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COVID-19

EU could see Covid-19 vaccinations rolled out ‘first quarter next year’

The head of the EU health agency has said that its first vaccinations against Covid-19 could get under way in the first quarter of 2021 – in an optimistic scenario.

EU could see Covid-19 vaccinations rolled out 'first quarter next year'
Researchers around the world have been working on finding a vaccine. Photo: Cesar Manso/AFP

“I think optimistically first quarter next year, but I can't be more precise,” Andrea Ammon, the director of the Stockholm-based European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), told AFP on Wednesday.

A European source told AFP on Tuesday that a vaccine could be authorised for use in the EU in “early 2021”, after the announcement that US pharmaceutical group Pfizer and Germany's BioNTech's vaccine had shown 90 percent effectiveness in phase three trials.

“Of course it's promising,” said Ammon, stressing that so far it is a “press release and not yet a (scientific) peer review, so we have to see what the final assessment will be”.

Ammon said the pandemic's development in Europe was “very, very concerning” and all indicators “are going in the wrong direction right now”.

Since the beginning of the outbreak, Europe has suffered at least 311,000 deaths from more than 13 million infections, and many countries have been hit by a second wave.

Ammon urged Europeans to respect their countries' restrictions and measures to curb the spread of the virus, “as hard as it may be”.

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COVID-19

Covid-19 medicine Paxlovid now available in Denmark

Denmark has received its first supply of Paxlovid, an antiviral treatment for Covid-19.

Covid-19 medicine Paxlovid now available in Denmark

A first stock of Paxlovid, a tablet which can be described by doctors to combat Covid-19 symptoms, has been delivered to Denmark, health authorities confirmed in a statement.

“The first delivery has arrived today and the rest will be delivered continuously during the coming period,” the Danish Health Authority said.

Denmark has purchased 40,000 treatment courses of the medicine.

Doctors decide when to prescribe the medicine, which is suitable for adults infected with Covid-19 who are at risk of serious illness with Covid-19. It is taken over a course of five days when symptoms are still mild.

“Treatment with Paxlovid is for the patients who are at greatest risk of serious illness with Covid-19 and the treatment will be an important part of the future management of Covid-19,” the Health Authority said in the statement.

The arrival of a medicine for Covid-19 does not signal the end of vaccination which remains “the most effective measure to prevent serious illness and death,” it said.

Denmark has purchased the Paxlovid supply through a deal with pharmaceutical company Pfizer.

The infectious disease control agency State Serum Institute (SSI) has 2.2 million Covid-19 vaccines which have been in storage for so long that they are no longer usable, news wire Ritzau earlier reported.

The vaccines were purchased when Denmark was acquiring as many as possible during the pandemic but because they are not effective against newer variants of the coronavirus, they can no longer be used.

Another 3.6 million doses in storage at SSI can only be used for the initial two doses for as-yet unvaccinated people – who are now limited in number given Denmark’s high vaccine uptake. This means they are unusable in the current booster programme.

The cost of the 5.8 million vaccines is estimated at between 116 and 783 million kroner.

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