Good afternoon, health colleagues, and welcome to the first European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM) update of the week. As the year moves towards its end, EAPM will be focusing on the implementation of In Vitro Diagnostic Regulation (IVDR) by engaging with our stakeholders in organizing expert meetings with them...a more detailed update will come presently, but more information below, writes EAPM Executive Director Denis Horgan.
As diligent readers of our update will know, a new EU regulation on In Vitro Diagnostics will come into effect in 2022 and will have a major impact on the evaluation and approval process of IVDs.
In this context, EAPM has organized a series of expert panels on which a report will be forthcoming.
Without some sustainable amendment to IVDR, there is a risk that any niche – and not so niche – IVD medical tests will disappear. Participants in the expert round table reported that some tests simply will not be available if the regime is enforced on the timings envisaged. "There will be real problems ahead." The participant added: "We don't know what tests we will have available next year." Already, availability is uneven across Europe. And now it is apparent that awareness of the impending difficulties also varies widely from country to country, with a high perception of the risks in The Netherlands but still only limited sense of urgency in Hungary.
In addition, companies that decide to seek national derogations for their products in order to maintain them on the market would be obliged to generate a tidal wave of paperwork that could overwhelm their own resources and create a logjam in national regulatory agencies, since there will be upwards of 20,000 products that will need certification for the first time.
Health committee votes through pharma strategy report
MEPs on the European Parliament’s committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety today voted through a report on the Commissions pharmaceutical strategy. The own-initiative report was passed with 62 votes in favor, 8 against and 8 abstentions. Authored by rapporteur Dolors Montserrat, Spanish MEP from the center-right European People’s Party, the non-binding text represents the Parliament’s input into the Commission pharmaceutical strategy.
A draft of the report was first published in May and it called on the Commission to redefine incentives for drug development to take into account unmet patient needs. It also asks the Commission to improve price transparency, while still ensuring that the industry remains competitive. On Monday MEPs passed so-called compromise amendments to the report — which are the result of negotiations between the different political parties in the Parliament. The amendments put a greater emphasis on conditions on public investment into research, antimicrobial resistance and resilient pharmaceutical supply chains. Other proposals include giving the European Medicines Agency greater oversight over drug and device combinations, as well as the creation of an action plan for advanced therapy medicinal products (ATMPS). Next, MEPs will vote whether to approve the report in a plenary session in November. Then, in late 2022, the Commission will publish its proposal to overhaul the EU’s pharmaceutical rules.
Europe’s health ministers meet today (12 October) in Slovenia — and virtually — for the Health Council, a day that will see EU health resilience at front and centre of discussions. Joined by Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, the ministers will discuss the hot button topic of resilient medicines supplies.
Health ministers will also discuss improving the response and preparedness to cross-border health threats; how to strengthen health systems under the EU Health Union banner; and of course, COVID-19 vaccination across the bloc.
ENVI ready to reinforce EU disease prevention
MEPs are ready to negotiate with member states to reinforce the EU’s disease prevention and control framework and jointly tackle cross-border health threats,* according to the ENVI plenary session. The proposal to extend the mandate of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) was adopted with 598 votes in favour, 84 against and 13 abstentions. EU member states should develop national preparedness and response plans, and provide timely, comparable and high quality data, MEPs say. They also want to ensure that the ECDC’s mandate is extended beyond communicable diseases to also cover major non-communicable diseases, like cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, cancer, diabetes or mental illness. The legislative proposal to strengthen the EU’s crisis prevention, preparedness and response when addressing future serious cross-border health threats was adopted with 594 votes in favour, 85 against and 16 abstentions. The COVID-19 crisis revealed that further work at EU level is needed to support cooperation between member states, in particular border regions, MEPs stress. The text also calls for clear procedures and more transparency for EU joint procurement activities and related purchase agreements.
Europe can’t agree on how to regulate tech giants
The question of how to regulate tech giants has been high on the agenda for most countries around the world, but a new report today says that Europe is struggling to answer it. The European Union has been working on its plans for several years, and appeared to have reached some kind of consensus last year – which would include limiting Apple’s powers in regard to the App Store, and could also place limits on its ability to acquire companies.
