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30th Jan 2023

EU seeks new deal for '90% effective' Covid-19 vaccine

  • There are currently 47 'candidate' vaccines in clinical evaluation, but only 10 in late-stage development, according to the World Health Organization (Photo: Département des Yvelines)

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announed on Monday (9 November) that the EU is about to sign a contract with Pfizer and BioNTech for up to 300 million doses of its experimental Covid-19 vaccine, after the companies found it to be more than 90 percent effective.

"Today is a great day for science and humanity," Pfizer's chairman Albert Bourla said on Monday (9 November), adding that the results from the late-stage trial of their potential vaccine have shown the initial evidence of the "vaccine's ability to prevent Covid-19".

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"We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development program at a time when the world needs it most with infection rates setting new records, hospitals nearing over-capacity and economies struggling to reopen," he added.

The US and German companies released data from their Phase 3 research trial after 94 of the nearly 44,000 trial participants contracted Covid-19. The analysis shows that 90 percent of those who received the two-dose vaccine were protected against the coronavirus for 28 days after starting the vaccine course, according to the pharmaceutical companies.

The announcement was welcomed as a major victory against a pandemic that has caused more than one million deaths in less than a year.

Global stock markets hit a new peak after the news broke on Monday, as investors welcomed the fresh hopes for a Covid-19 vaccine and the incoming presidency of Joe Biden in the White House.

Pfizer expects to produce up to 50 million doses of its potential vaccine this year and 1.3 billion doses in 2021.

Earlier this year, Pfizer and BioNTech signed a €1.64bn contract with the US government to deliver 100 million doses of their experimental vaccine - while the United Kingdom, Canada and Japan have also announced supply deals with them.

The commission, on behalf of the 27 EU countries, has previously sealed deals with AstraZeneca (up to 400 million doses), Sanofi-GSK (up to 300 million doses) and Johnson & Johnson (up to 400 million doses) for its potential Covid-19 vaccines, and it is also negotiating with CureVac and Moderna.

Last month, the EU executive called on member states to adopt a common strategy for the deployment of vaccines for when a safe and effective shot is available - in a bid to avoid a cacophony of unilateral measures evidenced during the first months of the pandemic.

EU leaders now have to agree on priority groups and distribution criteria, while considering the readiness of vaccination services, as well as transport and storage requirements for the deployment of vaccines.

The so-called risk groups, such as people with chronic diseases, the elderly, and health workers, should be vaccinated first, according to the European Commission. The EU previously estimated that these groups represent at least 40 percent of its population.

The European Medicines Agencies (EMA) is responsible for monitoring the quality, safety and efficiency of potential vaccines, analysing data from clinical trials.

EMA told Reuters on Monday that they had not received the latest results from Pfizer and BioNTech yet, but they had already evaluated non-clinical data.

According to the World Health Organization, there are currently 47 candidate vaccines in clinical evaluation, but only 10 in phase 3.

EU leaders are expected to discuss the bloc's vaccines rollout and coordination efforts on 19 November via videoconference.

EU outlines vaccine roll-out plan

The European Commission urged member states to scale up efforts to flatten the curve of the second wave of Covid-19 and recommended common measures for the roll-out of potential vaccines.

How EU aims - hopefully - to secure vaccine by end of 2020

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.

Commission plans strategy to 'maximise' vaccine access

The EU Commission plans a vaccine stategy to make sure all citizens have access to it once it is ready, while it is also seeking to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies on securing the vaccine.

EU urges rollout of rapid coronavirus tests

The European Commission recommended a slew of anti-corona measures, urging member states scale up testing capacity, by increasing the use of rapid antigen tests, in order to help ease travel restrictions and prevent laboratory collapses.

Boom in software spying on remote workers, MEPs hear

Companies are increasingly using software to spy on employees working remotely, said Polish computer forensics analyst Maciej Broniarz. "The market for highly intrusive spyware is snowballing," Broniarz told MEPs.

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