific barriers, legal barriers, logistical barriers, and regulatory barriers. Even as the first vaccines begin to be deployed, the promise of equitable access is at serious risk. We now face the real danger that even as vaccines bring hope to those in wealthy countries, much of the world could be left behind. Some countries and companies are making bilateral deals, going around COVAX, driving up prices, and attempting to jump to the front of the queue.

COVID-19 vaccines are now being administered in 50 countries around the world, nearly all of which are wealthy nations. 75% of doses have been deployed in only 10 countries. It's understandable that governments want to prioritise vaccinating their own health workers and older people first, but it's not right that younger, healthier adults, in rich countries are vaccinated before health workers and older people in poorer countries. I hope you'll understand this. The situation is compounded by the fact that most manufacturers have prioritised regulatory approval in rich countries rather than submitting full data to WHO for emergency use listing.

We must work together to prioritise those most at risk of severe disease and death in all countries. The emergence of rapidly spreading variants makes the speedy and equitable rollout of vaccines all the more important. A me-first approach leaves the world's poorest and most vulnerable people at risk. It's also self-defeating. These actions will only prolong the pandemic, the restrictions needed to contain it and the human and economic suffering.

A study published this week by the International Chamber of Commerce Research Foundation found that vaccine nationalism could cause the global economy up to $9.2 trillion. Almost half of that, $4.5 trillion would be incurred in the wealthiest economies. Prompt and equitable dose sharing is critical if we're to overcome this pandemic.

While many European countries have made generous financial contributions to COVAX, funds to complete the purchase of the two-billion dose target are still needed. It's just as important that COVAX receives timely donations of extra doses of the vaccine that so many countries have secured. This is another critical means by which COVAX can equitably allocate vaccine doses to project additional populations. To put it bluntly, many countries have bought more vaccines than they need. It's critical that COVAX receive those extra doses soon, not the leftovers many months from now. Lives depend on it. We need urgent action from governments, vaccine producers and the global community to walk the talk on vaccine equity. My request to all countries is to act in solidarity. Only by working together can we bring this pandemic to an end.

I have five critical actions countries must take.

First, prioritise. We need to protect the COVAX facility and ensure it can work as envisaged. The WHO must be provided with vaccine data at the same time as other regulators so that provision of vaccines to all countries can be sped up.

Second, to act in fairness. Excess doses should be shared or countries should suspend their rights to access COVAX doses once they have vaccinated their health workers and older people to allow other countries to do the same.

Third, to be accountable. All partners must live up to the promises they have made and do everything possible to increase volumes of approved vaccines including through increased production technology transfer and licensing.

Fourth, to be ready. All countries need to ensure that the regulatory and logistical mechanisms are in place to roll out and scale up tests, treatments and vaccines and ensure that no dose is wasted.

And fifth, to be transparent. We call on all countries with bilateral contracts and control of supply to be transparent on these contracts with COVAX, including on volumes, pricing, and delivery dates. Parliaments have a critical role to play in both advocacy and community engagement, in keeping governments accountable, in countering misinformation, and in allocating adequate budgets for policy priorities.

Finally I would like to note that the WHO Emergency Committee, convened under the international health regulations, has determined that requiring proof of vaccination for international travellers does not make sense at the current time. Travellers are not considered a high-risk group nor is there any evidence that vaccines reduce transmission.

Colleagues and honourable members, 2021 can be and should be a year of renewed hope when we overcome the acute phase of the pandemic. Together we must ensure that vaccination of health workers and older people is underway in all countries within the first 100 days of this year. We have 74 days left. Time is short and the stakes could not be higher. Every moment counts.

I wish you a fruitful discussion and thank you so much for inviting me. It's an honour to join you.

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:40:43

Thank you, Mr Director General, it is really an honour for us to have you on board and also as to the substance it is important that we have you on board when we are discussing this extremely important report on vaccinations that has been prepared by our rapporteur Ms Jennifer DE TEMMERMAN.

So thank you very much and we hope that we can always count on you in the future, should it be that we need to treat some of these issues again. On the other hand we hope we shouldn't do that again but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't meet.

So thank you very much for your introduction, for your comments that you have given, they are very valuable to our debate and I really hope that in the near future we can meet in person.

Thank you very much.

Mr Tedros ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS

Director-General of the World Health Organization

10:41:29

Thank you so much.

Look forward to meeting you in person too.

Thank you. 

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:41:34

Dear colleagues, this brings us back to our list of speakers.

The first again on my list is Ms Laurence TRASTOUR-ISNART. Let's see if it's gonna work this time.

Here it is, Ms TRASTOUR-ISNART, you have the floor.

Ms Laurence TRASTOUR-ISNART

France, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group

10:41:53

Thank you Chair,

Ladies and Gentlemen Members of Parliament,

Dear Colleagues,

Allow me first of all, on behalf of the PPE Group, to congratulate our fellow rapporteur, Ms Jennifer DE TEMMERMAN, on her excellent report.

I will not go back over the terrible human, economic and social consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Let us simply remember that, to date, this pandemic has infected almost 100 million people and caused more than 2 million deaths worldwide, including more than 400 000 in Europe. Last year Europe also experienced the most severe economic recession since the end of the Second World War. Finally, I would also like to highlight the social consequences of this pandemic, especially on young people and the elderly.

In this context, and at a time when we are currently being hit by a terrible second wave with the emergence of variants, the issue of vaccination is crucial. In this regard, I would like to highlight the investment of scientists who, in less than a year, have been able to design and test several vaccines. I also welcome the action of the European Union, which has made it possible to coordinate, at European level, the purchase and supply of vaccines to the member states.

It is now essential for each country to implement a genuine vaccination strategy, with a list of priority population groups, a timeline and dedicated resources. On this point, however, I would like to express my concern about the delay in vaccination by the authorities, including the French authorities. With just over one million people vaccinated in France, that is 1.63% of the population, compared with 2% in Germany, 2.12% in Italy, 2.45% in Spain and over 6 million in the United Kingdom, the French government seems to lack a strategy and our vaccination system seems to be mired in bureaucracy.

Another source of concern for Europe as a whole is the 15 January announcement of uncertainty about the number of doses as well as the delays in the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech due to construction work at its Belgian manufacturing plant. This is bad news at a time when we are feeling the full brunt of the second wave.

I therefore hope that we can take collective action at European level to encourage our governments to cooperate more closely in defining the implementation of vaccination strategies. I am thinking in particular of the legal, ethical and practical issues.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:44:58

Thank you, Ms TRASTOUR-ISNART.

Now we come to Mr Andrej HUNKO.

Mr HUNKO, you have the floor.

Put on your mike, Mr HUNKO. Okay. You are good, it's okay.

Mr Andrej HUNKO

Germany, UEL, Spokesperson for the group

10:45:14

Thank you very much, Mr President,

Ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, I would also like to thank the rapporteur, Ms Jennifer DE TEMMERMAN. I think that this is an excellent report, which really does give a very good account of the complex debate we are having on the issue of vaccination. So congratulations, Madam DE TEMMERMAN.

In my view, the debate we are having on vaccination has three dimensions, which I would like to address here. Firstly, the question of distribution, accessibility, worldwide accessibility of the vaccine. Secondly, the question of voluntary action and citizens' rights, and thirdly, the question of transparency.

The Secretary General of the WHO has raised important points on the question of distribution: There must be no vaccine nationalism as we are experiencing to some extent at present and as we experienced in March and April when the masks were being procured. The focus here must be on medical needs and not, as it were, on the strength of individual states or individual regions of the world. In my view, this must be distributed according to medical criteria. It is not just vaccine nationalism - it is also the question of accessibility. I want to refer to this Amendment No. 3 in the report, which I helped to table - which Ms DE TEMMERMANS also supported; that we must also overcome the restrictions which stem from patents and intellectual property rights. We really must overcome everything that is available in terms of knowledge and possibilities. Please support this Amendment No. 3.

The second thing is voluntary. We must ensure that vaccination is voluntary, and this is where important amendments are included, such as Amendment No. 1 by Mr Stefan SCHENNACH and others. I think that is very important. That is also emphasized again and again, but we should note that here once again.

Thirdly, and finally, I would like to refer again to transparency, because the vaccination procedure is, of course, also a new procedure. We have made this possible in a very rapid approval procedure, but it must be ensured that possible side effects of this vaccination are also handled transparently. Confidence also arises in the public, and the contracts that exist between vaccine companies and, for example, the European Commission, should also be disclosed transparently. I think that is very important, that is points 734 and 735.

Thank you for your attention. The European United Left will be voting in favour of this report.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:48:36

Thank you, Andrej.

We now move to Ms Petra BAYR.

Petra, you have the floor.

Ms Petra BAYR

Austria, SOC

10:48:44

Mister President,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I too would like to thank the rapporteur. I also think the report is quite excellent.

I am convinced, however, that it will not be the last. The issue of vaccination will continue to develop globally and we too will have to keep at it and keep looking at how it all works.

We all know that we can either defeat this pandemic globally or we cannot defeat it at all, and vaccination nationalism is of course the very last thing we need in a situation like this. I am not just talking about the countries of the Council of Europe; I would also like this to be understood globally.

It is a global challenge and even if we, who are already able to vaccinate, have set priorities that are mostly based on risk groups, for example older people, people with disabilities, people with pre-existing conditions, then that is good and important. However, I think it will also be necessary to take social aspects into account in the prioritisation.

We know from studies in Spain, France, the U.K. and India that people who have COVID-19 and live in poor areas die twice as often - twice as often as people who have COVID-19 and live in rich areas. So we're going to have to be more sensitive to that as well. Particularly because we know that the pandemic also presents us with a major social challenge. Hundreds of millions of people have lost their jobs. It is mainly women who are affected because they often work in the informal sector or in the service sector, and the jobs there have been lost to a very specific extent.

Allow me also to address another social aspect of the pandemic, or a distributional aspect of the pandemic. Oxfam has calculated that inequality will be exacerbated by the pandemic and that the richest 1 000 people in the world will need 9 months to make up for their losses due to the crisis - while the poorest people will need more than a decade to get out of the poverty that the pandemic has caused.

