Tuesday, 20 Apr 2021

EU blasted by Pfizer for ‘administrative burden’ in Covid vaccine row – ‘Uncertainty’

Vaccine row: Expert hits out at 'ineffective' distribution

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Danny Hendrikse, Pfizer’s vice-president of global supply, accused the EU of sabotaging its own coronavirus vaccine production with “administrative” issues. The bloc introduced export controls of vaccines in response to lower-than-expected deliveries of jabs to member states, which has caused a sluggish rollout for the EU.

Mr Hendrikse claimed the EU’s rules about freedom of movement across the 27 member states’ borders has hindered its vaccine rollout.

Under regulation implemented in February, Pfizer is required to notify the Belgian government in advance about every parcel of vaccines it plans to export.

The European Commission must then approve every shipment.

As a result, Mr Hendrikse said the EU has caused “a significant administrative burden and some uncertainty”.

He added: “Ultimately what we would like our colleagues to do is to focus on making and distributing the vaccine.”

The EU introduced controls on vaccine exports on January 29, which came into effect in February.

Companies like Pfizer and AstraZeneca which manufacture coronavirus vaccines in the bloc are required to notify national authorities and the European Commission whenever they want to export vaccines to third countries.

The EU then extended the rules through to June in March, with Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, saying at the time: “We expect companies with which we have signed a contract to fulfil their obligations towards EU citizens.

“The EU exports very significant volumes of COVID-19 vaccines, true to our commitment to global solidarity.

“Yet, not all companies are honouring their agreements with the EU despite having received a down payment to enable sufficient production.”

Controls were introduced by the bloc following a shortfall of vaccine deliveries from both AstraZeneca, who slashed first quarter supplies of their jab by 60 percent in January, and Pfizer.

In March, Italy and the commission blocked a shipment of 250,000 AstraZeneca doses to Australia.

Dr Omar Khorshid, president of the Australian Medical Association, told the BBC at the time: “It was disappointing to see this vaccine nationalism rearing its head”.

Taro Kono, Japan’s vaccine minister, also urged the EU on Monday to ensure it would not suspend shipments of vaccines to the country ahead of the Olympics.

He added: “I’m extremely concerned that our friendly relations between Japan and the EU would be (adversely) affected if a shipment (to Japan) is suspended.”

It comes after it was shared AstraZenec are only “a few doses away” from delivering a promised 30 million doses to the EU, according to a Commission spokesperson.

European Commission deputy chief spokesperson Dana Spinant said AstraZeneca has so far delivered 29.8 million doses, along with 67.5 million doses from BioNTech-Pfizer and 9.8 million doses from Moderna.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has also backed the AstraZeneca jab after Germany restricted its use for under-60’s amid fears of blood clots.

EMA executive director Emer Cooke said at a press briefing: “According to the current scientific knowledge, there is no evidence that would support restricting the use of this vaccine in any population.”

The EU has suffered from a slow vaccine rollout, with Germany administering the most doses at 12,872,859.

In contrast, the UK has rolled out 35,014,074 doses as of yesterday.

Yesterday saw another 4,052 cases and 43 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test.

In total, there have been 4,345,788 cases and 126,713 deaths in the UK.

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