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COVID-19

AstraZeneca has under-performed and under-delivered

Catherine Feore

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In an update on vaccination dose delivery (17 March), European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen singled out AstraZeneca who had “unfortunately” under-produced and under-delivered. She blamed this performance as “painfully” reducing the speed of the EU’s vaccination campaign. 

Due to additional transparency provided by the recent export authorization scheme, the EU now has a clearer picture of the situation and is considering the use of additional powers. Von der Leyen has threatened to trigger Art 122, not used since the 1970s oil crisis. She said that this may be raised next week at the European Council of EU heads of government. 

In the first quarter of 2021, AstraZeneca was meant to deliver 90 million doses then reduced that amount to 40 million, then 30 million. In the second quarter, AstraZeneca will only deliver 70 million doses, down from the 180 million doses they were contractually committed to deliver. 

The UK has the highest COVID-19 vaccination rate in Europe, having administered 37.98 doses per 100 people compared to much lower rates across the EU, ranging from 4.8 per 100 in Bulgaria, to 27 per 100 in Malta. At the same time, the EU has exported more than 40 million doses, over 10 million of them to the UK. 

Reciprocity and proportionality

The EU is calling for an approach to exports that is reciprocal and proportional. It is “reflecting” on how to make exports to vaccine-producing countries dependent on their level of openness. So where another country produces vaccines and does not export to the EU, despite receiving EU exports, the EU will review its arrangements. 

The second requirement will be whether the EU should allow exports to a country where the importing country has a higher level of vaccination. A kind of proportionality test.  

Von der Leyen said: “This is about making sure that Europe gets its fair share. We will invest even further in Europe's capacity also beyond this acute phase. We are working with trusted companies to ensure long-term supply and these are the messages I will take to the leaders at the next European Council.”

COVID-19

EMA finds AstraZeneca vaccine has no specific risks linked to age or gender

Catherine Feore

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Emer cooke, executive director, European medicines agency

EMA’s safety committee has concluded today (7 April) that unusual blood clots with low blood platelets should be listed as very rare side effects of Vaxzevria - AstraZeneca vaccine.

The European Medicines Executive Director, Emer Cooke, said: "The safey committee, after an in-depth analysis, has concluded that the reported cases of unusual blood clots following vaccination with AstraZeneca vaccine should be listed as possible side effects of the vaccine.” In reaching its conclusion, the committee took into consideration all currently available evidence. However, Cooke was at pains to underline that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing Covid far outweigh the risks of side effects.

The safety Committee (PRAC) have concluded, based on current evidence, that there are no specific risk factors, such as age, gender, or previous medical history of clotting disorders linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine. However, the agency encouraged people to continue to come forward and to report any symptoms that they believe may be linked to their vaccination. 

At the same time as EMA reported its findings, the UK’s regulator reported that it would be recommending a different vaccine for under 30s - a group that is not yet broadly eligible for vaccination. Based on the 20.2 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine the UK has administered, it estimates that the overall risk of blood clots is approximately 4 people in a million who receive the vaccine.

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Global COVID-19 death toll surpasses 3 million amid new infections resurgence

Reuters

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Coronavirus-related deaths worldwide crossed 3 million on Tuesday (6 April), according to a Reuters tally, as the latest global resurgence of COVID-19 infections is challenging vaccination efforts across the globe, write Roshan Abraham and Anurag Maan.

Worldwide COVID-19 deaths are rising once again, especially in Brazil and India. Health officials blame more infectious variants that were first detected in the United Kingdom and South Africa, along with public fatigue with lockdowns and other restrictions.

Global COVID graphic

According to a Reuters tally, it took more than a year for the global coronavirus death toll to reach 2 million. The next 1 million deaths were added in about three months.

Brazil is leading the world in the daily average number of new deaths reported and accounts for one in every four deaths worldwide each day, according to a Reuters analysis.

The World Health Organization acknowledged the nation’s dire condition due to coronavirus, saying the country is in a very critical condition with an overwhelmed healthcare system.

“Indeed there is a very serious situation going on in Brazil right now, where we have a number of states in critical condition,” WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove told a briefing last Thursday, adding that many hospital intensive care units are more than 90% full.

India reported a record rise in COVID-19 infections on Monday, becoming the second nation after the United States to post more than 100,000 new cases in a day.