However, the Financial Times reports that the outline agreement now appears to be unraveling, with arguments between right and left over the extent of the antitrust measures needed: Last year, the EU unveiled a radical blueprint for tech regulation that would put onerous responsibilities on the likes of Google, Facebook, and Amazon to clean up their platforms and ensure fair competition. But since then, the package of measures has become bogged down in the European parliament, and now risks being watered down and heavily delayed. There are even fears in Brussels that the new rules will not be in place before Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition and digital policy chief, leaves her post in three years. “It sounded like we had agreed but that is not the case . . . at all. We are a long way from having a common position on this,” Evelyne Gebhardt, a German MEP, said in exasperation during the debate
Medicines and vaccines regulators under scrutiny
Never before have the regulators of medicines — and vaccines — been under such pressure and scrutiny. Among those in the spotlight have been the European Medicines Agency’s vaccines lead Marco Cavaleri and Fergus Sweeney, head of trials and manufacturing at the agency.
It’s tough going, being in Europe’s network of regulators. The pandemic “is placing a sustained and intense demand on the EMRN’s resources,” the article states. With faster decisions, constant monitoring, clear and frequent communication, on top of regular work, “the resilience of EU medicines regulators has never been tested to this extent.”
An EU EUA? The U.S. has issued emergency use authorizations (EUAs) to vaccines and treatments during the pandemic to quicken access to promising solutions. Whereas the EMA has used rolling reviews to quicken assessments, and conditional marketing authorizations. But the agency is open to change. “EUA could in some circumstances provide an additional regulatory tool at EU level, giving more flexibility to EMA to respond to emerging threats and protect public health.”
Life science chiefs present G20 with health policy to-do list
On Friday (15 October), some of the world’s top leaders in the life sciences sector are presenting recommendations to Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, the chair of the G20, on how health systems should foster and adopt innovation.
Seizing on a moment when both governments and citizens are highly alert to the life-saving benefits of science and investing in innovation, the sector is setting out both what it needs to thrive and how health systems should adapt to reap the benefits.
“Health is wealth,” Sergio Dompé, president of the 130-year-old family business Dompé Pharmaceuticals and coordinator of the B20 Health & Life Sciences Task Force, told POLITICO. Countries need to view “health as an investment, not as an expense.”
For economies squeezed by the pandemic and facing huge health care backlogs, he said, wearable technologies could help detect and intervene early, preventing bigger problems. The report also recommends building more resilient supply chains through G20 partnerships and supports global collaboration on crisis preparedness. Countries should drive for environmentally sustainable health system solutions, it states.
After taking heavy fire last week at ENVI over the European Parliament’s exclusion from discussions on the formation and role of HERA — the EU’s new Health Emergency preparedness and Response Authority — Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said that it was clear from the pandemic that people wanted the EU to do more. While the EU is now the most vaccinated continent on the planet and its vaccine roll out has been largely successful, Kyriakides said that the actions at the time were ad hoc and the pandemic had shown that a more structured approach is needed.
Good news to finish as a 100-year-old puzzle is solved
The 100-year quest to create a malaria vaccine has succeeded. In a historic day for medicine (6 October), the World Health Organization recommended the widespread roll-out of the new jab in sub-Saharan Africa. Pioneered in Brentford, west London, the vaccine is safe, cost-effective and cuts the chance of young people dying from what was, until 2020, the world’s most deadly infectious disease. The developers, GlaxoSmithKline, should be applauded for their commitment to provide 15 million doses a year at no more than 5 per cent above production cost. Scientists hope that this news will reignite the race to develop other malaria vaccines with even greater potential to stop the parasite.
And that is all for now from EAPM – stay safe, stay well, have an excellent week.
Making it happen with forward movement on health-care fragmentation: Defining the health-care ecosystem to determine value’ - EAPM report available
Good afternoon, and welcome to the first European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM) update after EAPM’s successful 9th annual EU Presidency Conference, writes EAPM Executive Director Denis Horgan.
