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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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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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