Thursday

22nd Oct 2020

Coronavirus

EU secures 300m of potential vaccines, as Covid-19 cases rise

  • The EU estimates that at least 40 percent of its population will need an initial vaccination, including people with chronic diseases, the elderly and health workers (Photo: © European Union 2020 - Source : EP)

The European Commission announced on Thursday (27 august) that it had successfully signed a contract on behalf of member states with British pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca for the supply of at least 300 million doses of its potential Covid-19 vaccine.

The contract also foresees the possible purchase 100 million extra doses to be distributed on a population-based pro-rata basis among the 27 EU countries.

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EU commissioner for health, Stella Kyriakydes, thanked France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands for "the important groundwork undertaken" to make possible the signature with AstraZeneca, adding that further agreements with other vaccine manufacturers were still to come.

Brussels is also negotiating with pharma-giants Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi, Moderna, and CureVac for their potential vaccines.

"We invest in companies using diverse technologies, to increase our chances to have vaccines that are safe and effective ... as we want to make sure that vaccines are rapidly available on the market," said commission president Ursula von der Leyen in a statement earlier on Monday, when the EU closed talks with Moderna.

The EU estimates that at least 40 percent of its population will need initial vaccination, including people with chronic diseases, the elderly, and health workers.

Earlier this month, Russia became the first country to approve a potential coronavirus vaccine developed by Moscow's Gamaleya Institute and called "Sputnik V".

The Gamaleya Institute said 40,000 people would be involved in the testing of the vaccine at more than 45 medical centres in Russia, Reuters previously reported.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned against blocs or countries hoarding vaccines et the expense of a more global approach.

"This cannot be a race with a few winners," said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus earlier this week.

"Vaccine nationalism only helps the virus," he added.

Second wave?

The developments come as several member states report a surge in coronavirus cases after successfully limiting outbreaks across the bloc earlier this year.

Spain, France, the Netherlands, and Poland seem to be facing a much-feared second wave of the pandemic.

Spain has the highest prevalence of the virus in Western Europe - with over 429,500 cases and 28,990 deaths.

The Spanish health ministry reported 7,296 new cases on Wednesday, although this figure did not include data from the Valencia region "due to technical problems".

Madrid, where hospitals are reporting high pressure when it comes to the number of coronavirus cases, is the most affected region, followed by Aragon.

France reported 6,111 new cases on Thursday - close to the highest number of infections (7,578) recorded on 30 March during the lockdown.

As a result, French authorities tightened mask rules in Paris and Marseille, which are both red zones.

From 2 September, Poland is expected to ban flights from 46 countries - including France and Spain - as the country records a spike in coronavirus infections, Reuters reported.

"Due to the threat of spreading SARS CoV-2 virus infections, it is necessary to exercise the right to introduce air traffic bans... in order to minimise the threat to public health," reads the leaked Polish regulation.

The Netherlands recorded about 3,600 new cases during the last week, with the Amsterdam-Amstelland region being the most affected.

However, the number of patients hospitalised due to coronavirus dropped in the last days.

Belgium, Italy, and the UK are also seeing a surge in the number of coronavirus infections, but well below March and April figures.

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The European Commission hopes to have 30m doses of AstraZeneca's potential coronavirus vaccine before the end of this year, to be distributed on a population-based pro-rata basis among the 27 EU countries - until the 300m doses negotiated arrive.

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