To begin, the full report from the 17 September conference is available here. The conference, EAPM’s ninth annual event during the ESMO Congress, brought together some 160 registered participants.
The report presents the key issues that were addressed in the meeting. After each section, the recommendations are included, and EAPM will be following up on these recommendations in the weeks and months ahead, with the various institutions at the EU and country level.
The conference heard that as Europe begins to emerge from the pandemic and look ahead, some of the prospects are good for improved healthcare with a clearer understanding of the value of innovation. The European Health Data Space initiative aims to make the most of the potential of data and digitalisation to improve treatment, healthcare delivery and quality of life outcomes, by allowing health data to flow seamlessly to wherever it’s needed: between hospitals inside a country, but also between countries.
Genomic data can be invaluable to help diagnose rare diseases in patients, and massive stores of anonymized patient data can also be used to help drive disease research using machine learning tools. For patients and physicians there are more options, durable clinical benefit, reduced exposure to non-effective drugs and potential to leverage current scientific and technological advances. For the private sector, the potential to tackle core challenges in discovering and developing more effective medicines, to reduce rates of attrition in drug development, and to reduce the associated escalating costs which are central to a more sustainable future and delivery for healthcare needs.
And for healthcare systems and payers, improved efficiency through the provision of efficacious and cost-effective care through the avoidance of ineffective and redundant interventions, are again key to a more. sustainable and deliverable future system. For institutions and member states it could mean more purposeful discussion – taking more account of input from stakeholders, avoiding repetition, and translating decisions into action...
At the level that matters most to everyone, their own personal interest, a recalibration of policy towards the patient could not only improve health, but restore faith in Europe itself, providing that the process is based on trust among all stakeholders. The most obvious need, given the current level of fragmentation of policy and practice, is – as was frequently argued throughout the conference - for a new degree of coherence.
And on this occasion, the conference caught the mood of the moment particularly aptly with its focus on "how to make it happen". There was a general recognition that the fragmentation still hampering Europe's health-care needed to be replaced with a new degree of coherence.
Once again, the full report from the 17 September conference is available here.
Public consultation in preparation of pharma legislation overhaul
From today (29 September), the Commission wants to hear from citizens and interested parties regarding gaps in the bloc’s medicines regulation.
Contributions from all stakeholders and interested parties are welcome. This includes, for example, associations representing patients, health care professionals, the industry, as well as academic bodies. Citizens are also welcome to contribute to this consultation. Objective of the consultation These measures relate to: Manufacture, placing on the market of medicinal products and related inspections.
Import, export, transit (transhipment) of medicinal products. Manufacture, placing on the market of active substances and related inspections.
For the purpose of this public consultation, which concentrates on sectoral pharmaceutical EU-legislation, the Commission has identified three areas of regulation of medicinal products where improvements to the regulatory framework could make a real contribution to protecting against counterfeit medicinal products. The Directorate-General Enterprise and Industry is consulting all stakeholders and interested parties on key ideas for amending the regulatory framework for medicinal products.
The EU plans to overhaul pharmaceutical legislation to tackle some of the most pressing issues in pharmaceuticals — many of which have been laid bare by the coronavirus pandemic. These include drug-supply issues, the need for medical treatments where none exist, and the dwindling efficacy of antibiotics.
Feedback on plans to update the EU’s pharmaceutical legislation, which has not been changed in 20 years, begins with a questionnaire seeking views from across the sector.
“A regulatory framework for pharmaceuticals, which is modernized and fit for purpose, is a key element of a strong European Health Union and crucial to addressing the many challenges this sector is facing,” Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said in a statement.
The public questionnaire is open until 21 December, after which the Commission will finalize the legislative proposals with a view to adopting proposed new legislation in the fourth quarter of 2022.
Kyriakides defends her HERA
Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides tried to sell HERA — the emergency response non agency bypassing the Parliament — to the health committee on Monday (27 September).
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed deep-rooted weaknesses in the EU's capacity to act in a health crisis - largely because its competencies are limited in this field. But the European Commission is now using the sense of urgency of exiting the health crisis as the rationale to fast-track the creation of a new EU-wide health body, HERA - excluding the European Parliament from the legislative process.
