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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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COVID-19

Health experts advise end of masks on public transport in Spain

Spanish health experts have advised the government that the use of masks should no longer be obligatory on public transport, but no concrete date has yet been set.

Health experts advise end of masks on public transport in Spain

Health experts who advise the Spanish Ministry of Health have said that masks should no longer be mandatory on public transport, but with the caveat that the government should first wait and observe the epidemiological situation in China, which has experienced a surge in case numbers since it abandoned its strict ‘Zero Covid’ strategy at the end of 2022, following widespread civil unrest.

The use of masks on public transport has now been the norm in Spain for almost three years, since the start of the pandemic. 

Speaking to Ser Canarias, Darias said: “We are getting closer and closer [to the end of having to wear a mask], but we will have to see how things evolve in order to make that decision; obviously the epidemiological situation is getting better and better, but we have to see how the issue of China evolves”. 

Reports in the Spanish press suggest some kind of agreement was made during a meeting between the government and the experts in December that masks would no longer be compulsory after assessing the situation in China, however, there is still no fixed date.

Back in October 2022, Spain’s ‘Emergency Unit’ suggested that mask rules would not be reviewed until March 2023 at the earliest, but more recently it said that it does not seem necessary to wait for March to remove the mask rule. 

According to recent Ministry of Health figures, just 2.79 percent of hospital beds in Spain are taken up by Covid-19 patients.

READ ALSO: Face masks to remain mandatory on public transport in Spain until March 2023

The use of masks indoors in Spain ceased to be mandatory on April 20th, 2022, after almost two years, however, they have remained mandatory in hospitals, pharmacies and, crucially, also on buses, metro, trains, planes and taxis.

While the mask rules have been strictly enforced in some places in Spain such as Seville and Valencia, in other cities such as Barcelona, many people refuse to wear them, despite the regulations still officially being in place. 

READ ALSO: Spain now requires Covid certificates for arrivals from China

In China, figures suggest that almost 60,000 people have died as a result of Covid-19 in a single month amid the spike in cases following the end of the country’s draconian restrictions. In response, Spain reintroduced health control checks for travellers arriving from China. 

It seems that Darias and the Spanish government are waiting to see how the situation plays out in China first, but all the indications and expert advice seems to suggest that masks will no longer be mandatory in public transport sometime very soon. 

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