Covid-19 testing should continue “forever,” says infectious disease expert


Vaccinators administer the Oxford AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at a medical center in Bridport, England, on March 20. Finnbarr Webster / Getty Images

A senior European diplomat is calling for caution on the use of the proposed new rules that would govern exports of Covid-19 vaccines outside the EU. The rules were announced by the European Commission early Wednesday.

The stricter export controls proposed by the Commission would have vaccine shipments evaluated based on the rate of vaccinations and vaccine exports from the destination country.

In a briefing for journalists, the diplomat said that the EU and European countries must “be careful with the nuclear option of a pure export ban.” And if not used correctly in “appropriate situations, it will backfire.”

“We speak as – I would say – a pharmaceutical superpower, we have an enormous concentration of pharmacological companies in our territory”, whose presence “accounts for several percentages of our employment, of the GNP”, explained the diplomat.

“We are very aware of the interdependence of these logistics chains and we think that using an export blocking tool could very quickly turn against ourselves,” said the diplomat, adding that he fears that “it will expose us to clear retaliation measures, breach of trust. and also diminished future investment and trade possibilities. “

The existing export mechanism, which focuses on pharmaceutical companies, has been in place since late January and requires each company that makes the Covid-19 vaccine to register its intention to export doses outside the EU. European countries, in collaboration with the Commission, decide whether to approve or reject shipments.

In the figures published today by the Commission, more than 300 applications were made, with 43 million vaccines exported to 33 countries. Only one shipment of 250,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine from Italy to Australia was blocked.

The diplomat welcomed this “excellent by-product” of the current mechanism. “We understand, of course, the need for greater transparency, we directly support the Commission in that regard,” adding that “we now have a very precise view of how export flows are organized.”

When asked why the expanded legislation was being pushed forward now, the diplomat said they were sorry, “it is probably a sign of some nervousness that is reigning” in some European counties.

“The Commission is not deaf to what lives in the Member States, they hear cries for help or indignation, and it is up to the Commission to reflect on this and put proposals on the table,” he added.

European leaders will meet on Thursday and Friday to discuss this proposal and the broader coronavirus crisis in Europe. If approved, the expanded export mechanism “would apply until six weeks after its entry into force,” according to the Commission’s draft text.

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