Denmark and Austria to agree partnership with Israel on Covid-19 vaccines

The prime ministers of Denmark and Austria are to agree a plan for common production of future vaccines and co-operation on research treatments with Israel, moving away from sole reliance on the EU.

Denmark and Austria to agree partnership with Israel on Covid-19 vaccines
Danish PM Mette Frederiksen on Tuesday. Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz on Monday criticised the EU’s medicine regulator for being “too slow” in approving coronavirus vaccines as he outlined plans to co-ordinate more closely with Israel on inoculations.

Kurz said in a statement that while the EU’s common procurement and licensing policy for vaccines was “right in principle”, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) “is too slow in approving vaccines and there have been supply bottlenecks at manufacturers”.

He said that in order to prepare for possible mutations of the coronavirus and to develop “second generation” vaccines, “we should not be solely dependent on the EU anymore”.

To that end Kurz is travelling to Israel on Thursday together with his Danish counterpart Mette Frederiksen to agree a plan for common production of future vaccines and co-operation on research treatments.

Kurz said that experts estimate “that in the coming years we will have to vaccinate two-thirds of the population every year — that’s more than six million Austrians”.

For her part Frederiksen said the world was “crying out” for increased vaccine production but that “we also have to make sure that we have enough vaccines in a year’s time, and in two, three, five and ten years”.

“One of the partners I have a lot of faith in is Israel, which is currently ahead in the field of vaccination,” she told the Ritzau press agency.

Ahead of the trip to Israel Kurz is to discuss the country’s vaccination strategy with domestic pharmaceutical companies and researchers.

The president of Austria’s association of vaccine manufacturers Renee Gallo-Daniel defended the EMA’s handling of the approval process.

“The highest priority of the EMA has been not to make any shortcuts in the process of approval,” she said.

“The important thing is that the safety, efficacy and quality of all vaccines we are supplied with is checked, and this simply takes time,” she told Ö1 public radio, adding that the EMA had introduced a new “rolling review” process to speed up approval.

She praised Kurz’s “innovative” suggestion of more domestic vaccine production but cautioned that setting up a vaccine production chain can take “five to ten years”.

Austria’s neighbours Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic have bypassed the EMA in order to issue their own approvals for Russian and Chinese coronavirus vaccines.

READ ALSO: What is Denmark’s current schedule for Covid-19 vaccination?

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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.