Human rights, labour rights and wages often fall by the wayside. The wealthiest 10 men on earth have increased their wealth by more than half a trillion dollars since February 2019, even before the pandemic. Only with the winners could we vaccinate all the people of the world. Only with the winners could we, in addition, see that nobody slips into poverty because of this pandemic. I reckon that these aspects are important. We should take them into consideration because we have a responsibility as the Council of Europe, not only for the European countries and the people here, but worldwide.

Thank you very much.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:51:52

Thank you.

Now we come to Ms Mónika BARTOS.

You have the floor.

Ms Mónika BARTOS

Hungary, EPP/CD

10:52:02

Mr President,

First of all, I would like to thank the rapporteur for the great work with special regard to the sensibility of the topic.

The whole world has been under shock for a year because of the coronavirus epidemic.

According to experts, when the rate of natural infection and vaccination reaches 60-70 per cent, the epidemic stops.

In the Covid-19 pandemic vaccination is likely to play a key role in decreasing the spread of infection, that is why Hungary considers it to be of utmost importance that vaccines to combat Covid-19 be available as widely as possible and as soon as possible.

Acceptance of vaccines is traditionally high in Hungary, therefore we expect to achieve a high vaccination coverage regarding Covid-19 vaccines. The rapid development of these vaccines compared to other previous vaccines has caused concerns in a part of the population, which can only be resolved by authentic communication.

Vaccination is expected to have a beneficial effect when the vaccination programme is planned along professional principles. This includes consideration of pharmaceutical aspects in the evaluation of clinical trials of vaccines, epidemiological aspects in the organisation of vaccination processes, and medical aspects in the individual decisions on vaccination.

In the classification of the target groups, scientific evidence and international recommendations have been taken into account. In the mass vaccination of the population important aspects of vaccination sequence are volunteering and risk of coronavirus disease.

In Hungary, vaccination is provided free of charge by the state. Vaccination of healthcare workers, as the primary target group, is currently underway. In addition to vaccinating healthcare workers, vaccination against Covid-19 has gradually started for both inhabitants and personnel in social institutions and care homes of more than 150 persons. The rules for the implementation of the vaccination programme are planned, and if necessary, continuously altered in a way that the use of currently available vaccines is the most optimal. We take into account the characteristics and quantities available of vaccines, and vaccination of target groups should take place in the shortest possible time.

Although vaccines play a key role in curbing the epidemic, the epidemiological situation will not change immediately. We will still need to pay attention to wearing mask, keeping the distance and giving priority to digital work.

Once again, I would like to congratulate the rapporteur and the whole team and thank you for your kind attention.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:55:05

Thank you very much.

We now move to Mr Vladimir KRUGLYI.

Vladimir, you have the floor.

You have to put your microphone on, colleague. Push the button. Voilà. You can start again.

Mr Vladimir KRUGLYI

Russian Federation, NR

10:55:29

President, colleagues,

Allow me to begin by thanking Ms Jennifer DE TEMMERMAN, for the excellent work that she has done. Looking at the resolution within this report undoubtedly we support the view expressed by the PACE and the UN Secretary General to the effect that the COVID-19 vaccine should be a global public good.

The Russian Federation in a focused and well-planned way is conducting work to achieve that. The Ministry of Health of Russia in August 2020 registered the first COVID-19 vaccine in the world, Sputnik V, and this was intended to prevent the Corona Virus infection. As you know, it was developed by the Gamaleya Institute, and it has gone through all stages of pre-clinical and clinical trials. Use of the Sputnik V vaccine can give a high level of specific immunity. The vaccine has been registered and used for mass vaccination in a number of countries. In the resolution it is noted that there are some obstacles to mass vaccination, things like vaccine nationalism. However, there are also good examples and one good example of international cooperation on the vaccine is the cooperation between the Gamaleya Institute and the AstraZeneca Company. The experience gained from that kind of cooperation can undoubtedly be something we can all learn from and should be studied carefully. 

At present, many countries have requested the registration of this vaccine and we have noted, for instance, that Ukraine has referred to this because we think this is something that should not be political. We are willing to look favourably at this kind of requests for some kind of registration and licensing agreement. Another obstacle to vaccinate can be that of reticence and indecision about the vaccine. When thinking of indecision, the fact is that too many people want to enjoy living in a society that is free from infection because of the vaccine, yet are not themselves willing to run the minimal risk involved in any vaccine.

Some categorically reject any vaccination against any infection. Others believe that the quality of a vaccine that has been developed so quickly cannot be sufficiently high and, therefore, that its level of safety and security cannot be acceptable. This problem is made worse because we do not have accessible and widely available objective information. In social networks we see that there are some accounts that simply are spreading fake news, false information about the vaccine. In some countries such accounts are blocked, and that is undoubtedly the most effective way of combating the spread of false information of this type.

In conclusion, I would like to state that when it comes to the development, distribution, and use of the COVID-19 vaccine, we support the provisions within the report that has been prepared by Ms Jennifer DE TEMMERMAN.

Thank you.

 

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:58:23

And now we come to Mr Gusty GRAAS. Mr GRAAS, are you in the room somewhere?

Ah, you're online, I'm sorry. You have the floor.

We can hear you, but we can't see you. Ah, there you are. Mr GRAAS, let's go!

Mr Gusty GRAAS

Luxembourg, ALDE

10:59:01

Thank you, Chair.

Dear Colleagues,

Since the development of the very first smallpox vaccine in 1796, vaccines have continued to provide a great service to humanity. They protect us against many viruses and have even succeeded in eradicating certain diseases.

Since the appearance of the new virus, SARS-CoV-2, we have all had difficult times. Many of our fellow citizens have experienced fear and distress, fatigue, mental pressure and sadness. The impact of the pandemic on the well-being of our citizens, on the economy, on the education of our children, is not negligible and will certainly continue to preoccupy us for a long time to come. And yet, thanks to our efforts, we have made progress every day.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues,

Vaccination will undoubtedly play a crucial role in saving lives, stemming the pandemic, protecting health systems and contributing to the recovery of our economy.

Unprecedented energy has been expended to produce vaccines in record time. But one thing is clear to me: we need to convince people to get vaccinated. The speed with which the vaccine was developed has led to uncertainty for some people about its effectiveness and safety. This uncertainty, compounded by the spread of false information, is not to be underestimated. It is our responsibility to speak honestly and calmly about vaccination and its effects, without exerting any pressure on the population.

For this reason, compulsory vaccination should not be envisaged. Getting vaccinated is a personal decision and should be left to you. You should get vaccinated out of conviction. We need to convince people of vaccination, through information and awareness-raising, and to act systematically against misinformation. One of our priorities will therefore be to give everyone access to a safe and effective vaccine.

It seems appropriate to me to give priority in the first instance to professional groups of systemic importance, in particular healthcare workers and nurses. Elderly and vulnerable people should also be given preference because, after all, they are the most exposed to COVID-19. In my country, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, vaccination is well under way.

Vaccination should also be free of charge. Under no circumstances should there be a two-tier society where money decides on vaccination.

At international level, we must work for a fair distribution of the available vaccines: a country must not order more than it needs for its own population and we must avoid a race between states. This makes them virtually unaffordable for the poorest countries.

Finally, I would like to thank Ms Jennifer DE TEMMERMAN for her excellent report.

Thank you very much.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

11:02:14

Thank you, Gusty.

Now we are moving to Ms Nigar ARPADARAI.

You have the floor, Madam Nigar.

Ms Nigar ARPADARAI

Azerbaijan, EC/DA

11:02:23

Good morning, dear colleagues!

Covid-19 created a new reality, which affected nearly every aspect of our life. It changed the way we live, the way we work, the way we socialise, the way our children study (or rather don’t). Humanity is desperately seeking for ways to go back to normality, whether it is new normal or the good old one. And rapid deployment of safe vaccines against Covid-19 is one of the most essential ways to reach this elusive dream, as well as to save many lives.

But there is a number of questions we need to ask, and these questions include both the ethical and practical side of vaccination and how it is promoted and administered.

I was born in the Soviet Union. In the Soviet Union we had a concept which I can remember from early childhood – the concept of “common good”. Many things, both good and bad, that happened in the Soviet Union were justified through the concept of common good. Obviously, the mere concept of vaccination is also based on a similar “common good” rationale. And the history of medicine proves this approach to be largely a true good. Vaccines did their job: they saved millions of lives. And no one doubts that governments are striving to reduce the number of negative effects of any vaccines.

The process of vaccination against Covid-19 has started in Azerbaijan as well. We have been among the first countries to start the process. On the other hand, we do have people who are not willing to go through the process. And we can’t judge these people. We have to ask ourselves do we have enough information? Enough analytical data? Enough testing data about Covid-19 vaccines? Have we really, undoubtedly reached the territory of “common good”?

Do we have a guarantee that the parties who are now the stakeholders of the problem-solving scheme (pharmaceutical companies, international organisations, media and medical industries) are not, in fact, manipulating the concept of “common good”? Might they do it for money and power – two main drivers, that seem to harm and derail so many “common good” ideas?

When this common good becomes a top-down thing and comes from the establishment, industry, large corporations, it too often simply stops working. Common good, which is not heavily challenged, which is not heavily questioned, which is not under the permanent scrutiny of the members of society, simply turns into a manipulative instrument.

At the moment, it feels like important information is being withheld from the public. To vaccinate or not to vaccinate is not a matter of religion but a matter of science. But it feels like medical systems sometimes have put so much effort into this issue and they want to close their business and bureaucratic cycles.

In this context, if the idea of vaccine as such is a “common good” based concept, then we should also accept that heavy and tough scrutiny by the public of all decisions and availability of all publicly important information on the pandemic without manipulation is also an integral part of this concept and we here in this Assembly should insist on this.

Thank you. 

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

11:05:30

Thank you very much.

We now move to Baroness Doreen MASSEY.

Baroness MASSEY, you have the floor.

Baroness Doreen MASSEY

United Kingdom, SOC

11:05:46

It's a very great pleasure to speak in this debate which is so incredibly timely. I thank Ms Jennifer DE TEMMERMAN for researching and producing it.

Of course, things move on almost daily with regard to this pandemic. For example, scientific opinion, production and allocation of the vaccine and so on. The virus has mutated of course which includes further dilemmas, but this does not alter the fact that there must be ethical, legal and practical considerations and there must be respect for human rights and monitoring effects.