The new Health Emergency preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) will research and identify potential cross-border health emergencies, ensure the availability of medicines and treatments by increasing EU procurement, and facilitate coordination among member states.
HERA will not be a skilled EU agency per se, but rather a part of the commission's internal services, governed by representatives from each member state. The European Parliament, however, would only be able to take part in the executive board as an 'observer' - a move that has triggered outrage from MEPs who demand more power beyond budgetary control.
For the commission, using this legal formula (formally known as a council regulation) was the only possibility to respond quickly to the existing threats posed by the pandemic and other diseases.
"This was never about exclusion but about moving quickly for HERA to be operating immediately," Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides told MEPs in the health committee on Monday (27 September).
She also justified the commission's decision, arguing that making HERA an EU agency would have taken up to three years of inter-institutional discussions.
But MEPs rejected this argument, claiming that they have demonstrated during the pandemic how fast the parliament can react to adopt measures in times of crisis.
"We have shown in the parliament the capacity to deliver quick results in the past, and we need that to build for the long term, so why is the European Parliament not given a full seat in the HERA board?," socialist MEP Jytte Guteland asked.
Echoing the same message, liberal MEP Véronique Trillet–Lenoir reiterated her "disappointment and frustration" with the proposal. She said that reducing the parliament to an observer at the new authority was not aligned with "the spirit of unity and co-operation".
Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan under scrutiny
Europe’s cancer plan was broadly welcomed on Monday by EU countries, from MEPs to national lawmakers, but several key concerns were repeatedly flagged during a meeting hosted by the BECA cancer committee. Europe's Beating Cancer Plan is intended to be supported by actions spanning across policy areas from employment, education, social policy and equality, through marketing, agriculture, energy, the environment and climate, to transport, cohesion policy, and taxation.
As discussed in previous updates, the Cancer Plan is structured around four key action areas with 10 flagship initiatives and multiple supporting actions. It will be implemented using the whole range of Commission funding instruments, with a total of €4 billion being earmarked for actions addressing cancer, including from the EU4Health programme, Horizon Europe and the Digital Europe programme.
In addition, a new ‘Cancer Diagnostic and Treatment for All' initiative will be launched by the end of 2021 to help improve access to innovative cancer diagnosis and treatments and a European Initiative to Understand Cancer (UNCAN.eu) will help identify individuals at high risk from common cancers.
A ‘Better Life for Cancer Patients Initiative' will also be launched, focusing on follow-up care.
EU leaders aim for deal on tech regulation by next spring
The European Council “invites the co-legislators to continue work on the Digital Services Act and the Digital Market Act proposals with a view to reaching agreement by spring 2022,” the early draft regulation states.
The goal of wrapping up both bills in the first half of 2022, when France takes over the Council’s rotating presidency, has been articulated earlier by MEPs and Commission officials, but the bills weren’t mentioned during Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen’s State of the European Union address earlier this month.
The next European Council summit is scheduled for October 21.
Good news to finish: France to double COVID vaccine doses for poorer countries
France will double the number of vaccine doses it will send to poorer countries to 120 million, President Emmanuel Macron pledged on Saturday (25 September), in a video broadcast during the Global Citizen concert in Paris. “The injustice is that in other continents, obviously, vaccination is very late,” he said.
“We have to go faster, stronger. “France pledges to double the number of doses it is giving,” he added. “We will pass from 60 million to 120 million doses offered.” That amounted to more than the doses so far administered in France, he said.
On Wednesday, the United States announced that it would be doubling its donation of vaccine doses, bringing its total contribution to 1.1 billion.
President Joe Biden described the pandemic as an “all-hands-on-deck crisis”, adding “we need other high-income countries to deliver on their own ambitions”. The European Union has committed to distributing 500 million doses.
That is it, have a good week and the the full report from the 17 September conference is available here.
