Thursday

21st Jan 2021

EU faces long wait for full vaccine supplies

  • Other vaccine suppliers are due to deliver end of 2021 (Photo: gsk.com)

The EU is still several months away from having enough vaccines to inoculate its 450 million people, with Pfizer and BioNTech, its principle suppliers, aiming for September for delivery targets.

"Distribution of the full 200 million doses [from Pfizer] is scheduled to be completed by September 2021," a European Commission spokesman told the Reuters news agency on Monday (28 December).

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Talks to purchase a further 100 million were doses were ongoing, he said.

The EU has also signed contracts for over a billion other doses from suppliers AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Sanofi and CureVac, but most of their deliveries were foreseen by the end of 2021, the EU Commission also said.

News of the lag came as infections continued to soar in France, which is seeing over 15,000 new cases a day, and the UK, with more than 40,000 daily infections.

Vaccinations of nurses and elderly people began in Europe in recent days, with the UK now giving 200,000 jabs a week.

But that was far from enough, according to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).

"The most stringent intervention scenario with [full lockdown] England-wide and schools closed during January and two million individuals vaccinated per week is the only scenario we considered which reduces peak [intensive care] burden below the levels seen during the first wave," the medical academy said in a government research note, according to British newspaper The Telegraph.

Finland also became the latest EU member, after Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands, to detect a new, more contagious Covid-19 strain on Monday.

Meanwhile, the inoculation efforts also have to face corona-denier and anti-vaccination movements in Europe.

In Spain, for instance, one of the EU countries which suffered most in the pandemic, 28 percent of people are against taking the vaccine, according to a recent poll.

"What will be done is a registry, which will be shared with our European partners … of those people who have been offered it and rejected it," Spanish health minister Salvador Illa said on TV on Monday.

"It is not a document which will be made public," he said.

The unhelpful public attitudes have been fueled by corona disinformation from China and Russia over the past year.

Russia, also on Monday, admitted to having vastly under-reported its pandemic mortality figures in the past.

Some 186,000 Russians, not 55,000 as previously reported, had died due to Covid-19 between January and November, Russian deputy prime minister Tatiana Golikova said.

For his part, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell also accused Russia of using disinformation to sell its vaccine, called Sputnik V, abroad.

"Western vaccine developers are openly mocked on multi-lingual Russian state-controlled media, which has in some cases led to absurd claims that [Western] vaccines will turn people into monkeys," Borrell said in his blog.

"Such narratives are apparently directed at countries where Russia wants to sell its own vaccine," he added.

And Russia delivered 6,000 doses of Sputnik V to Hungary on Monday, even though it has not been approved for use by the EU regulator, the European Medicines Agency in Amsterdam.

"We are doing our best to bring to Hungary as fast as possible all effective vaccines whether they are created in the West or in the east," Hungarian foreign minister Péter Szijjártó said.

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