Of course, safety must be the prime factor. I'm full of admiration for scientists who have produced viable vaccines so quickly. We're all aware of the devastation that the COVID-19 pandemic has produced in our societies and our health services are under intense pressure. Vaccines are one way of easing the situation, accompanied by discipline and safety measures, such as wearing masks and social distancing. With regard to children, further clinical trials are necessary. At least in Europe, the vaccination of children will carry ethical questions such as consent. In all considerations, the best interest of the child, as set out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, must be given priority.

Covid-19 is having a far-reaching effect on childrens' lives. They are suffering from lack of socialisation, structure and routine. They're missing out on academic and creative work at school, which will likely result in increasing inequalities and lack of social mobility. Domestic violence has increased, child abuse has increased – this places enormous pressure on children's services. I'm one of many in the UK who believes that teachers should be a priority group for the vaccine.

As the rapporteur points out, the coronavirus does not respect domestic or international borders. Many problems related to public health services and inequality in society existed before Covid-19. Covid-19 has emphasised that some groups in society may be more vulnerable and that we must be prepared to commit to raising general standards of health and education both at a national and global level. And we must be better prepared to tackle the kind of crisis that we are going through.

As the Director-General of the World Health Organization said, this virus is testing our humanity. The rapporteur is right to say in her conclusions that the global scenario is important, and that if the global allocation of the vaccine is not equitable, they will jeopardise the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Again I thank her for her comprehensible and thoughtful report.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

11:08:33

Thank you, Baroness MASSEY.

We now come to Mr Alain MILON. Alain, you have the floor.

Mr Alain MILON

France, EPP/CD

11:08:49

Thank you, Mr President.

I should first like to thank our rapporteur, Ms Jennifer DE TEMMERMAN, for the quality of her report and to tell you how much I, also in a personal capacity, appreciated the speech by the Director-General of the WHO.

I would like to congratulate the rapporteur on having included in her proposals support for the COVAX mechanism set up by the WHO, which I feel is extremely important. Given the scale of the pandemic and its dramatic economic and health consequences, all states must obviously take action to ensure the success of their vaccination campaigns. This is the path that we must all take to emerge from this pandemic, which is obviously harming our populations and our economies, but also, I would like to stress this, our exercise of public freedoms, which we take for granted.

For the member states, this requires appropriate logistical means, the mobilisation of health professionals but, above all, the confidence of the population, which we must obviously try to acquire as far as possible – this is not obvious at the moment.

Like our rapporteur, I believe that it would be counterproductive to make vaccination compulsory. This would obviously raise very sensitive legal issues with regard to the stipulations, in particular of the European Convention on Human Rights. In order to gain public support, our governments will therefore have to be able to defend their strategy for deploying the vaccines and prioritising the population groups.

Mr President, I would like to end my speech on a hopeful note. As Chairman of the French Senate's Investigative Commission for the Evaluation of Public Policies in the Face of the COVID-19 emergency, I have had the opportunity to meet many scientists. All of them tell us that the current vaccine is an interesting technique, that it will have positive results, and all of them also tell us that this is the future. So we can look at this one without concern: the future with messenger RNA.

Thank you very much.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

11:11:06

Thank you, Alain.

We now come to Ms Marietta KARAMANLI. You have the floor.

You must ask for the floor, please, Ms KARAMANLI.

There you are.

Ms Marietta KARAMANLI

France, SOC

11:11:53

Thank you, Mister Speaker.

First of all, I should like to thank our rapporteur, Ms Jennifer DE TEMMERMAN, for her report, which highlighted, among other things, the usefulness and importance of vaccines in the strategy to combat the pandemic, the applicable regulatory context, the upstream phase of their development, production, and the necessary distribution between countries - and within the same country - between priority groups, which are fragile, and others. The health disaster we are experiencing may provide an opportunity to rethink our social and economic priorities.

To the points raised by our colleague, I would also like to make three observations.

Firstly, my first concerns the place and role of States in the research strategy on vaccines and treatments, and this in their relationship with the major pharmaceutical companies. The international community cannot leave the multinationals alone to concentrate the fruits of research that is largely financed by public funds, public research and health insurance. In our world, according to several studies, taxpayers fund about 75-80% of drug research. The State must therefore react in conjunction with these large companies and more or less govern the patents on vaccines and medicines in order to ensure the public good.

My second observation reiterates our rapporteur's call for fair access to vaccines. If there are delays in deliveries for the richest countries, it also means that countries with lower incomes see their prospects of access to the vaccine stretched even further.

My final observation concerns equitable access to vaccines and public acceptance of vaccination, as our rapporteur says: national vaccination strategies must be developed to allocate doses in an ethical and equitable manner. I believe that this requires the national parliaments to be fully involved in defining national strategies which lay down the conditions for the purchase, programming, storage, allocation and distribution of vaccines. Public debate and public scrutiny will make the management of this public asset transparent and make it clear to the public that, even if it is not compulsory, it presupposes for all of us a high level of safety during development, with fair distribution and rigorous monitoring of the possible effects on the population.

That, Mister President, Madam Rapporteur, is what I wanted to bring to your attention.

Thank you for the work you have done.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

11:15:30

Thank you very much.

We now have Ms Mariia MEZENTSEVA.

Ms Mariia MEZENTSEVA is not here.

So Ms Zeynep YILDIZ, you have the floor.

Ms Zeynep YILDIZ

Turkey, NR

11:15:59

Thank you, Mister President.

Dear Colleagues,

The COVID-19 pandemic is the defining global health crisis of our time and the greatest challenge we have faced since World War II.

Since its emergence in Asia late last year, the virus has spread to every continent except Antarctica. Vaccines are giving us real hope of bringing the pandemic under control in the next 12 months and returning life to a semblance of normal. One year on since the WHO issued is first disease outbreak news about this novel virus, 42 countries have started vaccinating their high-risk populations with various COVID-19 vaccines. In the case of Turkey, more than 600 000 people were inoculated within within the first two days of the vaccination programme. Healthcare workers were the first to receive vaccinations. Furthermore, nationwide vaccination began for more than 80 000 residents and staff of nursing homes as well as nonagenarians unable to leave their homes. With more than 1.4 million people vaccinating as of last Friday.

However, as the report accurately points out, Members States should not succumb to vaccine nationalism. International solidarity and aid during the pandemic are of the utmost importance since this is a global pandemic requiring global solutions. Based on this understanding Turkey has provided health help to 156 countries and nine international organisations since the emergence of the novel coronavirus. In statistical terms, Turkey has been the most generous aid donor to our country in terms of the ratio of Turkish assistance to its GDP. Turkey will continue its humanitarian efforts in all corners of the world and will provide assistance to all countries in need within its available means. As the WHO director, Mr Tedros ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS stated, the world faces a catastrophic moral failure because of unequal COVID-19 vaccine policies. However, as members of this august body, responsibility is on us to prevent this failure.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

11:18:42

Thank you very much.

We now come to Ms Nicole TRISSE.

Ms TRISSE you have the floor.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE

11:18:55

Thank you, Mr President.

Madam rapporteur,

My dear colleagues,

The debate that brings us together today is at the heart of current events around the world, as it concerns the concerns of a few billion people. That is how important and interesting it is.

The excellent report by Ms Jennifer DE TEMMERMAN, for which I congratulate her, presents in clear, intelligible and objective terms all the challenges facing the international community and states today.

Science and the pharmaceutical industries have, thanks to the colossal efforts of public authorities, accomplished great feats, since in the past we had vaccines after 10 or 15 years of research, and now, in less than a year, we have several vaccines that are or will be made available. For my part, I am saying this quite unequivocally: we should be happy about this and not be wary of it.

We are now at the delicate stage of distributing these vaccines to our populations. This stage, which is crucial for overcoming the virus definitively, poses major difficulties for all countries, whether logistical, psychological or ethical.

The resolution proposed to us for adoption today provides, in my opinion, a set of relevant guidelines for our States, in order to help them to implement over time (because this is marathon not a sprint) an appropriate strategy to make this vaccination a success.

I would remind you that the priority today is not to eradicate the pandemic (it would be an illusion to think that we could do so in a few months) but, above all, to avoid saturating hospitals, particularly intensive care unit beds, and also to avoid filling our cemeteries. That is why the vaccination strategy must prioritise the elderly, the most vulnerable people, given their pathologies, and of course the carers, who are on the front line and who, in addition to contracting the virus, are at risk of burn-out, which would further complicate the management of the pandemic.

Furthermore, as our rapporteur says, it is by educating and by communicating transparently about the various vaccines that we will reassure our populations, giving them hope for better days and making them want to be vaccinated. You see, the French are paradoxical and like to quibble. It is said that the French people are the ones who have the most reservations about the vaccines. In fact, at the end of December, a poll showed only 38% acceptance of a potential vaccination. Since vaccines have been available, free and not compulsory, since the vaccination strategy has been explained, there has been a real rush towards vaccination centres even though it was said that no one wanted to be vaccinated. We would not have achieved this development through coercion. This consent seems to me to be indispensable, including among the elderly. The vaccination campaign requires public support, not coercion. Its success is based on acceptance.

For the time being, despite the controversies and nationalist temptations, we must move towards widespread vaccination on a global scale. The vaccine against COVID must be considered a global public good.

Like many of us, I will vote in favour of this resolution. We must keep striving, here and in our countries, because the success of this vaccination, which is totally unprecedented, depends on the future of all of us.

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

11:22:31

Thank you Ms TRISSE.

We now come to Ms Olena KHOMENKO.

You have the floor.

Ms Olena KHOMENKO

Ukraine, EC/DA

11:22:40

Mr President, Ms Rapporteur,

Now many countries are thinking about how to return to normal life after the pandemic.

The issue of tourism and international business contacts after the end of the pandemic is especially acute.

So, in some countries of the Council of Europe, they are discussing the introduction of "immunity passports" with a note that a person is not contagious.

You need to be very careful with this phenomenon. The maintenance and use of "immunity passports" will not help governments solve a problem that, among other things, has a serious ethical side that needs to be scrutinised. To resolve this issue, an operational testing system with reliability that excludes any error is needed, as well as uniform rules for all countries.

Given that the role of vaccines in reducing transmission has not yet been established and the availability of vaccines is currently extremely limited, the World Health Organization has already recommended that countries not require vaccination certificates from arrivals.

