COVID support: how the EU is helping to fight the pandemic

November 29, 2021

  • Is the EU helping with vaccination in the Eastern partner countries?
  • Apart from vaccination, what else is the EU doing to help the region tackle COVID-19?
  • What is happening at national level? Is the EU also providing direct help to partner countries?
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Is the EU helping with vaccination in the Eastern partner countries?

Yes, the European Union is helping by delivering vaccine doses and by supporting national infrastructure needs to administer the vaccines. Delivery of vaccine doses takes place either through the COVAX Facility or through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. By mid-November 2021, more than 10 million vaccine doses had been donated to the EU’s Eastern partner countries via COVAX or directly through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. 

The European Union is one of the biggest supporters of COVAX, a ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and fair access to COVID-19 vaccines. The EU’s  (which combines resources from the EU, its Member States and European financial institutions) supports COVAX with close to €3 billion, including €1 billion from the EU budget. This is a key contribution that is helping COVAX to secure at least 1.8 billion doses of vaccines for 92 low and middle-income countries.

Through UNICEF, by mid-November COVAX had shipped over 520 million doses to 144 countries around the world, including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, who together have received more than 6 million doses from this Facility. 

A new €35 million EU vaccine sharing action, facilitated by Poland, aims to increase vaccine supplies by reimbursing the cost of vaccines shared with EaP countries by EU Member States.

But the vaccines themselves are only half the story. Equally important is the vaccine infrastructure. Since February 2021, the EU and the World Health Organization (WHO) have been working together in a major effort to support the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines in the six Eastern partner countries. With a total budget of €40 million over three years, this is the largest EU and WHO joint action ever implemented in the European WHO Region.

Through this , the EU and WHO are helping to prepare national infrastructures for the effective receipt and deployment of vaccines. EU support under this programme includes training of health managers and medical staff involved in the vaccination campaign, key logistical support for the delivery and handling of the vaccines and supplies, vaccination data and safety monitoring, communication and community engagement, as well as support for the development of a digital COVID certificate.

As a result of this support, the EU has to date recognised the equivalence of the digital COVID certificates developed by Ukraine, Armenia, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova.  This means that citizens from these countries can enter and use their national vaccination certification in the EU in the same way as EU citizens do. Work is ongoing with Azerbaijan to meet the requirements needed for equivalence with the EU certificate

Worried about vaccination? All your questions answered about vaccines and COVID-19 – click here.

Apart from vaccination, what else is the EU doing to help the region tackle COVID-19?

The European Union has been on the frontline of COVID-19 support from the moment the pandemic struck. To date, more than €2.5 billion worth of support has been allocated in emergency relief to cover immediate needs, or for assisting national health systems and social and economic recovery.

The EU and the World Health Organization are working together, not only on vaccine supply, but to support the health sector across the six Eastern partner countries through the Solidarity for Health Initiative, supplying medical devices and personal equipment. Over 11 million items of personal protective equipment, 12,000 lab kits, over 1,500 ventilators, oxygen concentrators and pulse oximeters, and over 20,000 PCR testing kits have been provided as part of this project.

The EU is also supporting the most vulnerable groups in society, with investments of more than €11 million. Grants of up to €60,000 are given to civil society organisations through the Eastern Partnership Solidarity Programme for projects such as supporting local schools with distance learning, helping women who have lost their jobs, or providing food supplies to the elderly and the disabled. A second programme, COVID-19: Civil Society Resilience and Sustainability, also works with civil society and independent media, helping them to continue providing access to protection and assistance, especially to the most vulnerable groups, as well as accurate information about the pandemic.

The EU is also helping business to survive this exceptionally difficult time, working closely with financing institutions in the EU Member States and globally to support small business, the self-employed and others across the region to help them access local currency loans and apply for grants to boost their businesses. The EU’s assistance is channelled through a new support programme for SMEs and the EU4Business initiative. You can visit the dedicated COVID-19 support pages on the EU4Business website to find out about support measures for businesses in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine

The European Fund for Sustainable Development has made available €500 million to provide financial liquidity across the Eastern Partnership region, while European financial institutions, such as the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, have been key players in supporting business credit. They have also invested millions in supporting public health systems, building economic resilience, digitalisation, renewable energies and green investments, providing both emergency support and longer-term investment to help build a sustainable recovery.

What is happening at national level? Is the EU also providing direct help to partner countries?

Definitely. While regional programmes have been delivering coordinated support across the Eastern Partnership, the European Union has rolled out COVID support packages tailored specifically to the needs of each country.

In Armenia, the almost €100 million EU support package has provided substantial budget support to the government but also social assistance to more than 3,000 vulnerable households, tablets for hundreds of children to help with online education, support for digitalisation to over 1,000 small businesses, as well as key medical equipment for hospitals and labs, and training for patient care.

In Azerbaijan, the EU mobilised a COVID-19 response package worth almost €32 million. Support included assistance to Azerbaijan’s public health system, including 20 hospitals and 5 primary healthcare facilities as well as essential medical supplies for patient care. The EU also helped in the training of almost 3,000 health care workers, 98 laboratory technicians, 1,400 medical and nursing students and other health professionals.

In Belarus, the EU has worked with the WHO to supply essential equipment, including 2.4 million surgical masks, 1.2 million medical gloves, 1 million respirators, 20,000 rapid COVID tests, and more. The EU is also supporting preparedness for the rollout of safe and effective vaccines in Belarus.

In Georgia, the EU’s COVID-19 response package is over €183 million in grants, which have provided concrete support to respond to the pandemic. These grants have helped the government preserve over 400,000 jobs and provide social assistance to over 78,000 vulnerable families and 45,000 people with disabilities. Georgian frontline responders and laboratories also received almost 2 million pieces of medical supplies, ventilators and PPE.

In the Republic of Moldova, EU COVID support provided over €127 million in grants, used to deliver concrete support to the people of Moldova, including the vulnerable and elderly, as well as emergency medical supplies and personal protective equipment, and support for innovative SMEs. In addition, the EU has launched programmes to help Moldova cope with the pandemic and boost the resilience of the health system, provide additional equipment and support the roll-out of the vaccine.

In Ukraine, EU support worth more than €190 million has been rolled out to enhance the emergency response through the supply of medical equipment and personal protective equipment, and to strengthen the health system through training and system upgrades. Emergency support has also been provided to vulnerable sectors of the population and to small businesses, as well as to fight against disinformation.

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