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EUROPEAN UNION

France says ‘highly probable’ EU won’t renew AstraZeneca orders

The European Union is very unlikely to renew its Covid-19 vaccine contracts with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, a French minister said on Friday.

France says 'highly probable' EU won't renew AstraZeneca orders
French industry minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher says a repeat AstraZeneca order would be unlikely. Photo: Martin Bureau/AFP

Denmark this week banned the use of AstraZeneca jabs over blood clot concerns, just as the EU said it was expecting 50 million Pfizer vaccine doses earlier than expected.

No final EU decision had been taken, French Industry Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher told RMC radio, but “it is highly probable” that no further AstraZeneca doses would be ordered for 2022.

“We have not started talks with Johnson & Johnson or with AstraZeneca for a new contract, but we have started talks with Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna,” Pannier-Runacher said.

AstraZeneca has had major problems in fulfilling its orders to the EU, with the Bloc ending up with many million fewer doses of the vaccine than it was expecting in the first two quarters, which has had an effect on the speed of the rollout across EU countries.

Denmark said on Wednesday it would stop using the AstraZeneca vaccine altogether over blood clot fears, despite assurances from the EMA and the World Health Organization that the benefits far outweigh possible risks.

Switzerland has never licensed the AstraZeneca vaccine for use and most other European countries now restrict the vaccine only to the older population, who appear to be less at risk from the rare blood clots that have been associated with it.

READ ALSO COMPARE The different strategies used in Europe to vaccinate against Covid-19

Pannier-Runacher added: “We have a portfolio of mRNA vaccines that work very well and have few side effects.

“We are going to have new vaccines, if all goes well, Novavax and Sanofi, which have very good results and we have 50 years of experience with this type of technology. Those vaccines are going to come in the second half of the year, so we’re going to see a lot of doses on different platforms that allow us to meet all the needs.”

Her prediction comes after US drugmaker Johnson & Johnson said it would delay its European rollout, also over blood clot fears – a major hit for the continent’s immunisation campaign as several countries battle rising caseloads.

The J&J and AstraZeneca setbacks are dampening hopes that mass immunisations will allow a swift exit from a pandemic that has killed close to three million people and ravaged the global economy.

Meanwhile, 50 million BioNTech/Pfizer doses that were due to arrive in Europe only at the end of 2021 have been brought forward for delivery as soon as this month.

Member comments

  1. Get the doses, put a warning on them that there is a 1 in a “x million” chance of blood clots, and let people decide whether they would get that vaccine or not. I’ll take that risk, because it’s less dangerous that crossing the street or riding a bicycle, or even swimming in the sea.

    1. When it happens to you, it is 100%. I know two people who died from blood clots. Go ahead and take the chance.
      This is an experiment and a crime against humanity.

      1. The number of people who got blood clots from AZ and subsequently died is so low, that it is safe to say that you don’t know anyone. Get a life and stop spreading fear online.

        You have higher chance of dying from taking aspirin than from AZ vaccine.

        1. COVID was created as was Aids, SARS, and Ebola. They have patents. Why haven’t the creators been arrested? The media are the ones spreading fear. Now, Pfizer is saying one may need a third jab. Really??? They are also saying people who have COVID antibodies shouldn’t take it as the risk is even higher for clots. You take it. Everyone is different and no one should be force jabbed. Medical history is between patient and doctor only.

  2. AZ did not deliver (- 70 % !), keeps lying (about delivery, “contract priorities”, clinical studies), causes the famous clots, protects you less than the competitors, and almost not at all against variants, has an invisible and arrogant (and French) CEO. Well, it’s a no brainer: AZ tried to play smart, they failed, others delivered big time, bye bye AZ, flog your stuff to the Brits, since they seem to love you so much over there (at least the tabloids do).

    1. It is also cheap, can be stored in normal fridges, and works against British variant (which is the dominant variant in Europe now).

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IMMIGRATION

How Europe’s population is changing and what the EU is doing about it

The populations of countries across Europe are changing, with some increasing whilst others are falling. Populations are also ageing meaning the EU is having to react to changing demographics.

How Europe's population is changing and what the EU is doing about it

After decades of growth, the population of the European Union decreased over the past two years mostly due to the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The latest data from the EU statistical office Eurostat show that the EU population was 446.8 million on 1 January 2022, 172,000 fewer than the previous year. On 1 January 2020, the EU had a population of 447.3 million.