But what to do with the countries that are developing and do not have a sufficient standard of living comparable to that in Europe? Such an approach can develop a new round of excessive bureaucracy and corruption.

Many human rights can be violated through the lack of an immunity passport if one is introduced. Also scientists have not yet fully proven how immunity is formed in a person who has recovered and the full effectiveness of any vaccine presented in the world. There is still no answer to the important question of whether a vaccinated person can become infected and become a carrier of the virus. At this point in the pandemic, there is not enough evidence about the effectiveness of antibody-mediated immunity to guarantee the accuracy of an “immunity passport” or “risk-free certificate.” People who assume that they are immune to a second infection because they have received a positive test result may ignore public health advice. The use of such certificates may therefore increase the risks of continued transmission.

Some businesses have already stated that they are ready to receive visitors and provide them with services, as long as they are vaccinated. Such restrictions call into question a person's right to refuse vaccination – he will not be able to fully use the services of modern society. And then the European Court of Human Rights will have to create new precedents in the field of human rights protection, and the number of applications will only increase. Yesterday we talked about the non-fulfilment of the ECtHR decisions: let's think strategically.

Thank you for your attention!

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

11:25:25

Thank you.

We now come to Lord George FOULKES.

Lord FOULKES, you have the floor.

Lord George FOULKES

United Kingdom, SOC

11:25:31

President,

Thank you very much and can I also join in the thanks to the rapporteur for her excellent report on a subject which is dominating our media and indeed affecting all our lives, which is why so many of us are not in Strasbourg today. And I hope we can resolve the position so that by April we can all be there.

But yesterday, sadly, in Britain we reached a milestone of a 100 000 people who have died with COVID-19. We are near the top of a table that no country wants to be at the top of. And I have criticisms of the way our government has dealt with it but I won't dwell on them here, it's better that I do so at home. But I will accept that in Britain we are getting the vaccine out and quickly and it is free. But we must also – and I agree with so many of the people who've already spoken – we must also make sure that that vaccine is free to all the countries of the world. Because until it is, and until they are all vaccinated, and until they are all safe, we will not be safe here in Europe. So we have a responsibility to them, but also a responsibility to ourselves. The rapporteur mentioned the anti-vax groups and spoke about the doubt, the genuine doubt that some people have. Unfortunately, also some of it is based on myth and superstition and fake news, which is why we do need a major campaign to give information, to dispel that myth, to counter the fake news. And I hope that the Council of Europe will be involved in that.

And finally, can I say in relation to the production of the vaccine. For once I do agree with my colleague Sir Christopher CHOPE, that we should thank the companies and the universities, and in particular I want to thank AstraZeneca and Oxford University for the way in which they have produced the vaccine so quickly, and also the authorities for the way in which it has been approved for use in the United Kingdom. I think that is a great step forward. But until it is approved for use in all of the countries of the world, and until it is available in all of the countries of the world, we will not be safe and that is why I support amendment 3 and the other amendments in relation to the common good.

Thank you, Mr President.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

11:28:06

Thank you, George.

Now we come to Ms Marie-Christine DALLOZ. You have the floor.

Ms Marie-Christine DALLOZ

France, EPP/CD

11:28:13

Thank you, Mr President.

Good morning to all of you, rapporteur, ladies and gentlemen.

Rapporteur, as you quite rightly point out in your report, the COVID-19 pandemic that has been affecting the whole world for a year and has already claimed 1.5 million victims can only be brought under control through the successful deployment of vaccines. It would be absolutely catastrophic if the remarkable scientific successes of recent months were to be undone by faulty vaccine strategies.

You emphasise the need for member states to develop equitable distribution strategies that take into account the limited, indeed very limited, initial supply of vaccines. I can only agree with this principle. Nevertheless, after the first few weeks of vaccination, I note that the number of vaccinations varies enormously from one country to another. Do you not think that global comparative monitoring should be introduced quickly in order to prevent too great a disparity from undermining the effectiveness of vaccination?

In order to counter the reluctance to vaccinate that is a real threat in some countries, you advocate various measures such as the fight against fake news and misinformation, the transparent dissemination of information on vaccine safety and adverse effects, and specific approaches for marginalised groups and local communities. These measures are indeed indispensable. On the other hand, you rule out the use of compulsory vaccination as a potentially counterproductive strategy. Can you tell us whether you would also consider it counterproductive to impose certain travel or activity restrictions in the event of non-vaccination? In order to achieve a sufficient level of acceptance, enabling a vaccination campaign to be carried out over the long term, the establishment of effective systems for monitoring vaccines and their safety, which you advocate, seems to me to be essential.

You also mention the vaccination of children. On this point, I think it is imperative to be very careful. The question of face-to-face schooling of our young people is crucial because we must avoid a massive school dropout, which would be catastrophic, and remove the obstacles to parents working in order to relaunch the economy. But rather than committing ourselves in a way that could prove too fast on the road to child vaccination, I would prefer to emphasise the need to vaccinate teachers and, more broadly, all staff working in childcare and schools.

Thank you for your attention, thank you for your work and, of course, I will vote in favour of the resolution.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

11:31:37

Thank you.

Next on my list is Ms Nina KASIMATI.

You have the floor.

You have to ask for the floor Ms KASIMATI.

Ms Nina KASIMATI

Greece, UEL

11:32:14

Thank you very much. 

I would also like to make a statement in response to the report tabled by Ms DE TEMMERMAN. Allow me to say this: the process that we are following today, well, we know that a lot of time has already gone by since the emergence of this pandemic. It's been with us for a long time, we are having to address this problem around the world. I very much hope that we will be able to meet in person, face to face, soon because electronic democracy, remote democracy, I have to say, is not quite up to standard. I think it is well beneath the kind of standards that we would like to see, generally speaking. 

On the issue of vaccination, the topic that we are addressing today, sometime ago, I said that I was in favour of vaccination, including, of course, COVID-19 vaccination. As soon as the vaccine has been developed and as soon as it is available in my country, I am prepared to sign up for a vaccine. I know that people have different points of view on this issue. However, I would say that this COVID-19 pandemic has meant that many national decisions have been taken, especially in connection with our national economies in order to cover them with millions. This led to a very serious issue with regards to investment and finding the necessary funds for the research to take place. One cannot bring back those 2.6 million who have died from COVID-19 throughout the world but the vaccination, if it all works out well, and if it is distributed as it ought to be, we will be able to slow down this terrible toll which has been taken on humanity. There are numerous different impediments, and all of this has to be taken very quickly. We have to have vaccination on all continents and up to the absolutely last village, as well. This is the only way that we will be able to maintain the situation, to maintain a balance, and to maintain that social equality that we are striving for throughout the world. Indeed, for us to emerge from this pandemic, we have to adopt measures immediately. 

We in Greece, and the president of Syriza, Alexis Tsipras, the former prime minister of the country has made a number of different proposals to the European Union to get rid of that patent block that exists right now for the pharmaceutical industry to be able begin production and by country be able to produce the vaccination en masse and for each country to be able to manage the various problems and idiosyncrasies that each country has as well. 

It is in this particular direction we are going to have to look towards: the funding of the pharmaceutical industry from a central point so that all can work effectively and be able to overcome these very serious impediments, principally the patent issue, and to be able to produce the vaccination in countries so that we can have a proper management of the pandemic to be able to confront it as quickly as possible. This does not only depend on vaccination alone but from a whole series of other non-medical measures and also by bolstering the health system overall. 

Thank you. 

Mr Irakli KOBAKHIDZE

Georgia, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:36:28

Thank you very much.

It's my pleasure to chair this part of the session of the Parliamentary Assembly.

Let me use this opportunity to wish you success for 2021. It depends on a successful fight against COVID-19, so I'm happy that we're holding a lively discussion on this matter in the Parliamentary Assembly.

Let's continue the discussion.

The next speaker on the list is Ms Lucie MONCION from Canada.

Ms Lucie MONCION

Canada

11:37:06

Thank you, Mr President.

Colleagues,

As we meet today to discuss the ethical, legal and practical considerations of COVID-19 vaccines, the number of cases continues to rise in Europe, Canada and around the world.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the risk associated with COVID-19 remains high in both Canada and Europe. High risk means that there are significant impacts on our health care system.

The Public Health Agency of Canada states that vaccination is "one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread and reduce the impact of infectious diseases and to protect ourselves against COVID-19.

As such, the approval of vaccines in several countries in recent weeks is encouraging. These vaccines have been developed, approved, manufactured and distributed in less than a year, a record in the history of medicine. Under normal circumstances, it can take more than 10 years to develop a vaccine.

However, as you know, the immunisation process is still in its early stages and it will take several months before the distribution of vaccines will really contain the pandemic. In Canada, the federal government anticipates that immunisation will be completed by September 2021, if the supply is not unduly interrupted or compromised.

As Senator for Northern Ontario, I would like to highlight one particular consideration: the distribution of vaccines to more remote and isolated areas, including northern communities. In Canada, it was quickly revealed that deployment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine would be difficult in remote and isolated communities because of the need to keep the vaccine in extremely cold temperatures prior to distribution. The subsequent licensing of the Moderna vaccine, which does not require storage at such temperatures, allowed Canada to begin deployment of vaccines to these communities.

Remote, isolated and northern communities are at greater risk, due in part to their limited access to health care. In indigenous communities, for example, the lack of housing and infrastructure and high rates of co-morbidity place local populations at greater risk. For example, Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization has identified indigenous and northern populations as key groups for vaccine deployment.

These vaccine issues remind us of the importance of ensuring equity within our national borders as some populations are more vulnerable for a variety of reasons.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr Irakli KOBAKHIDZE

Georgia, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:40:26

Many thanks Ms Lucie MONCION for speaking from Canada early in the morning, in the middle of the night practically.

The next speaker is Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ from Switzerland.

Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ

Switzerland, SOC

11:40:39

Mister Vice President,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Colleagues,

Let us take the measure, if you will, of the good fortune - I say good fortune - that we have the opportunity to speak today on the ethical, legal, and practical considerations of vaccination against COVID-19.

