EU threatens to impose controls on Pfizer vaccine exports
German health minister backed European Union proposals to impose export restrictions on Europe-made COVID-19 vaccine as tensions with AstraZeneca and Pfizer escalate with sudden supply cuts just a month after Europe began large-scale vaccination of citizens.
EU Proposes Vaccine Export Registry Amid Frustration Over Delays In AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine And Other Supply Issues.
«I can understand that there are production problems, but then they should affect everyone equally», – said the Minister of Health to ZDF Jens spahn.
«This is primarily not about Europe, but about the fair share of Europe», – he said, adding that it therefore makes sense to place restrictions on the export of vaccines.
In addition, a spokesman for the minister joined AstraZeneca in denying reports from two German newspapers that the UK drug maker’s COVID-19 vaccine is less effective for the elderly..
Spahn said he expects European authorities to approve a third vaccine (besides Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) against COVID-19 on Friday.
Late Monday night, Handelsblatt and Bild reported that the vaccine was less than 10% effective in people over 65 and that the German government was pushing for the European health regulator to allow vaccination only for people under that age..
AstraZeneca described the reports as «completely incorrect».
When the minister asked about the prospect of approving a vaccine for young people only, his spokesman said it would depend on EU regulators and that AstraZeneca trials had fewer elderly participants than competing vaccine developers.
AstraZeneca told the 27 EU countries on Friday that it cannot meet its targets for the sale of its vaccine by the end of March – another blow to the bloc’s pandemic efforts after Pfizer announced a temporary cut in the supply of its drug in January..
AstraZeneca said Monday it is doing everything it can to get the vaccine to millions of Europeans as soon as possible..
An EU spokesman told Reuters that AstraZeneca received a € 336 million ($ 408 million) down payment when the EU struck a deal with the company in August for at least 300 million doses and an option for another 100 million. The deal was the first block signed to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to the public.
This comes after the United States received 300 million doses worth about $ 1.2 billion in May, and the UK also received 100 million doses worth 84 million pounds ($ 114 million) in May..
UK Vaccine Introduction Secretary Nadhim Zahavi said that although supplies have been limited, he is confident that Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna will deliver on their commitments.
«Any new manufacturing process will be challenging, bumpy and uneven, (then) it will get better, it will stabilize and improve in the future», – he told BBC TV.
Spahn said he is encouraged by the fact that the number of new cases of coronavirus in Germany is declining and that if this trend continues, a decision could be made on future restrictions..
He added that schools and kindergartens will be opened first..
The German Hospital Association (Deutsche Krankenhausgesellschaft, DKG) said on Tuesday that around 4,600 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care in the country, up from a peak of 5,781 on January 4..
«Lockdown is working. But, nevertheless, it is not yet time to cancel the alarm.», – said the head of the DKG Georg Baum.