India’s worst-affected state, Maharashtra on Monday began shutting shopping malls, cinemas, bars, restaurants, and places of worship, as hospitals are being overrun by patients.

The European region, which includes 51 countries, has the highest total number of deaths at nearly 1.1 million.

Five European countries including the United Kingdom, Russia, France, Italy and Germany constitute about 60% of Europe’s total coronavirus-related deaths.

The United States has the highest number of deaths of any country at the world at 555,000 and accounts for about 19% of all deaths due to COVID-19 in the world. Cases have risen for the last three weeks but health officials believe the nation’s rapid vaccination campaign may prevent a rise in deaths. A third of the population has received at least one dose of a vaccine.

At least 370.3 million people or nearly 4.75% of the global population have received a single dose of COVID-19 vaccine by Sunday, according to latest figures from research and data provider firm Our World in Data.

However, the World Health Organization is urging countries to donate more doses of approved COVID-19 vaccines to help meet vaccination targets for the most vulnerable in poorer countries.

Global COVID vaccination graphic

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MEPs clear another hurdle for the COVID-19 recovery plan

EU Reporter Correspondent

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  • Parliament speeds up the reform of the EU’s revenue, allowing the 'Next Generation EU' recovery fund, worth €750 billion, to be used 
  • New sources of revenue will provide new financing for the EU budget, such as a levy on plastic, and help repay the debt created by the recovery fund 
  • EU countries must ratify the key Own Resources Decision as soon as possible 

MEPs approved three laws on implementing the EU’s Own Resources system, paving the way for its reform and the introduction of new sources of EU revenue. On Thursday (25 March), MEPs adopted one implementing and two operational regulations on which methods to use to collect or make available specific Own Resources, which constitute the revenue for the EU budget. The three laws work in conjunction with the key Own Resources Decision (ORD), approved by Parliament in September and by Council in December 2020. The member states are currently in the process of ratifying this decision, with 13 out of 27 having done so already as of 18 March (more information on the ratification here).

The approved regulations include provisions on calculating and simplifying the EU’s revenue, on managing cash flow, and on monitoring and inspection rights. These are needed to ensure the EU budget’s reformed revenue side continues to function smoothly.

Once member states have ratified the Own Resources Decision, the package adopted today will apply retroactively from 1 January 2021. It will introduce the new plastics levy as the first of various new streams of revenue that will be set up between now and 2026. The ORD will enable the EU to borrow €750bn for the Next Generation EU recovery plan.

José Manuel Fernandes (EPP, PT): “Once more, the European Parliament sets the tone. By approving this package, we are ensuring that the EU’s system of own resources will contribute to establishing the ‘Next Generation EU’ recovery plan as soon as the ORD has been ratified by the member states. Today’s vote is a reminder that we need to act quickly and decisively to set up the recovery.”

Valérie Hayer (RENEW, FR): “Parliament is again acting swiftly to make the recovery plan a reality. We now urge all member states to ratify the recovery plan as soon as possible. We cannot afford any delay. In addition, December’s repayment agreement binds the Commission to propose an EU digital levy in June of this year, regardless of what happens at OECD level.”

Vote results

Regulation on own resource based on plastic packaging waste

540 votes in favour, 109 against, 38 abstentions

Implementing measures for the system of own resources

560 votes in favour, 48 against, 82 abstentions

Collection of own resources accruing from value added tax

552 votes in favour, 69 against, 67 abstentions

Background

During the negotiations on the EU’s 2021-2027 long-term budget (“Multiannual Financial Framework”), MEPs obtained a binding road map for new sources of EU revenue. The three steps of the Own Resources road map are as follows:

  • First step (2021): a contribution on plastic introduced in January 2021, new legislative proposals on a carbon border adjustment mechanism, a digital levy and the Emissions Trading Scheme will be submitted by June;
  • Second step (2022 and 2023): Council will deliberate on these new sources of revenue by 1 July 2022 at the latest in order to be able to introduce them by 1 January 2023;
  • Third step (2024-2026): by June 2024, the Commission will put forward a proposal for additional new own resources, which could include a Financial Transaction Tax and a financial contribution from the corporate sector or a new common corporate tax base. Council will deliberate on these new sources of EU revenue by 1 July 2025 at the latest in order to be able to introduce them by 1 January 2026.

    Further information 

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