Remember, at the beginning of 2020, the question of the possibility of rapidly developing a vaccine remained open. Pessimism was in the minds of some experts. Let us imagine today without a vaccine. We would be facing a crisis that could last for years, three years, four years, with successive waves until group vaccine protection was achieved, with mass additional deaths, a dramatic unemployment rate (10, 15, 20%), people on the streets, bankruptcies, serious social tensions, and growing populism all over Europe.

Pandemics have been a regular feature of social and political upheaval in human history and COVID-19 would probably have been no exception, given the repercussions already observed to date. But the vaccine is there, the result of human intelligence and advances in knowledge about the treatment of orphan diseases with the development of messenger RNA therapies. An intelligent vaccine, a rapid development linked to this new technology, a vaccine that is effective and, I say this clearly, without risk. I have been personally vaccinated because I am a doctor for an institution for severely disabled people in my country, Switzerland. I am well; a small, transient shoulder pain, that is all.

Today, it is important to accompany the use of this vaccine in order to avoid inequalities and discrimination within countries and between the poorest countries, which may be forced to wait a very long time. We must all be united in the fight against COVID-19. It is together that we will recover. Let us protect those at risk as soon as possible. Let us ensure rapid and effective vaccination. Support the economic and social victims of the crisis. Let's ensure that the vaccine is distributed equitably and broadly around the world, so that treatment does not become a matter of big money at the expense of the poorest.

Many thanks to the rapporteur for this very relevant and comprehensive report and thank you for supporting the amendments tabled, which contain a social and humane spirit.

Thank you for listening.

Mr Irakli KOBAKHIDZE

Georgia, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:43:27

Thank you.

Mr Vladimir VARDANYAN from Armenia is the next speaker.

The floor is yours.

Mr Vladimir VARDANYAN

Armenia, EPP/CD

11:43:33

Thank you, Mister Chairman, Honourable Colleagues,

First of all, let me express my words of gratitude to the rapporteur for this excellent and very interesting report. Last March, when we started to follow the developments in the proliferation of coronavirus, in the phase when less than 1 million people were infected. Now, we have more than 100 million people infected worldwide. Actually, COVID-19 has no borders, but simultaneously it creates borders. It creates limitations. The fact that we are here, with a limited number of participants, is also the result of COVID-19 and the new border, which was not created by the States.

COVID-19 really became the new plague of the new millennium. Searching for the vaccine became our common goal. The common goal should be accessible by our joint efforts. I do believe that vaccines should be accessible in all corners of the world, and it should be considered as the common good. I would like to stress once again that nationalism in vaccination shouldn't be tolerated because the vaccine should be accessible, as I said, to each and every human being who lives in this world. Vaccination should be a right; it shouldn't be an obligation; it shouldn't be in mandatory measure. It should be, rather, an option for making our world healthy and moral self. Simultaneously, I would like to say that it is very important that vaccinations shouldn't be grounds for discrimination or disadvantages.

Ladies and gentlemen, as I said, COVID-19 became a new plague. And when the all the human beings try together jointly to fight against this coronavirus, the second wave of coronavirus, we face a new aggressive war. Last fall, the Azerbaijani authorities started the aggressive war against the population of Nagorno-Karabakh. Due to the methods and means of warfare used by Azer authorities, heavy shelling of civilian settlements, this led to the vast majority of the population of Nagorno-Karabakh needing to find refuge in the shelters. We got infected, almost all the population of Nagorno-Karabakh. Imagine -if you can- that the people of your country, all the population of your country, is infected. It's a real problem, and I do believe that vaccinations should be a very good option to make our countries safer. 

I would like just to say, that at the end of the day, President Aliyev of Azerbaijan would be in the history of the new millennium as the only leader starting to wage war until all mankind fights against the coronavirus. Thank you. 

Mr Irakli KOBAKHIDZE

Georgia, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:46:45

The next speaker is Mr Norbert KLEINWAECHTER from Germany.

He will use the remote system to speak.

Mr Norbert KLEINWAECHTER

Germany, EC/DA

11:47:02

Dear Mister Chairman,

Dear Colleagues,

When we debate the ethical dimensions of the political strategies of vaccination against the corona virus, we have to admit that sometimes we actually hope for more than we know. We do not know whether people who have received the COVID-19 vaccine are actually immune afterwards. We don't yet know to what extent they will continue to be contagious, and we don't know what long-term effects to expect.

From these facts, there are really three premises that we must always keep in mind.

First; there must be no compulsion to vaccinate at any time. Neither an explicit one - I think that goes without saying - nor an implicit one, such as through social pressure.

Secondly, there must be full transparency at all times, and there is still a lot to be done here. How are these vaccines produced, how do these vaccines work, how are they procured and how do governments want to distribute these vaccines? Last but not least, the freedom and personal responsibility of the citizens must always be respected, and there is still much to be done here.

We need information, we need education, but we especially need respect for this freedom and personal responsibility, and this actually derives from the central value that we are trying to defend here, namely democracy. Democracy, which is based on the values of enlightenment, which in turn presupposes a self-responsible free citizen who is informed and can then confidently cast his vote to the legislature.

We have talked a great deal about trust in the debate that preceded this one, about how people are supposed to trust governments that work primarily with coercion rather than with trust in a responsible citizen, and which actually tend to prioritise other models rather than the self-responsible citizen who characterises democracy.

The rapporteur said a very good and memorable phrase in her speech just now: la contrainte est l'arme des faibles - coercion is the weapon of the weak. If we look at the extent of the constraints, the prohibitions of the things that people are not allowed to do, then we can conclude that the governments are currently obviously very weak or also act very weakly. I think there has to be a very much readjustment here because many people don't trust the governments anymore. They distrust their government.

It doesn't get any better when, for example, the German Foreign Minister, Heiko MAAS, suggests that privileges could be given to those who have been vaccinated, or when - like Angela MERKEL - politicians suggest that air travel should no longer be offered, that people should be banned from travelling. Bans are the wrong direction. Freedom, responsibility, and trust are the right direction. I would just like to appeal to all of you on that when you go back to your Member States and continue to do politics.

Thank you very much.

Mr Irakli KOBAKHIDZE

Georgia, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:50:17

Thank you very much.

Ms Mariam KVRIVISHVILI from Georgia is the next speaker.

The floor is yours.

Ms Mariam KVRIVISHVILI

Georgia, SOC

11:50:28

Thank you, Mister President.

COVID-19 is not only a global pandemic and Public Health crisis; it has also severely affected global economy. We've witnessed unprecendented reduction in income, a rise in unemployment, and disruptions in crucial service industries. Like many of your countries, Georgia is strongly determined to contain the pandemic and restore the national economy. Among the hardest hit by the pandemic is the tourism sector, which represented eight percent of our GDP. Hence, it is a priority pillar in a recovery plan. The vaccination plays a crucial role in the safe and vast revival of our economy.

The Georgian government approved a COVID-19 vaccine deployment plan in close cooperation with health professionals, public defenders, and civil society, ensuring that fundamental rights of citizens are guaranteed and the efficient vaccination process is ensured in accordance to international standards. Immunization is a declared national priority for Georgia, we have a well-functioning system which includes the high-tech Richard G. Lugar Center, established with the support of our strategic partners. Georgia is well equipped to receive and administer vaccines. We have the cold chain requirements including facilities with a -80º and -20º Celsius temperature regime.

Parliament has already initiated legislative amendments which ensure the responsibility of the state in terms of indemnity and liability associated with vaccination. We have relevant infrastructure, trained manpower, and full readiness to immediately execute vaccination once the purchased vaccines arrive. Target groups have been identified for priority vaccinations and to maintain vital health services and reduce morbidity and mortality in high-risk groups. Following this, the program will be extended and expanded to reach the increased coverage target of 60% of our population.

We look up to our strategic partners and closely monitor their good practice in healthcare. Therefore, only vaccines listed by the WHO, including those having WHO emergency use authorization, will be authorized and imported into the country. Georgia has signed a commitment agreement in September to secure the access to the vaccine through COVAX. We have made prepayment for around 1.5 million doses, which is enough to vaccinate 20% of our population. The government of Georgia has been actively engaged in bilateral talks with strategic partners and foreign governments, including vaccine manufacturers, to secure necessary doses through COVAX and have 60% of citizens vaccinated by the end of the year.

We strongly rely on the support of our strategic partners and friends, including members of the Council of Europe, to join our efforts and ensure timely delivery of the vaccine and a smooth management of supply chain logistics that will help to restore global economy rapidly.

Thank you.

Mr Irakli KOBAKHIDZE

Georgia, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:53:33

Thank you very much.

Mr Rustem UMEROV from Ukraine is the next speaker.

Please.

Mr Rustem UMEROV

Ukraine, EPP/CD

11:53:42

I would like to thank the speaker for their comprehensive report. I would like to point out several aspects based on it.

Ukraine is deeply concerned that Russia is forcibly vaccinating Ukrainian citizens in Crimea with its "Sputnik V" vaccine. The WHO is expected to decide on the Russian vaccine "Sputnik V" only at the end of the first half of 2021. Thus, it is currently not a licensed vaccine.

The report emphasises that regulatory bodies in charge of assessing and authorising vaccines against Covid-19 should be independent and protected from political pressure. Unfortunately, we cannot state the same about Russia.

Let me remind you that the report also calls on member states to ensure high-quality trials, but Russia refused to conduct a full test of its vaccine "Sputnik V". And it did not pass the third stage of clinical trials – the so-called prospective placebo-controlled study. Only after this stage, we may be sure about the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine, or the absence of severe side effects. Vaccinations with a vaccine that has not passed this stage can lead to unforeseen consequences for human health.

Citizens of Ukraine living under temporary occupation are forced to undergo this vaccination with an unverified vaccine. If public sector workers refuse to do that, they will face dismissal.

Proportionately, the share of Crimean Tatars working in the fields of health care, education, and transport is significantly higher than that of other peoples in Crimea. Accordingly, it is the Crimean Tatars, as the indigenous people of Ukraine, who are more likely to be vaccinated with Sputnik V than others.

According to the media, vaccination in Crimea began on 15 December 2020. Russia plans to vaccinate 60% of the population in 2021. Thus, by the end of February, they will have delivered 84,000 doses of vaccine to Crimea.