HERA and Digital Markets Act point way forward for EU health
Good afternoon, health colleagues, and welcome to the European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM) update – EAPM held a very succesful conference concerning cancer on 18 September last week, ‘The need for change: Defining the health-care ecosystem to determine value’, with more than 167 delegates in attendance, and a report will be issued next week, writes EAPM Executive Director Denis Horgan.
HERA or HERO!
The EU has created a crisis health authority to deal with future pandemics across the continent. The new Health Emergency preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) is designed to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to health emergencies. According to the Commission: “HERA will anticipate threats and potential health crises, through intelligence gathering and building the necessary response capacities.
When an emergency hits, HERA will ensure the development, production and distribution of medicines, vaccines and other medical countermeasures – such as gloves and masks – that were often lacking during the first phase of the coronavirus response.”
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “HERA is another building block of a stronger Health Union and a major step forward for our crisis preparedness. With HERA, we will make sure we have the medical equipment we need to protect our citizens from future health threats.
HERA will be able to make swift decisions to safeguard supplies. This is what I promised back in 2020, and this is what we deliver.” HERA activities will rely on a budget of €6 billion from the current Multiannual Financial Framework for the period 2022-2027, part of which will come from the NextGenerationEU top-up.
EU innovation fragmentation
EU security research is one of the building blocks of the Security Union. It enables innovation in technologies and knowledge that is crucial for developing capabilities to address today's security challenges, to anticipating tomorrow's threats and contributing to a more competitive European security industry.
The Commission has decided to initiate a series of actions which will enhance the competitiveness of the European security industry and contribute to meeting the aims of the European security policy. In terms of overcoming the fragmentation of the EU security markets for security technologies, without the involvement, commitment and investment of the EU’s security technology and industrial base, innovative solutions would remain trapped in endless cycles of research and would never be deployed on the field.
Therefore, the consolidation of a single EU security market that increases the competitiveness of the industrial base is a primary objective. This consolidation would not only guarantee the security of supply for strategic technologies, but also safeguard, when required, the strategic autonomy of the EU for technologies, services and systems that are critical to ensuring the protection of EU citizens.
Cancer patients ‘protected by coronavirus vaccines’
Vaccinations against COVID are as effective and safe for people with cancer as for those without cancer, new studies suggest. Cancer patients have an “appropriate, protective immune response” to the jabs without “any more side-effects than the general population,” according to the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO).
The researchers said that the studies show there is a need to promote vaccination in patients with cancer. The studies were carried out because people with cancer were excluded from vaccine clinical trials, due to their weaker immune systems as a result of undergoing anti-cancer treatments. Scientists said that a “multitude of studies” with similar conclusions will be presented today (21 September) at the annual ESMO Congress.
An analysis of 3,813 participants with a history of past or active cancer in a randomised controlled trial of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine shows that the most common side-effects of vaccination were as mild – and occurred at a similar frequency – as within the overall trial population of more than 44,000 people.
Making the Digital Markets Act Fit for the Digital Age
EU lawmakers are drafting a raft of important new regulations which will impact Europe’s digitising economy for decades to come. One of these proposals is the Digital Markets Act (DMA), expected to be adopted in the next term.
Thousands of amendments were proposed to this regulation before the summer, many of which have been the result of MEPs trying to outdo each other on how tough they can be on ‘Big Tech’. But after the initial posturing, the hard work now starts on drafting legislation that actually works in practise: a DMA that supports the EU’s ambitions to be fit for the digital age. For Brussels to set the pace for tech regulation around the world will require a cool head, and a thoughtful approach. To be fit for the digital age, the DMA needs to be as dynamic and flexible as the sector it will regulate.
Parliament backs plan to phase out animal testing
On Wednesday (22 September), the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution that calls on the European Commission to draw-up an action plan to phase out animal experiments. This is a momentous political victory in a region where recent setbacks have occurred for animals in laboratories.
Top on the list of setbacks is the revelation that the European Chemical Agency has disregarded the longstanding ban on animal testing for cosmetics by demanding additional animal data for dozens of cosmetic ingredients, which has already killed an estimated 25,000 animals. Humane Society International’s stop-motion short film Save Ralph has helped raise awareness on the fact that the public has been misled about the EU’s cosmetics ban.
