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EU health agencies urge people to get vaccinated

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The European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) have issued a joint statement strongly encouraging those who are eligible for vaccination, but who have not yet been vaccinated, to apply for vaccination. 

The statement comes with concern over the highly transmissible Delta variant and misleading reporting raising concern over the effectiveness of vaccines: “Full vaccination with any of the EU/EEA-approved vaccines offers a high level of protection against severe disease and death caused by SARS-CoV-2, including variants, such as Delta. The highest level of protection is achieved after enough time (seven to fourteen days) has passed from the day of the last vaccine dose.

“Vaccination is also important for protecting those at highest risk of severe disease and hospitalisation, reducing the spread of the virus, and preventing the emergence of new variants of concern.”

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Mike Catchpole, ECDC’s Chief Scientist said: “While the available vaccines are highly effective in protecting people against severe COVID-19, until higher proportions of the population are immunised, the risk is not beyond us. We are now witnessing an increasing number of COVID-19 cases across the EU/EEA and vaccines remain the best available option to avoid an increase in severe disease and death.”

Reducing the interval between doses

As vaccination campaigns gather pace across the EU/EEA, it may be advisable in some cases to consider reducing the interval between first and second doses, within the authorised limits, particularly for people at risk of severe COVID-19 who have not completed the recommended vaccine schedule.

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No vaccine is 100% effective

Although the effectiveness of all COVID-19 vaccines authorised in the EU/EEA is very high, no vaccine is 100% effective. This means that a limited number of SARS-CoV-2 infections among persons that have completed the recommended vaccination schedule (i.e. ‘breakthrough infections’) are expected. However, when infections do occur, vaccines can prevent severe disease to a large extent, and greatly reduce the number of people in hospital due to COVID-19.

Fergus Sweeney, EMA’s Head of Clinical Studies and Manufacturing said: ‘'These COVID-19 vaccines are very effective. However, as long as the virus continues to circulate, we will continue to see breakthrough infections in vaccinated people.

“This does not mean that the vaccines are not working. Vaccinated people are far better protected against severe COVID-19 than unvaccinated people, and we should all endeavour to be fully vaccinated at the earliest opportunity.”

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Commission approves €1.8 million Latvian scheme to support cattle farmers affected by the coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved a €1.8 million Latvian scheme to support farmers active in the cattle-breeding sector affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The scheme was approved under the State Aid Temporary Framework. Under the scheme, the aid will take the form of direct grants. The measure aims at mitigating the liquidity shortages that the beneficiaries are facing and at addressing part of the losses they incurred due to the coronavirus outbreak and the restrictive measures that the Latvian government had to implement to limit the spread of the virus. The Commission found that the scheme is in line with the conditions of the Temporary Framework.

In particular, the aid (i) will not exceed €225,000 per beneficiary; and (ii) will be granted no later than 31 December 2021. The Commission concluded that the measure is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. On this basis, the Commission approved the scheme under EU state aid rules. More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.64541 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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Commission approves €500,000 Portuguese scheme to further support the passenger transport sector in Azores in the context of the coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved a €500,000 Portuguese scheme to further support the passenger transport sector in the Region of the Azores in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The measure was approved under the State Aid Temporary Framework. It follows another Portuguese scheme to support the passenger transport sector in Azores that the Commission approved on 4 June 2021 (SA.63010). Under the new scheme, the aid will take the form of direct grants. The measure will be open to collective passenger transport companies of all sizes active in the Azores. The purpose of the measure is to mitigate the sudden liquidity shortages that these companies are facing and to address losses incurred over 2021 due to the coronavirus outbreak and the restrictive measures that the government had to implement to limit the spread of the virus.

The Commission found that the Portuguese scheme is in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular, the aid (i) will not exceed €1.8 million per company; and (ii) will be granted no later than 31 December 2021. The Commission concluded that the measure is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions of the Temporary Framework. On this basis, the Commission approved the measure under EU state aid rules. More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.64599 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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Commission authorizes French aid scheme of €3 billion to support, through loans and equity investments, companies affected by the coronavirus pandemic

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The European Commission has cleared, under EU state aid rules, France's plans to set up a € 3 billion fund that will invest through debt instruments and equity and hybrid instruments in companies affected by the pandemic. The measure was authorized under the Temporary State Aid Framework. The scheme will be implemented through a fund, titled 'Transition Fund for Businesses Affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic', with a budget of € 3bn.

Under this scheme, support will take the form of (i) subordinated or participating loans; and (ii) recapitalization measures, in particular hybrid capital instruments and non-voting preferred shares. The measure is open to companies established in France and present in all sectors (except the financial sector), which were viable before the coronavirus pandemic and which have demonstrated the long-term viability of their economic model. Between 50 and 100 companies are expected to benefit from this scheme. The Commission considered that the measures complied with the conditions set out in the temporary framework.

The Commission concluded that the measure was necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of France, in accordance with Article 107 (3) (b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the temporary supervision. On this basis, the Commission authorized these schemes under EU state aid rules.

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Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager (pictured), competition policy, said: “This €3bn recapitalization scheme will allow France to support companies affected by the coronavirus pandemic by facilitating their access funding in these difficult times. We continue to work closely with member states to find practical solutions to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic while respecting EU regulations.”

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