I would like to emphasise that in general the situation with Covid-19 in Crimea is critical. The occupation authorities distort statistics, there is a lack of essential medicines. The number of Covid-19 cases is growing, and Crimean residents often are denied testing for Covid-19. Situations where there is a need to wait for an ambulance for more than 24 hours are quite common.

In general, it is difficult to predict the health consequences of a forced vaccination policy for the residents of the temporarily occupied Crimea.

Thank you. 

Mr Irakli KOBAKHIDZE

Georgia, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:56:19

Thank you very much.

Let me give the floor to Mr Pere LÓPEZ from Andorra.

Please.

Mr Pere LÓPEZ

Andorra, SOC

11:56:26

Thank you very much. 

I would like to announce my support and I would like to thank the rapporteur, Ms DE TEMMERMAN, for this excellent text and for bringing the subject to our Assembly, as it is probably one of the most important issues of our time.

Access to and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccination is a key issue. The report is a comprehensive one dealing with the legal, technical and practical issues concerning vaccination. As a member from a very small country, Andorra, what is particularly interesting for us is 7.2: the principle and strategy as far as equitable distribution of the vaccination between countries. It is not only an ethical principle, an issue of justice, of a basic and fundamental nature, it's also a health strategy which is the most logical to combat a health crisis that is global. I think that inconsistent management of the distribution of the vaccination in terms of vulnerable or high risk populations would also be unacceptable.

But having mentioned all of this, I think that the Council of Europe has to call for total transparency and clear data and statistics from national and supranational entities, programmes for cooperation between countries and pharmaceutical companies. I think that this is absolutely key to have equity in the distribution overall. 

Thank you. 

Mr Irakli KOBAKHIDZE

Georgia, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:58:09

Thank you very much.

Ms Martine WONNER from France is the next speaker.

The floor is yours.

Let's just wait a few seconds please.

Ms Martine WONNER

France, ALDE

11:58:31

Thank you, Mister President.

First of all, I would like to thank my colleague, Ms Jennifer DE TEMMERMAN, for the quality of her work.

This document is indeed fundamental because it deals with immunization in its entirety, taking into account all the ethical, legal, and practical issues. Vaccination against COVID-19 is now well under way in several countries, and the vaccination campaign, however, is somewhat chaotic.

I wanted to focus my remarks on the revelations made by the newspaper Le Monde in France because confidential documents stolen from the European Medicines Agency on 9 December 2020 have been sifted through by European journalists. The package includes about 20 elements of the evaluation dossier of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccines. It also includes 19 e-mails exchanged between 10 November and 25 November by various agency officials. It was discovered that in November, the European Medicines Agency raised three major objections to the vaccine. Some manufacturing sites had not yet been inspected; data on commercial vaccine batches were missing, but more importantly, the available data revealed qualitative differences between commercial batches and those used in clinical trials. These issues are being addressed, but together we must all remain vigilant. This is truly a responsibility for all of us.

I would also like to recall that the negotiations at European level have been opaque. They were not made public - they were not made public until 21 January on the European Commission's website, long after the start of the vaccination. Mr Tedros ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS reminded us earlier of the need for this transparency. This is an absolute requirement, ladies and gentlemen.

All countries today welcome this accelerated vaccination strategy, but every human being on the planet must have a choice: it is a fundamental freedom. I would point out here that prevention exists in relation to COVID-19, in particular through vitamin D and zinc. I would also point out that early treatment is possible: these molecules are known, old and inexpensive. Let us not forget this, ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues, when it comes to saving lives.

Thank you.

Mr Irakli KOBAKHIDZE

Georgia, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:01:26

Thank you very much.

Ms Theodora BAKOYANNIS will speak from Greece using the remote system.

Ms Theodora BAKOYANNIS

Greece, EPP/CD

12:01:35

Thank you, Mister President.

First and foremost, allow me to congratulate our rapporteur for an excellent comprehensive resolution, at this given moment, dealing with the main issue at hand regarding the COVID-19 vaccines.

However, I would like to add two points in the overall discussion taking place. We are witnessing an acute issue and even a potential legal dispute between the EU and some vaccine-producing pharmaceutical companies regarding the late distribution of the agreed-upon vaccine doses. I am saddened because I just read that AstraZeneca left the negotiation table with the EU. It is remarkable to see this take place.

Our efforts for the past months cannot all go down the drain because of profiteering or other motives. We must call upon pharma companies producing the COVID-19 vaccines to stay true to their legal obligations, entered upon with the EU and other countries in good faith.

There is a lot at stake here. There is a strict scheduling taking place regarding national vaccination in various European countries. Any violation of obligations by companies shouldn't be taken lightly, for it will have far-reaching consequences in an array of fields and above all the life and health of citizens of our societies. Finally, it is paramount for us to underline the fact that vaccines and access to them should not be the prerogative of wealthy countries. It should not become a privilege as it has been in the past, we must ensure that the needs of developing countries are met, for the pandemic affects us all.

Thank you very much, Chair.

Mr Irakli KOBAKHIDZE

Georgia, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:03:35

Thank you very much Ms BAKOYANNIS.

Ms Minerva HERNÁNDEZ RAMOS from Mexico will join us and speak.

Ms Minerva HERNÁNDEZ RAMOS

Mexico

12:03:50

Good morning distinguished parliamentarians,

Mexico tried to face a false dilemma but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to pit the protection of the economy against health of the citizens. After many deaths, a rise in infections, and a drastic disruption in a number of economic sectors, we can say that it is wrong to take this "either or or" approach. We refuse to have our hands tied and have to choose one of these two options, choosing the lesser of two evils as our criterion of choice. We believe it is crucial for the state to intervene through its institutions, for it to exercise its legal authority, to implement public policies and thereby guarantee for all citizens the conditions of existence which are required by human dignity, and state protection for the well-being of the individual. Otherwise, you cannot have any democratic system.

The vaccine is a public good requiring countries to carry out vaccination strategies based on data and evidence and in keeping with a population immunisation strategy. Perhaps it would not be timely to say at other times, but we see that a number of populist leaders did not react with care and dedication warranted by the pandemic and resisted the measures indicated by the World Health Organization to contain the virus and seek to promote the governmental actions through the vaccine. We believe therefore that vaccine nationalism may undermine the successful efforts to achieve immunisation. We're convinced that the key lies in co-operation between citizens and government, between public and private sectors, between countries and multinational companies, and among nations themselves. Given this greatest threat in modern history, it is high time for us to hoist high our ethical banners and place mutual assistance ahead of selfish interests. States and their leaders must make decisions that are free from political pressure and which adhere to ethical criteria and fair distribution of the vaccine among the population. The 2020 pandemic has taught us all about the meaning of resilience in the face of obstacles and the adversities we are experiencing. Let us hope that in 2021 we will learn from co-operation and fairness. I know that we will go forward stronger and that we will go forward better. 

From Mexico, thank you very much. 

Mr Irakli KOBAKHIDZE

Georgia, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:06:28

Thank you very much.

The next speaker is Mr Reinhold LOPATKA from Austria.

Please.

Mr Reinhold LOPATKA

Austria, EPP/CD

12:06:34

Dear Chairman, Dear Colleagues,

It was good to hear now a colleague from Mexico, showing us the global dimension of this pandemic. The long list of speakers shows the extraordinary importance of this item. Discussing ethical, legal and practical considerations of COVID-19 vaccines on the one hand, and on the other hand we should have also in our mind to do everything to avoid new pandemics. We know that at the beginning of the outbreak, China played down the virus and also other political leaders played down this pandemic. There was a lack of information at the beginning. 

Meanwhile, everyone has recognized the dimension of this pandemic. More than two million people died. There is hope that this scientific mission of the World Health Organization to China will give answers to the origin of the virus, which is so important for future measures to avoid new pandemics. Vaccines are necessary, but doing everything so that all countries are open and transparent when there is an outbreak of a disease is also very important.  What we need is transparency and solidarity, which means our full support for the COVAX initiative.

Vaccine nationalism is the wrong way. We all should fight for a fair distribution of the vaccines around the globe, and we should also start to have in our mind the recovery of the global economy. Maybe this is the next disaster we have because we forget also the social dimension of millions of people who lost their jobs. This report is a report which gives us a good overview of what we should do. I'm thankful to the rapporteur Ms Jennifer DE TEMMERMAN for this report.

Thank you very much.

Mr Irakli KOBAKHIDZE

Georgia, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:09:37

Thank you very much Mr LOPATKA.

The next speaker is Ms Lesia ZABURANNA.

Please.

Ms Lesia ZABURANNA

Ukraine, ALDE

12:09:43

Thank you very much.

First of all, I would like to say that we highly appreciate the report by Ms Jennifer DE TEMMERMAN. It's a very important question, and it's a very important problem. In this report Ms DE TEMMERMAN researched really a psychological and practical consideration of COVID-19 vaccines. It's very valuable for us.

In my speech, I would like to look into several key points on this extremely important issue around the world. At present it is essential for this crisis management of each country to strike a balance between health, economy, and human mental state during vaccination. The coronavirus is spreading across the planet at an incredible speed. Vaccination should be carried out just as quickly. However, according to social research the willingness of the population to be vaccinated against coronavirus has declined. One of the issues that people are concerned about the most is the possible side effects. In this regard, it's very important to have direct communication with society and the regions on the fight against the pandemic and strengthen public confidence on the state's actions. At the same time, special attention should be paid to informing the society timely and objectively about the events in the EU countries regarding the development of the situation with the spread of the virus and the measures taken. Despite the fact that it took scientists a record time to develop such a vaccine, it must be obvious that safety testing was carried out quickly but not less ruly than usual. The vaccination campaign has no right to turn into a disaster.

Unfortunately, safety and regulation are not the only issues during vaccinations. The vaccine issue is politicised regarding Ukraine which has already fallen into the broader confrontation between East and West in European politics, it has now also become the point of geopolitical clashes of coronavirus vaccines, and it hurts Ukraine. In the framework of global programme COVAX, we will receive 200,000 doses of vaccine in the nearest time. But the first commercial deliveries of western vaccines in Ukraine are only possible at the end of 2021. Negotiations on the supply of vaccines are still ongoing. We still hope for you countries to support in resolving the issue of vaccine shortages as soon as possible.

Thank you very much. 

Mr Irakli KOBAKHIDZE

Georgia, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:12:53

Thank you very much.

