On 22 January 2021, the Committee on Bioethics published a statement entitled “COVID-19 and vaccines: Ensuring equitable access to vaccination during the current and future pandemics”. In the statement, the Committee emphasised the importance of equitable access to vaccination, based on Article 3 of the Council of Europe Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine (Oviedo Convention). The Committee called on member states to develop strategies to ensure appropriate support and the removal of barriers to vaccination for persons in vulnerable situations having difficulties in accessing health services, including low-income migrant workers and persons without residence or with insecure legal status such as refugees, asylum seekers, and undocumented migrants. The provision of vaccines to persons without residence or with insecure legal status should be clearly detached from immigration control, in accordance with European Commission against Racism and Intolerance General Policy Recommendation No. 16 on safeguarding irregularly present migrants from discrimination, the Committee underlined.
Further, the Committee highlighted that for the production and development of vaccines, the quality should be guaranteed using appropriate international standards, such as those ensured by the European Pharmacopoeia, which provides a European framework of harmonisation for quality control methods and procedures, and which is elaborated under the responsibility of the European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines and HealthCare (EDQM).
The Committee also called for a system to prevent and combat the presence of counterfeit vaccines on the market, namely vaccines with false representation as regards their identity and/or source, as well as the diversion of legally produced vaccines from the legal supply chain in accordance with the Council of Europe Convention on the Counterfeiting of Medical Products (Medicrime Convention).
In the case of injury related to vaccines, fair medical assistance and compensation should be ensured, according to the conditions and procedures prescribed by law, pursuant to Article 24 of the Oviedo Convention, the statement concluded.