Our priority is to accelerate the production and supply of COVID-19 vaccines in the European Union, said the head of the European Council Charles Michel on Thursday, summing up the first day of the video summit of EU leaders. The president of the European Commission noted that approximately 8 percent of the adult population in the Community had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The two-day summit, which is taking place remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, began on Thursday around 3pm. Even before the summit, the head of the European Council, Charles Michel, said that the priority of EU leaders would be to accelerate the vaccination process.
Michel: the priority is to speed up vaccination
Michel reiterated this declaration at the conference summarizing the first day of talks. “Our priority is to accelerate the production and supply of COVID-19 vaccines and vaccines in the European Union,” he said. As he underlined, pharmaceutical companies must deliver vaccines in line with contractual obligations, and more transparency is needed on this issue.
Referring to the issue of anti-epidemic restrictions imposed in the Member States, he noted that journeys that are not necessary may still be subject to restrictions in the European Union, but the restrictions should be justified.
He also said that EU leaders will work on the so-called vaccination passports, i.e. amenities and loosening of restrictions on people already vaccinated.
Head of the European Commission: 8 percent of the adult population in the European Union has been vaccinated so far
The President of the European Commission announced that “to date, the vaccine has been administered to over 29 million people” in the European Union. – It is 6.4 percent of the Community population. If we exclude adolescents and children from this, it will be about 8 percent of the adult population – she noted.
– Most vaccines from within the European Union – 95 percent – are exported by Pfizer, a company that fulfills its contractual obligations towards the EU. The rest of the exports go mainly to Moderna, which is also meeting its obligations – said the head of the European Commission at a press conference, responding to the suggestion that the Community should introduce an export ban on companies that fail to meet their obligations.
“Our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic continues”
“Our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic continues. It is still a difficult challenge due to the emergence of new variants and the need to find the right balance between restrictions and the smooth flow of goods and services in the common market,” he wrote in a Wednesday letter to EU heads of state and government Charles Michel.
“Our priority is still to accelerate vaccination across the EU. This means (necessity – ed.) Speeding up the process of vaccine authorization, as well as their production and distribution. This will require, for example, looking for solutions that will bring manufacturers closer together in supply chains to increase production in the EU. This also includes ensuring the predictability of vaccine deliveries and compliance by pharmaceutical companies with their obligations, “he enumerated.
Decisions on sledding on Russia next week
Charles Michel announced that the decision to impose sanctions on Russia in connection with the arrest of the oppositionist Alexei Navalny will be finalized next week. The decision will be implemented under the new EU sanctions regime on human rights violations, informed the head of the European Council.
He also stressed that the EU condemns the way Navalny was treated and demands that the Russian authorities immediately release the oppositionist.
On Friday, EU leaders are to talk about security and defense issues. North Atlantic Alliance Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will join them for an exchange of views on EU-NATO cooperation.
Then a discussion is to begin on how to improve the collective ability to respond to security challenges and threats. Michel wants EU leaders to devote their time to cyberattacks and hybrid threats, which pose very real security challenges. Relations with the EU’s southern neighbors are also to be discussed.
List of European leaders
On Wednesday, the prime ministers of Poland, Spain, Denmark and Belgium and the president of Lithuania wrote a letter to the head of the European Council, in which they appealed for increasing the supply of vaccines and accelerating work on increasing production capacity in the EU.
The leaders are calling for more vaccine supplies. “The extraordinary EU summit this week is timely. Timely access for Europe to sufficient vaccines remains an unresolved challenge. Despite the unprecedented rapid development of new, high-quality vaccines, production difficulties continue and are leading to serious delays. Coupled with the advent of new vaccines,” COVID mutation may threaten our path to full recovery and normal life, ”we read in the letter of Mateusz Morawiecki, Pedro Sanchez, Mette Frederiksen, Alexander De Croo and Gitanas Nauseda.
Delays in deliveries
In Poland, registration for vaccinations has been suspended for group zero, i.e. for the group at risk of infection – medics and hospital workers. They are to be resumed after March 7th. – Group zero will be vaccinated in accordance with the guidelines for the AstraZeneca vaccine – said the government plenipotentiary for vaccination, Michał Dworczyk.
This is a manufacturer that has once again reduced the volume of delivery – this time in the second quarter of 2021. In the first quarter, 14 million vaccines were to be delivered to Poland – 6 million less. – Pfizer cut deliveries by 10 percent, Moderna by about 20 percent and AstraZeneca by about 65 percent – points out Michał Kuczmierowski, president of the Government Strategic Reserves Agency.
“Never has one drug been ordered in such a large quantity in such a short time”
Although manufacturers assure that they will soon compensate for shortages in supplies, today it is difficult to predict what the schedule will look like. – The rationale is that it is related to high demand, the need to adjust production lines, and shifts in allocations for various world markets – explains Michał Kuczmierowski.
According to the former president of the Office for Registration of Medicinal Products, Medical Devices and Biocidal Products, Leszek Borkowski, such a large logistic operation could not take place without problems. – Never in the history of the world has one drug ordered in such a large quantity in such a short time – explained in an interview with the reporter of the “Polska i Świat” magazine, Anna Wilczyńska.
The global demand is huge, the technological lines have their limitations, and the adaptation of new factories to the production of such a preparation continues. – Even if there is a place, it will take six months at the super site, from one to two years at a poor site, when the drug will begin to be fully produced – adds Borkowski.
“The main criterion is patient safety”
Former Deputy Minister of Health Krzysztof Łanda reminds that the European Union has invested enormous money to support research on the vaccine, and in return it should expect to meet delivery dates. – Has there been such a severe reduction in production compared to production plans, or are these vaccines going to other countries in the world? – wonders.
In January it turned out that Germany individually negotiated additional vaccine deliveries beyond the EU’s purchasing mechanism, while Hungary also opted for vaccines from China and Russia. For some time, the Polish Ministry of Health has informed that it is analyzing the possibility of purchasing vaccines outside the EU mechanism. – No decision has been taken in this regard. For us, the main criterion is the issue of patient safety – emphasizes Minister Adam Niedzielski. Therefore, for the time being, there is no question of buying a vaccine that has not been authorized on the European market.
Main photo source: PAP / EPA / OLIVIER HOSLET