We have five more speakers on the list. All of them will join us by using the remote system.

The next one is Mr Momodou Malcolm JALLOW.

Please, the floor is yours.

Mr Momodou Malcolm JALLOW

Sweden, UEL

12:13:12

Thank you very much.

I'm not sure if you can hear me but thank you very much, Mister Chair.

I want to start by thanking the rapporteur for a well-written, very important, and comprehensive report. For me it is simply about common good. It is a common saying that global problems require global solutions. I think we will all agree that the public health and socio-economic impact of COVID-19 has reached beyond the borders of Europe. As we speak of solutions regarding access to the vaccine, we must and are obliged to speak in the context of 1.) the vaccine being a global public good and 2.) a fair and equitable global access and distribution of the vaccination.

We have responsibility to prioritize the common good. It does not make sense to prioritize profit over human lives. The desire of big pharmaceutical corporations to maximize profit cannot be allowed to reign over millions of lives at risk. It doesn't make sense that the majority of the research done by big pharma is financed by taxpayers but when that that research leads to breakthroughs, it is not made accessible to the very people that finance this production. We have a responsibility to prioritize the common good, to have 75% of the vaccine doses made available in 10 countries that are the richest 14% of the world, cannot possibly be considered a common good. To have rich countries buying five times the amount of doses required by their population, while the poorest and most vulnerable countries are left to die is not for the common good.

We must act in solidarity globally. We must act in solidarity to the poorest and the most vulnerable. We must not allow ourselves to fall victims of our nationalistic sentiments because ending the pandemic depends on it. This is also why I strongly urge you to support Amendment No. 3, as it challenges us. I quote, "to overcome the barriers and restrictions arising from the patent and intellectual property rights in order to ensure the widespread production and distribution of vaccines in all countries and to all citizens".

This is a historic moment; our actions will be determined by how we shall be remembered by the next generation. Whether we succeed or not depends on how we treat the most vulnerable in our different countries and globally.

Thank you.

Mr Irakli KOBAKHIDZE

Georgia, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:15:40

Thank you very much.

Mr Luc BERTHOLD from Canada.

The floor is yours.

Mr BERTHOLD is not connected, so we can move to the next speaker.

Mr Stéphane BERGERON from Canada.

 

Mr Stéphane BERGERON

Canada

12:16:10

Dear Colleagues,

I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak to you today on this important issue.

The urgency of the situation we are currently facing has forced governments and private sector actors to develop vaccines against COVID-19 at record speed.

Faced with one of the worst health crises in history, we have been working to pool our resources to develop solutions for the benefit of humanity. That said, it must be said that the mechanisms of solidarity among nations have been put to the test since the beginning of the pandemic. There has been a distressing "every man for himself" in the early months of the health crisis for access to basic medical equipment, particularly masks.

The same scenario of competition between states seems to be repeating itself in terms of access to vaccine. Developed countries are appropriating the lion's share of the first available vaccines and have engaged in a real race against each other to obtain the maximum number of doses as quickly as possible.

As the Social, Health and Sustainable Development Committee pointed out in its report, "the rapid worldwide deployment of safe and effective vaccines against COVID-19 will be crucial to contain the pandemic, protect health systems, save lives and contribute to the recovery of world economies". The problem is that only a small number of vaccine candidates have been approved for human use in Europe and Canada to date.

In Canada, the Minister of Health signed an Interim Order in September 2020 to expedite the approval process for VIDC-19 vaccines. Despite this, only two vaccines have been authorized by Health Canada to date. We look forward to seeing what happens to the dozens of other candidates in development. Personally, I am closely monitoring the development of the Virus-Like Particles (VLP) vaccine by Quebec biopharmaceutical company Medicago, which is expected to begin phase three clinical trials in February.

It is reassuring to know that different types of vaccines are in development. Indeed, as the Commission notes in its report: "Since no one has ever succeeded in developing an effective coronavirus vaccine for human use, it is difficult to know which type of vaccine will be the most effective". It is therefore a good thing that vaccines currently being developed are based on different methods.

Throughout the immunization process, it will be important to ensure, as I mentioned earlier, that the distribution of vaccines is equitable. In Quebec, as elsewhere in Canada, vaccines against COVID-19 will be offered free of charge to the population. This will ensure that everyone, if they so choose, will have access to vaccines, regardless of their socio-economic status.

As Dr Theresa Tam, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer, says, "no one is protected until everyone is protected". This may be true at the national level, but it's equally true on a global scale.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr Irakli KOBAKHIDZE

Georgia, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:19:07

Thank you very much.

The next speaker is Mr Éctor Jaime RAMÍREZ BARBA. He will speak from Mexico.

Mr Éctor Jaime RAMÍREZ BARBA

Mexico

12:19:29

Thank you very much. 

As a Mexican delegation member to this Assembly, I'd like to congratulate Ms Jennifer DE TEMMERMAN for this report and ask you to vote to approve this invaluable instrument to strengthen the necessary actions to face the pandemic.

The situation in Mexico is extremely serious right now in terms of the SAR-CoV-2 virus and this is because of a lack of efficient planning and timely planning and poor decisions on the part of the Federal Republic. Now, indeed, since the beginning of the pandemic, the Federal has already not done what is necessary to control the chain of infections and indeed they have failed to carry out the necessary contact tracing, the necessary testing, has not promoted mask use and there has been poor management of information regarding the pandemic.

This has led to a catastrophic scenario far beyond what was predicted by the Mexican government. Mexico has registered over 1.5 million infections and nearly 150 000 deaths. A true tragedy for our country. So in this particular scenario the authorised the authorised vaccine will be everyone's hope. And unfortunately in our country, the process of purchase, distribution and application has created a number of different problems.

And I would like to denounce in the Assembly this is basically because the issue has been politicised. Vaccination has been used once again for political purposes and it has led to a total distortion, if you like, of the true need of the vaccination. What we are speaking about is a serious violation of a very fundamental ethics and reason beyond that as concerns defining what the problem is and confronting it.

Before the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, we would like to denounce the federal government of Mexico, which has failed to adopt the necessary health measures, has failed to protect the population of the country and has failed to stop or to slow down the spreading of the pandemia. It is absolutely necessary to deal with the issue with vaccinations, with the development of vaccinations, with scientific research, study and proper management and coordination with authorities in order to deal with the problem, taking into consideration the legal and ethical dimensions of the problem, which the government has failed to do.

Thank you very much.  

Mr Irakli KOBAKHIDZE

Georgia, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:22:24

Thank you very much.

The last speaker on our list is Ms Liliana TANGUY from France.

The floor is yours.

 

Ms Liliana TANGUY

France, ALDE

12:22:42

Thank you, Mister Speaker.

Dear Colleagues,

First of all, I would like to thank my French colleague for this report, which asks us about the fundamental issues at stake in the equitable distribution of a vaccine. Tthe administration of which to the greatest number of people is a matter of the utmost urgency.

Access to this public good must be guaranteed for everyone. This has been said by many of us, regardless of our income, the social situation of the territory in which we live and the economic situation of that territory. We will only be able to contain COVID-19 by limiting epidemic outbreaks on a long-term basis in all the territories in our respective countries. To this end, several mechanisms have been put in place to facilitate vaccination, including the COVAX joint initiative, which has been mentioned several times and was launched in March 2020 by France and its partners.

So, although last November the G20 stated that it wanted to ensure affordable and equitable access to the vaccine, this seems to be in jeopardy. As a result, several European leaders have expressed concern about the effectiveness of this commitment. Indeed, while some states that ordered the vaccine have received the first doses, the pace of vaccination is likely to slow down due to delays in the production and delivery of the second doses.

I had a question for the rapporteur. In your opinion, and according to your work, to what extent can an equitable distribution of vaccines be ensured when the production and delivery of doses is not guaranteed? Moreover, several logistical problems may also raise doubts about the possibility of equitable distribution of the vaccine, particularly in countries with the least developed infrastructures. Indeed, some vaccines require highly constraining storage, transport and distribution, and material, human, and economic resources must therefore necessarily be substantial to administer the vaccine to the greatest number. How can support be provided to countries lacking the infrastructure to deliver vaccines?

Thank you very much.

Mr Irakli KOBAKHIDZE

Georgia, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:25:23

Thank you very much Ms Liliana TANGUY.

That concludes the list of speakers.

Ms Jennifer DE TEMMERMAN do you wish to reply?

Thank you.

You have three minutes.

Ms Jennifer DE TEMMERMAN

France, ALDE, Rapporteur

12:25:40

Thank you all for your interventions.

I'm not going to go back over each and every one of them, forgive me, but I will mention a few of you.

Sir Christopher CHOPE and Lord George FOULKES stressed that the big pharmaceutical companies should be congratulated rather than attacked. I do not think that is what the Members who have spoken on this subject meant. On the contrary, we have legitimately, collectively, called for transparency. I am emphasising this point because it illustrates precisely what I meant when I spoke of stigmatisation. We all think we are doing the right thing, we all want to do the right thing, but our discourse, in this uncertain context, is hardening, isolating us, dividing us into pro, con, knowing and scheming. They are labels. Ms Nigar ARPADARAI was right: we cannot judge anyone. This pandemic only reveals our fragility, which makes our human condition, in the end, that of the most incongruous animal of creation, which we have overcome by our ingenuity and sociability.

Together, we have directed all our energy towards a better world, which we felt was a world in our own image. But today, the COVID-19 pandemic, which we must face as the first of a series to come, climate change, biodiversity loss, melting permafrost - all of which are no strangers to these pandemics - are a wake-up call. A better world is possible, of course, but only if we take the time to rethink the essential things that have allowed our species to thrive: alliances, hope, ingenuity in the service of the common good. Fairness, transparency, solidarity, all these words have been taken up by many of you, whatever the nations, whatever the political groups. You are right, because they are essential. Do you know where we can find them together? In the 2030 agenda, carried by the UN. The 17 goals of a vision for a better world.

Let's stop reinventing things all the time, let's just stick to our commitments for our youth, for the child we have been, for our children. We must leave no one behind. This is certainly objective 3 at the heart of this report, but not only univeral health coverage, research, vaccine, medicine. One goal is reached, the rest is falling apart. Let us not forget that freedom of thought and our free will have made possible the development of the science that we need so much today. This science must not become a despot. Let us never compromise on our freedoms, to reply to my colleague Ms Marie-Christine DALLOZ.

