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Don’t rely on inaccurate gossip about the EU vaccine strategy

There has been much speculation, and a lot of inaccurate gossip, about the EU’s vaccination programme. So, to get to the facts, please refer to this new and clear question and answer website setup by the European Commission to answer your questions. Just click the graphic:

Just click on one of the themes on the European Commission website to find relevant questions and answers on COVID-19 vaccination in the EU, vaccine negotiations and its authorisation process.

I would like to add this:

Everything to do with the management of this pandemic, by everyone, every country, the UK, the EU, the USA, is a gamble.

That is not the issue.

The question is which gambles will pay off? And the answer to that we will not know until the end of this.

▪ SECOND DOSE DELAYS IN THE UK

The reason that the UK has had to delay the second dose of the vaccine is because of shortage of vaccines.

If presented with that problem, based on the information I know (which is of course limited) I would probably take the same route: vaccinate as many of the most vulnerable people as possible with the first vaccine, to give them at least some protection.

But I would not pretend that isn’t a gamble, as full protection is only conferred after the second dose, and even then, we still don’t know for how long protection lasts.

  • If vaccine protection lasts just 3-6 months, we are in serious trouble.
  • If those that are only half vaccinated, or not vaccinated, help the virus to mutate (which scientists warn can happen) then we are in serious trouble.

The last thing we want is for the virus to outpace the vaccines. That’s why we need as many people across the world to be vaccinated as soon as possible.

▪ DIFFICULT DECISIONS

Most of the government’s ‘gambles’ regarding the management of the virus have most certainly not paid off.

We have among the worst numbers of deaths from Covid-19 in the world.

However, I do hope that the government’s gamble in offering a first vaccine to as many vulnerable people as possible, and delaying the second vaccine, will pay off, and in retrospect, turn out to be the right course.

I have great empathy with the scientists and doctors helping to make these difficult decisions, because they don’t know all the answers, but I am sure they are trying to make the best decisions they can with the limited knowledge we have.

▪ GLOBAL THREATS

If the handling of the pandemic is a practice run for how the world is going to tackle global warming, then I think the world is in serious trouble.

Countries should be working together to tackle the pandemic, just as they should to tackle climate change. Currently, it is not happening on the scale and speed necessary.

▪ GUY VERHOFSTADT

MEP Guy Verhofstadt, former Prime Minister of Belgium, has posted strong criticism of the EU Commission’s deliberations in securing vaccines and calling it a ‘fiasco’.

You can read his objections on Facebook.

Good. It shows that the EU is open to democratic criticism, which is always how it should be.

However, on this, I don’t agree with ALL he has said.

▪ CONTRACTUAL ISSUES

Guy blames contractual issues for the delay in supplies of vaccines. His solution is for the EU to renegotiate the contracts.

That, in my view, is not necessary and entirely impractical. The EU is already in talks with the drug companies to facilitate and speed up manufacture so that they can fulfil their contractual promises.

Guy also says it was a mistake for the EU to insist that drug companies must accept civil liability for their vaccines.

I would say that was essential, to give Europeans confidence in the vaccines, especially since there is considerable vaccine scepticism across Europe.

The reason for the shortage of vaccines in the EU is because of problems in manufacture, openly admitted by the drug companies. Those problems are being resolved.

If the drug companies had supplied all the vaccines as contractually promised, this would not now be a problem.

There is a worldwide shortage of vaccines, and many countries (poorer ones) don’t have any. This issue is being addressed, but it will take time.

▪ MANUFACTURING PROBLEMS

I am at pains to repeatedly point out that the date that the EU signed contracts with drug companies has absolutely nothing to do with the delay in supplies, according to currently available information.

If the EU had signed their contracts three months earlier, how would that have prevented today’s vaccine manufacturing problems, that could not have been foreseen last summer?

The EU’s contracts were, reportedly, more comprehensive than the UKs, and required drug companies to accept civil liability for their vaccines.

Furthermore, the EU required their European Medicines Agency to give full approval for the vaccines. The EU also secured vaccines at a much lower cost per unit than the UK.

That, of course, all took time, but from all I have researched on this, none of that is the cause of holdups in supply which are entirely down the problems of manufacture, which are not the fault of the EU.

▪ VACCINE PRICES

I would also say that the EU’s insistence that the vaccines must be sourced at reasonable prices was the right move.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine costs the UK government around £3 per jab, according to the BBC, whereas the EU is paying only around £1.80 per jab. South Africa is paying even more for AstraZeneca, at £3.84 a jab.*

Of course, everything I write today, could change tomorrow. It all depends on currently available information. If the information changes, so will my response.

We will only know which strategies turn out to be the right ones much later on.

But, frankly, we have to hope that all strategies being employed help all humans wherever they are in the world.

Until we can defeat Covid-19 across the entire planet, none of us are safe.

Ditto, global warming.

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