This trend is because, in 2020 and 2021 the two years marked by the crippling pandemic, there have been more deaths than births and the negative natural change has been more significant than the positive net migration.

But there are major differences across countries. For example, in numerical terms, Italy is the country where the population has decreased the most, while France has recorded the largest increase.

What is happening and how is the EU reacting?

In which countries is the population growing?

In 2021, there were almost 4.1 million births and 5.3 million deaths in the EU, so the natural change was negative by 1.2 million (more broadly, there were 113,000 more deaths in 2021 than in 2020 and 531,000 more deaths in 2020 than in 2019, while the number of births remained almost the same).

Net migration, the number of people arriving in the EU minus those leaving, was 1.1 million, not enough to compensate.

A population growth, however, was recorded in 17 countries. Nine (Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, France, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands and Sweden) had both a natural increase and positive net migration.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: Five things to know about Germany’s foreign population

In eight EU countries (the Czech Republic, Germany, Estonia, Spain, Lithuania, Austria, Portugal and Finland), the population increased because of positive net migration, while the natural change was negative.

The largest increase in absolute terms was in France (+185,900). The highest natural increase was in Ireland (5.0 per 1,000 persons), while the biggest growth rate relative to the existing population was recorded in Luxembourg, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta (all above 8.0 per 1,000 persons).

In total, 22 EU Member States had positive net migration, with Luxembourg (13.2 per 1 000 persons), Lithuania (12.4) and Portugal (9.6) topping the list.

Births and deaths in the EU from 1961 to 2021 (Eurostat)

Where is the population declining?

On the other hand, 18 EU countries had negative rates of natural change, with deaths outnumbering births in 2021.

Ten of these recorded a population decline. In Bulgaria, Italy, Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia population declined due to a negative natural change, while net migration was slightly positive.

In Croatia, Greece, Latvia, Romania and Slovakia, the decrease was both by negative natural change and negative net migration.

READ ALSO: Italian class sizes set to shrink as population falls further

The largest fall in population was reported in Italy, which lost over a quarter of a million (-253,100).

The most significant negative natural change was in Bulgaria (-13.1 per 1,000 persons), Latvia (-9.1), Lithuania (-8.7) and Romania (-8.2). On a proportional basis, Croatia and Bulgaria recorded the biggest population decline (-33.1 per 1,000 persons).

How is the EU responding to demographic change?

From 354.5 million in 1960, the EU population grew to 446.8 million on 1 January 2022, an increase of 92.3 million. If the growth was about 3 million persons per year in the 1960s, it slowed to about 0.7 million per year on average between 2005 and 2022, according to Eurostat.

The natural change was positive until 2011 and turned negative in 2012 when net migration became the key factor for population growth. However, in 2020 and 2021, this no longer compensated for natural change and led to a decline.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: One in four Austrian residents now of foreign origin

Over time, says Eurostat, the negative natural change is expected to continue given the ageing of the population if the fertility rate (total number of children born to each woman) remains low.

This poses questions for the future of the labour market and social security services, such as pensions and healthcare.

The European Commission estimates that by 2070, 30.3 per cent of the EU population will be 65 or over compared to 20.3 per cent in 2019, and 13.2 per cent is projected to be 80 or older compared to 5.8 per cent in 2019.

The number of people needing long-term care is expected to increase from 19.5 million in 2016 to 23.6 million in 2030 and 30.5 million in 2050.

READ ALSO: How foreigners are changing Switzerland

However, demographic change impacts different countries and often regions within the same country differently.

When she took on the Presidency of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen appointed Dubravka Šuica, a Croatian politician, as Commissioner for Democracy and Demography to deal with these changes.

Among measures in the discussion, in January 2021, the Commission launched a debate on Europe’s ageing society, suggesting steps for higher labour market participation, including more equality between women and men and longer working lives.

In April, the Commission proposed measures to make Europe more attractive for foreign workers, including simplifying rules for non-EU nationals who live on a long-term basis in the EU. These will have to be approved by the European Parliament and the EU Council.

In the fourth quarter of this year, the Commission also plans to present a communication on dealing with ‘brain drain’ and mitigate the challenges associated with population decline in regions with low birth rates and high net emigration.

This article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.

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