The EU’s tailor-made centralised system for vaccine procurement succeeded in creating an initially diversified portfolio of vaccine candidates and in procuring sufficient doses of COVID-19 vaccines. However, the EU started procurement later than the UK and the US, and when severe supply shortfalls occurred in the first half of 2021, it became clear that most contracts signed by the European Commission did not include specific provisions to address supply disruptions. The performance of the procurement process was not sufficiently assessed, a special report published today by the European Court of Auditors (ECA) concludes. The auditors also note that the Commission has not yet scrutinised or benchmarked that process to draw lessons for the future, nor does it currently plan to test its pandemic procurement system through stress-tests or simulations.
“Whether the Commission and Member States have procured COVID-19 vaccines effectively is a very pertinent question”, said Joëlle Elvinger, the ECA member who led the audit. “We chose this topic given the central role that vaccines played in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the unprecedented nature of the EU’s involvement in vaccine procurement and the expenditure involved. Our findings are intended to contribute to the ongoing development of the EU’s pandemic preparedness and response capabilities.”