The situation we are experiencing will last: it will be repeated. So, are we going to deprive ourselves eternally of life in order to preserve life? There are barrier gestures, vaccines, choice in vaccines and trust in each other. I believe in the intelligence of our citizens.

Once again, I thank Dr Tedros ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS for his participation. The role of the WHO has been crucial. It has been neglected, as was the 2016 report by our colleague Ms Sílvia Eloïsa BONNET, which provides answers to the questions of my colleague Ms Liliana TANGUY on the management of public health emergencies. If our international institutions had been listened to earlier, what would have been the scenario?

We cannot remake the past, but we can foresee the future. Our governments must give more credit to our work. We parliamentarians are essential, and we must put pressure on our governments to listen to us. Let us continue to work together but also with the WHO, with the UN, with the territories. I have heard many of you talk about solidarity. The Director General of the WHO has launched an appeal: COVAX still needs the means to enable it to protect the world. So, do not hesitate to translate your words into action, and call on your governments on this issue.

Thank you all, and thank you to the PACE administrators for their contribution to this report.

Mr Irakli KOBAKHIDZE

Georgia, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:29:48

Thank you very much, Ms DE TEMMERMAN.

Does the chairperson of the Committee wish to speak?

So let's wait a few seconds.

Unfortunately the chairperson is not able to connect.

So the debate is closed and now we have to move to the consideration of amendments to the draft resolution.

The Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development has presented a draft resolution [Doc. 15212] to which four amendments have been tabled.

The amendments will be taken in the order in which they appear in the compendium. I remind you that speeches on amendments are limited to one minute.

So, Amendment 4.

I have been informed by the chairperson of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development that Amendment 4 was rejected by the committee with a two thirds majority.

An objection requires the support of 10 members of the Assembly, so please could all those who object indicate their objection by raising their hand (for those present in the chamber) or requesting to speak via the remote system.

So there is an objection. So we will now proceed to consider the amendment.

I call Mr Aleksandr BASHKIN to support Amendment 4.

You have one minute for this.

Mr Aleksandr BASHKIN

Russian Federation, NR

12:32:35

Ms DE TEMMERMAN, thank you very much for this particular report. I would like to congratulate you.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to be present at the Committee meeting yesterday. Ms DE TEMMERMAN, could you listen a moment to what I have to say? If you could please stop the clock a moment so that I have Ms Jennifer DE TEMMERMAN's attention.

Thank you very much. I wanted to speak to you, unfortunately I wasn't able to yesterday in the Committe. Let me try to explain to you and to other colleagues as well what is behind this particular amendment. The vaccine, there is scarcity, there isn't enough for everybody at the moment to go around. Much less than we had all hoped for. Looking at this from a medical point of view, those who already have antibodies are not a risk, they do not need the vaccination. I wanted to underline that there where it is possible, that an antibody analysis test be conducted and that if that individual has antibodies, it is not necessary for them to be vaccinated. We wanted to make this particular recommendation in the form of this amendment to be taken into consideration.

Thank you very much. 

Mr Irakli KOBAKHIDZE

Georgia, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:34:03

Thank you.

Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

What is the opinion of the Committee on the amendment?

Ms Jennifer DE TEMMERMAN

France, ALDE, Rapporteur

12:34:25

The amendment was rejected by two-thirds of the votes, Mister President.

Mr Irakli KOBAKHIDZE

Georgia, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:34:33

I shall now put the amendment to the vote.

Members present in the chamber should use the Hemicycle voting system.

Members participating remotely should vote using the remote voting system.

The vote in the Hemicycle and by remote voting is now open so you can vote.

The vote is closed.

I call for the result to be displayed.

27 votes in favour, 58 against, 23 abstentions.

It's rejected.

Now we move to Amendment 3.

I call Mr Georgios KATROUGKALOS to support Amendment 3.

You have one minute.

 

Mr Georgios KATROUGKALOS

Greece, UEL

12:36:17

Thank you, Mr Chair.

The amendment supports the central idea of the rapporteur, but also of the general director of WHO, that the vaccine is a global public good.

So the amendment wants to support that, first for reasons of equity, the vaccine should reach all people in all countries, even the poorest ones. Another rationale for the amendment is to check the profiteering practices of Big Pharma. We have seen recently, for instance, that they have not respected their commitment regarding delivery of the vaccine to the EU. I must tell you also, dear colleagues, that the same proposal is discussed at the European Parliament, following an initiative of the former prime minister of Greece, Mr Alexis Tsipras.

So I think it is an amendment that should be supported for reasons of justice, but also of equity and efficiency. 

Mr Irakli KOBAKHIDZE

Georgia, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:37:25

Thank you very much.

Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

Ms Dubravka FILIPOVSKI please.

There is a problem with the connection. Can we try again?

No one else wants to speak against?

What is the opinion of the Committee on the amendment?

Ms Jennifer DE TEMMERMAN

France, ALDE, Rapporteur

12:38:11

The committee adopted it very broadly.

Mr Irakli KOBAKHIDZE

Georgia, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:38:17

I shall now put the amendment to vote.

Let me remind you that members present in the chamber should use the hemicycle voting system, and members participating remotely should vote using the remote voting system.

The vote in the hemicycle and via remote voting is now open.

Please.

The vote is closed.

Let me ask you to display the results of the vote.

72 members in favour, 16 against, 27 abstained.

Amendment 3 is agreed to.

Let's move to amendment 2.

I call on Mr Stefan SCHENNACH to support Amendment 2.

You have one minute.

We have a problem with the connection. Maybe we can wait a little bit.

Maybe any other members would like to support the amendment?

For example Baroness Doreen MASSEY or Ms Sibel ARSLAN would like to speak in favour?

We cannot hear you.

It's fine now.

Baroness Doreen MASSEY

United Kingdom, SOC

12:41:12

I have really nothing to say.

I think that the amendment is is totally self-explanatory so I won't waste time in discussing it.

Thank you. 

Mr Irakli KOBAKHIDZE

Georgia, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:41:35

Thank you very much.

Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

There's no one who would like to speak against.

What's the opinion of the Committee on the amendment?

Ms Jennifer DE TEMMERMAN

France, ALDE, Rapporteur

12:41:49

Adopted by a large majority.

Mr Irakli KOBAKHIDZE

Georgia, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:41:52

So I shall now put the amendment to the vote.

Again, members present in the my chamber should use the Hemicycle voting system and members participating remotely should vote using the remote voting system.

So, the vote is now open. Let's vote.

The vote is closed.

I call for the results to be displayed.

Well: 99 members voted in favour, 10 against, 15 abstained.

So Amendment 2 is agreed.

So let's move to the last amendment, that's Amendment 1.

I call Mr Stefan SCHENNACH to support Amendment 1, if there is a connection.

Mr Stefan SCHENNACH

Austria, SOC

12:43:54

I had a problem before, thanks to all that it got such a big majority for Amendment No. 2.

This is a fantastic report, so I made only two sub-amendments. This is now the last one: that the certification of vaccination only be used for the purpose of monitoring and not as a new passport or any other document for people who want to come and go for vaccination. I think this is important to say, and there was also a great majority in the committee.

Mr Irakli KOBAKHIDZE

Georgia, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:44:44

Thank you very much.

Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

Please Ms Mariia MEZENTSEVA from Ukraine.

Ms Mariia MEZENTSEVA

Ukraine, EPP/CD

12:44:57

Thank you, dear chairman,

Just a technical remark. Well, actually the whole draft doesn't say anything about certification. So what is this amendment about? What is the body of this amendment?

Thank you very much.

Mr Irakli KOBAKHIDZE

Georgia, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:45:13

Maybe we can ask for the opinion of the Committee on the amendment.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, Chairperson of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development

12:45:18

I am so sorry to only join you now due to technical reasons but I'm able to say that for this amendment, the Committee voted in favour with a large majority.

Mr Irakli KOBAKHIDZE

Georgia, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:45:28

Thank you very much.

I will now put the amendment to vote.

Let me remind you once again that members present in the chamber should use the Hemicycle voting system and members participating remotely should vote using the remote voting system.

The vote in the Hemicycle and via remote voting is now open.

The vote is closed.

I call for the result to be displayed.

Thank you very much.

96 members voted in favour of the amendment, 15 against, 12 members abstained.

Amendment 1 is agreed to.

We have adopted three amendments: Amendment 3, Amendment 2 and Amendment 1.

We will now proceed to vote on the draft resolution contained in Document 15212 as amended.

Members present in the chamber should use the Hemicycle voting system, and members participating remotely should vote using the remote voting system.

The vote in the Hemicycle and via remote voting is now open.

Please vote.

The vote is closed.

I call for the result to be displayed.

Thank you very much. 115 members voted in favour, 2 voted against, 13 abstained.

The draft resolution in Document 15212 as amended is adopted.

I would like to congratulate the rapporteur and all who contributed to this report.

 

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, Chairperson of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development

12:48:16

May I say a few words now, since I was unable to log on earlier?

Thank you very much. I would like to thank everyone for this fruitful debate and I would like to join with other colleagues in thanking Ms Jennifer DE TEMMERMAN for this excellent and timely report, and Dr Tedros ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS for taking the time to be with us today. Indeed, the scientific research into vaccines against Covid-19 has been exceptional and enormous progress has already been achieved in the development of vaccines against this deadly virus. But as the virus mutations have shown us all too clearly, we cannot rest on our laurels now.

We must do everything in our capacity to roll out the vaccines fast, in a safe, fair and equitable way, both globally and within our member states. We must ensure a sufficient uptake of the vaccines so as to contain the pandemic, protect healthcare systems, save lives and help restore global economies. I wholeheartedly agree with Ms Jennifer DE TEMMERMAN that international cooperation and solidarity that goes far beyond the Council of Europe is needed now more than ever, and I salute the efforts of the World Health Organization.

Thank you.

Mr Irakli KOBAKHIDZE

Georgia, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:49:27

Thank you very much, Mr Chairperson.

Let me inform you that the Assembly will hold its next public sitting this afternoon at 4 p.m.

The sitting is adjourned.

Thank you very much.

The sitting was closed at 12:50 pm

Next sitting at 4:00 pm