Many more animals may die in painful toxicity tests if the European Commission implements its Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability Towards a Toxic-Free Environment, which as proposed would further cement the EU’s “tick-box” approach to chemical hazard assessment based predominantly on animal testing.
The Parliament’s resolution correctly points out that non-animal approaches based on human biology are the key to better assess chemical safety. That is one of the reasons why, in the US, the Environmental Protection Agency has committed to phase-out its animal tests requirements by 2035, and the Humane Cosmetics Act is gathering steam in Congress.
The resolution in favor of an action plan to phase out animal testing was championed by HSI/Europe and other animal protection groups, leading European scientists and companies. The overwhelming cross-party support shown by Members of the European Parliament reflects the growing dismay felt toward recent actions and proposals by the European Chemical Agency and the European Commission.
Happy news to finish: US opens up to fully vaccinated travellers
The US is easing its coronavirus travel restrictions, reopening to passengers from the UK, EU and other nations. From November, foreign travellers will be allowed to fly into the US if they are fully vaccinated, and undergo testing and contact tracing. The US has had tough restrictions on travel in place since early last year.
The move answers a major demand from European allies, and means that families and friends separated by the restrictions can be reunited. "It's a happy day - Big Apple, here I come!" French entrepreneur Stephane Le Breton told the Associated Press news agency, as he looked forward to a trip to New York City that had been put on hold because of the restrictions.
White House COVID-19 co-ordinator Jeff Zients announced the new rules on Monday (20 September), saying: "This is based on individuals rather than a country-based approach, so it's a stronger system." "Most importantly, foreign nationals flying to the US will be required to be fully vaccinated," he said. US restrictions were initially imposed on travellers from China in early 2020, and then extended to other countries.
The current rules bar entry to most non-US citizens who have been in the UK and a number of other European countries, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil within the last 14 days. Under the new rules, foreign travellers will need to demonstrate proof of vaccination before flying, obtain a negative Covid-19 test result within three days of travelling, and provide their contact information. They will not be required to quarantine.
That is all from EAPM for now – make sure you stay safe and well and have an excellent weekend, see you next week.
EAPM: Headline event on the crest of a wave in fight against cancer!
Good afternoon, health colleagues, and welcome to the European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM) update – the upcoming EAPM event is tomorrow, 17 September! It’s called ‘The need for change: Defining the health-care ecosystem to determine value’ and it will take place during the ESMO Congress, details below, writes EAPM Executive Director Denis Horgan.
Cancer screening, cancer priorities at the political level
The EAPM event comes at a propitious time for forward progress on cancer - Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has announced a new initiative to update a 17-year-old Council recommendation on cancer screening. The new 2022 initiatives were proposed in a letter of intent published during the president’s State of the Union address yesterday (15 September).
In addition, political party the EPP has made clear its cancer policy priorities in a 15-point programme. The policy document outlines proposed amendments to the Cancer Committee’s own initiative report. This, along with reform of the cross border health care directive — which in theory allows for patients in one member country to be treated in another — and data sharing being key to applying artificial intelligence and machine learning tools to research, and to enable the digital transformation of health care, have been issues very much at the forefront of EAPM’s recent work, to tackle disparities in cancer prevention, use of data, diagnosis, and treatment around Europe.
Parliament passes two more European Health Union files
Two more European Health Union proposals will move to trilogues after passing in the Parliament’s plenary today (16 September). The proposals for the regulation on serious cross-border health threats passed with 594 votes in favor, 85 against and 16 abstentions. Meanwhile, the mandate change for the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Council (ECDC) passed with 598 votes in favor, 84 against and 13 abstentions.
The first proposal to increase the mandate of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is already in trilogues. The second meeting will be held later this month.
Data Governance Act
In preparation of a proposal for a new Data Act expected by December 2021, the European Commission has opened a public consultation.
The main objective of this initiative is to support data sharing within the EU economy, in particular business-to-business and business-to-government, with a horizontal scope (e.g., covering industrial data, Internet of Things, etc.).
