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VACCINE

EU agrees purchase of 300 million coronavirus vaccine doses

Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands have signed an agreement with pharmaceutical group AstraZeneca to guarantee the supply to the EU of 300 million doses of a possible coronavirus vaccine, the German government announced on Saturday.

EU agrees purchase of 300 million coronavirus vaccine doses
The development of a vaccine could be successfully completed by the end of the year, the German government believes. Photos: AFP

The four countries have signed an agreement with the group, formed in 1999 from the merger of the Swedish company Astra and British company Zeneca, which provides for the supply of a vaccine to all EU member states as soon it is discovered, said the German Ministry of Health.

AstraZeneca is partnering in the enterprise with Britain's Oxford University, which has pioneered the inoculation.

The firm has been building separate supply chains around the world during the tests, striking other deals earlier this month to double production capacity to more than two billion doses.

“This agreement will ensure that hundreds of millions of Europeans have access to Oxford University's vaccine following approval,” Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said in a statement.

“With our European supply chain due to begin production soon, we hope to make the vaccine available widely and rapidly.”

Oxford University began initial trials with hundreds of volunteers in April and is now expanding them to 10,000 participants.

The development of a vaccine could be successfully completed by the end of the year, German government sources told AFP.

The doses announced Saturday, potentially rising to 400 million, “must be distributed to all member states that want to participate, depending on the size of their population,” the German ministry said.

“In order for the vaccines to be available in large numbers very quickly after their possible approval this year or next year, production capacities must be guaranteed by contract now.”

According to the World Bank, the EU has a population of around 447 million.

German Minister of Health Jens Spahn said that “the swift and coordinated action of a group of member states” would see “all EU citizens” stand to benefit.

The European Commission defended the idea on Friday that EU countries should join up to guarantee privileged access to a future vaccine, arguing strongly for the establishment of advance purchase contracts.

With the laboratories trying to find a vaccine in record time — 12 to 18 months instead of several years in normal times – these advance payments allow them to invest in production, even though the clinical trials on humans have not yet been finalised.

This commitment would give member states the right to buy doses at a certain price once the vaccine is available, in return for the risk taken in terms of investments.

Major pharmaceutical groups are engaged in a race to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus, which has so far killed more than 417,000 people and infected more than 7.4 million worldwide.

Member comments

  1. It is important to mention that Oxford vacine are being tested by Instituto Butantã, São Paulo, Brazil.

  2. Correction, by Unifesp, São Paulo , Brazil.
    Instituto Butantan is testing other vaccine together withSinovac Biotec laboratory.

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HEALTH

French government calls on over-60s to get second Covid booster as cases rise

As Covid cases show a significant rise in France in recent weeks, the government is calling on all eligible groups to get a second Covid vaccine booster shot.

French government calls on over-60s to get second Covid booster as cases rise

After a 40 percent rise in Covid-19 cases in the last week, the French Health ministry is calling all eligible people – including over 60s and those health conditions – to receive their second booster (fourth dose) of the vaccine.

“It is necessary to redouble our efforts to protect vulnerable people, this is done through vaccination and this campaign of second boosters is absolutely necessary,” said the ministry of health.

The Covid incidence rate is increasing in more than 50 départements across France. Currently, there are an average of 50,000 positive tests per day, which has also been accompanied by an increase in hospitalisations. 

“This is very clearly a reprisal of the epidemic linked to the arrival of new variants of the Omicron family, which are called BA4 BA5,” said infectious disease specialist Anne-Claude Crémieux to Franceinfo. Crémieux added that these variants are faster-spreading.

Therefore, the government is calling on vulnerable people to take their second booster dose (the fourth dose of the vaccine).

So far, only a quarter of eligible people have taken their second booster dose, with an average rate of 25,000 to 30,000 injections per day for the past two months.

“This is not enough, and it is not going fast enough,” urged the Ministry of Health on Tuesday.

The Haute autorité de santé also recently released its recommendation for a vaccination campaign to give a second Covid vaccine booster shot for the wider population, starting in October. 

The HAS recommendation advises starting France’s annual flu vaccine campaign in mid October (mid September for the French overseas territory of Mayotte) and combining it with a campaign to give a second Covid vaccine booster ahead of a possible new wave of Covid in the winter. 

At present although the great majority of the French adult population is vaccinated against Covid with two doses and a booster, a second booster is only recommended for people in high risk groups such as the over 60s and those with long-term health conditions.

The HAS recommendation reads: “At the end of May, the HAS recommended preparing for a booster shot campaign for people most at risk of developing the most severe forms of Covid, and envisaged a booster shot for healthcare workers.

“Those parts of the population most at risk are also those for whom the seasonal flu vaccination is recommended, therefore for logistical reasons the HAS recommends combining the two campaigns.”

The flu campaign is advised to go ahead as normal, starting in mid-October.

The HAS only makes recommendations, the details of policy are up to the government, but it usually follows HAS advice.

The usual seasonal flu campaign in France offers a vaccine for free to anyone in a high risk group, which includes the elderly, people with underling health conditions, healthcare workers and pregnant women – full details HERE on how to get the vaccine.

Those who don’t fit into those categories can still access the vaccine, but must pay for it – €6-€10 for the vaccine and the standard appointment charge to have it administered by a doctor (€25, with 70 percent reimbursed for those with a carte vitale).

The flu vaccine is available from family doctors, midwives and participating pharmacies once the campaign officially launches.

The Covid vaccine is also available from family doctors, midwives and pharmacies, but most of the vaccine centres set up in 2021 have now been closed down.

There is currently no suggestion a return of the health pass, so a second booster shot would be entirely voluntary, but the government has the power to re-introduce such measures if a major wave of Covid hits France over the autumn and winter.

Currently, there are no plans to lower the age minimum (as of now set at 60 years old) for receiving a second booster. Health authorities believe that the immune response after a first booster “continues to sufficiently protect” younger adults.

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