EU Looks To Boost Sluggish Covid Vaccination Rollout


EU looks to boost sluggish Covid vaccination rollout

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen is feeling the heat over the slow Covid-19 vaccine rollout in the European Union, but Brussels is pressing to get more jabs, faster

Brussels, (APP - UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 1st Feb, 2021 ):EU chief Ursula von der Leyen is feeling the heat over the slow Covid-19 vaccine rollout in the European Union, but Brussels is pressing to get more jabs, faster.

Von der Leyen's European Commission has invested 2.7 billion euros ($3.3 billion) to secure 2.3 billion doses from companies making potential vaccines, mostly using European factories.

Three vaccines are so far authorised for use across the EU's 27 member countries: one by German outfit BioNTech with US giant Pfizer; one by US company Moderna; and most recently one by Anglo-Swedish group AstraZeneca.

All three firms are undershooting on delivery schedules for the January-March first-quarter period.

But von der Leyen is sticking to her goal of having 70 percent of adults in the European Union vaccinated by the end of August.

To get there, Brussels is playing hardball with AstraZeneca -- getting a pledge from the company that it will boost its EU supply over the next two months by 30 percent -- and prodding BioNTech/Pfizer to make up its shortfall.

Here are the vaccines lined up by the Commission over this year and next, counting firm orders and options.

BioNTech/Pfizer (German/US, mRNA vaccine, 95-percent efficacy according the European Medicines Agency): 600 million doses. Its first-quarter deliveries to EU member states were cut by as much as half, but the company vows they will be back to normal by mid-February.

Moderna: (US, mRNA vaccine, 94-percent efficacy): 160 million doses.

AstraZeneca (Anglo-Swedish, adenovirus, 60-percent efficacy): 400 million doses. It was meant to have delivered between around 100 million doses in the first quarter, but on December 22 said that would be cut to 31 million. Von der Leyen announced on Sunday that would now be boosted to 40 million.

Johnson & Johnson (US, adenovirus, efficacy unknown): 400 million doses. The Commission says 100 million should be delivered by June if this single-shot vaccine is approved.

CureVac (Germany/US, mRNA, efficacy unknown): 405 million doses.

Sanofi/GSK (France/UK, recombinant spike protein, efficacy unknown): 300 million. After a disappointing Phase 2 trial, the companies are trying a different antigen formulation and are now aiming for production late this year.

The Commission is also in exploratory talks with Novavax (US, recombinant spike protein, efficacy unknown) for up to 200 million doses.

- Vaccination programme - Each EU member state is responsible for its own rollout. Most are giving priority to the elderly and frontline health workers.

Almost all the vaccines require two jabs for a full vaccination. (Johnson & Johnson is aiming for a single-shot regimen, subject to trials and EMA approval.) Collectively, the European Union as of Saturday had provided 2.4 doses per 100 people, according to official sources collated by the website Our World in Data.

Top performers are Malta (6.08 doses per 100 people), Denmark (4.47), Slovenia (3.65) and Romania (3.50).

The bigger countries are trailing: Germany has given 2.8 doses per 100 people, France 2.34, Italy 3.16 and Spain 3.1.

The countries leading the world in giving jabs are Israel (54.7 per 100 people, with most of those over 70 already having been vaccinated with their two injections), the United Arab Emirates (33.7) and Britain (13.9).

Britain, which left the EU last year, is focused on giving the maximum number of people one injection and stretching out the time before they become completely vaccinated through their second injection.

France and other EU countries, in contrast, say they are maintaining stocks to give the second jab as recommended, even if that means a slowdown in their first jab programme.

- Price per dose - Some EU countries, particularly in the poorer east of the bloc, are sensitive to the cost of vaccinating their populations. The logistical challenge of the mRNA-type vaccines that require sub-Arctic temperatures is also a factor.

While the price of each vaccine has been kept secret in the European Commission's contracts, a Belgian minister's tweet in December -- deleted afterwards -- gave a breakdown.

The Moderna vaccine was listed as most expensive, with Brussels paying 14.70 euros a dose. The BioNTech/Pfizer one 12 euros. The AstraZeneca vaccine came in at 1.78 euros a dose.