It aims at complementing other data-related files, such as the Data Governance Act, the GDPR and ePrivacy Regulation, Competition Law (e.g. the Horizontal Cooperation Guidelines) and the Digital Markets Act. As reported in politico, this will be tackled by deputy ambassadors in Coreper I on 1 October. An EU official familiar with the process said a few countries asked for minor changes on data intermediaries and international data transfers.
‘Risky’ artificial intelligence
The U.N. human rights chief is calling for a moratorium on the use of artificial intelligence technology that poses a serious risk to human rights, including face-scanning systems that track people in public spaces. Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, also said Wednesday that countries should expressly ban AI applications which don’t comply with international human rights law. Applications that should be prohibited include government “social scoring” systems that judge people based on their behavior and certain AI-based tools that categorize people into clusters such as by ethnicity or gender.
AI-based technologies can be a force for good but they can also “have negative, even catastrophic, effects if they are used without sufficient regard to how they affect people’s human rights,” Bachelet said in a statement.
Her comments came along with a new U.N. report that examines how countries and businesses have rushed into applying AI systems that affect people’s lives and livelihoods without setting up proper safeguards to prevent discrimination and other harms. “This is not about not having AI,” Peggy Hicks, the rights office’s director of thematic engagement, told journalists as she presented the report in Geneva. “It’s about recognizing that if AI is going to be used in these human rights — very critical — function areas, that it’s got to be done the right way. And we simply haven’t yet put in place a framework that ensures that happens.”
EU digital targets for 2030
The Commission has proposed a plan to monitor how EU countries move forward on the bloc’s digital targets for 2030. The EU will promote its human-centred digital agenda on the global stage and promote alignment or convergence with EU norms and standards. It will also ensure the security and resilience of its digital supply chains and deliver global solutions.
These will be achieved by setting a toolbox combining regulatory cooperation, addressing capacity building and skills, investment in international co-operation and research partnerships, designing digital economy packages financed through initiatives that bring together the EU and combining EU internal investments and external co-operation instruments investing in improved connectivity with the EU’s partners. The Commission will soon launch a wide-ranging discussion and consultation process, including with citizens, on the EU vision and the digital principles.
EIB backs money for vaccines
The European Investment Bank’s (EIB) board of directors have approved €647 million to help countries buy and distribute COVID-19 vaccines and other health projects. Vaccine distribution will benefit Argentina, as well as South Asian countries like Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. At the start of the crisis, European Investment Bank staff started working on the health emergency and the economic downturn at the same time. The Bank divided its support for biotechnology and medical companies into three main sectors: vaccines, therapies and diagnostics. The aim: to track infections, stop the spread of the disease and care for those who get sick.
Earlier this year, the Bank approved €5 billion in new financing to support urgent action in fields such as health care and medical innovation for COVID-19. Since then, more than 40 biotechnology or medical companies and projects have been approved for EIB financing worth about €1.2 billion. This put the Bank at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19.
The European Investment Bank is also backing global programmes to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, especially in the developing world. For example, the Bank recently approved a €400 million deal with COVAX, a global initiative supported by hundreds of countries, the private sector and philanthropic organisations to promote equal access to a vaccine.
Good news to finish - Coronavirus vaccines cut risk of long Covid, study finds
Being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 not only cuts the risk of catching it, but also of an infection turning into long Covid, research led by King's College London suggests. It shows that in the minority of people who get Covid despite two jabs, the odds of developing symptoms lasting longer than four weeks are cut by 50%. This is compared with people who are not vaccinated.
So far, 78.9% of over-16s in the UK have had two doses of a Covid vaccine. Many people who get Covid recover within four weeks but some have symptoms that continue or develop for weeks and months after the initial infection - sometimes known as long Covid. It can happen after people experience even mild coronavirus symptoms. The researchers, whose work was published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, say it is clear that vaccinations are saving lives and preventing serious illness, but the impact of vaccines on developing long-lasting illness has been less certain.
That is all from EAPM for this week – we look forward very much to the event tomorrow, and will be reporting on it next week. Until then, stay safe, well, and here is the link to register and here is the link to the agenda.
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