EU leaders want to speed up launch after slow start

A man with a face mask resting on a bench on Thursday, Feb.25, 2021, in Dublin, Ireland.

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LONDON – The European Union needs to be faster in its efforts to vaccinate people against the coronavirus, the 27 heads of state said Thursday, as the region continues to struggle with uneven deployment.

The EU has faced production, delivery and red tape problems in the deployment of Covid vaccines and has therefore struggled to catch up with the rate of inoculation observed elsewhere.

The European Commission said on Thursday that it expects about 100 million doses of vaccines to have been delivered to the region by the end of the first quarter. This is expected to increase to around 500 million doses administered by the end of June.

“We urgently need to accelerate the authorization, production and distribution of vaccines, as well as vaccination,” EU leaders said in a joint statement.

They are particularly concerned about new variants of Covid, which are believed to be more infectious and have already been identified in countries in Europe. A rapid vaccination process could help protect the population of the region before the virus mutates significantly.

We observe stable and decreasing trends (of infection) in 20 countries, but increasing trends in about 7 more.

Ursula von der Leyen

President of the European Commission

To this end, the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, is working with pharmaceutical companies in an effort to avoid further bottlenecks in the delivery process and is considering having more production plants on the continent.

“Currently 41 industrial plants contribute to the production of vaccines here in Europe, but many more could join the effort. Therefore, we are strongly encouraging cooperation between industrial players,” said Ursula von der Leyen, President of the Commission, who used to be a doctor. he said at a press conference.

It remained steadfast in its initial goal of vaccinating at least 70% of the EU adult population by the end of the summer.

However, the coronavirus health emergency persists in Europe, with several countries reporting an increase in cases in recent days.

A police officer is vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19.

Pablo Blazquez Dominguez | Getty Images News | fake images

On Thursday, French Prime Minister Jean Castex said the government was considering weekend closures in Paris and other parts of France. In Germany, meanwhile, Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned of a possible third wave of infections if current restrictions are lifted too soon.

“We see stable and declining (infection) trends in 20 countries, but increasing trends in 7 others,” von der Leyen said.

“At the same time, in fact, there is growing Covid-19 fatigue among our citizens,” he noted, after about a year of strict social restrictions across the block.

Containment measures, such as preventing non-essential travel, are an additional challenge for the EU, given its policy of free movement of goods, people and services.

Representatives of the major pharmaceutical companies involved in the production of Covid vaccines told European lawmakers Thursday that they were working around the clock to develop and produce the vaccines.

The CureVac CEO suggested that its vaccine could be approved in June. Meanwhile, the European Medicines Agency is studying data from the trials conducted by Johnson and Johnson and could issue market approval in a few weeks. To date, European regulators have approved the AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer hits.


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