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VACCINE

Austria and Denmark chided by EU ally over Israel vaccine plan

France has criticised a push by Austria and Denmark to coordinate with Israel on developing new Covid-19 jabs, as EU unity frays even further over its troubled vaccine rollout. 

Austria and Denmark chided by EU ally over Israel vaccine plan
Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz (foreground) and Danish PM Mette Frederiksen (standing) during a meeting with other EU leaders in early 2020. Photo: Pool/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced the Israeli partnership on Monday, saying the European Medicines Agency (EMA) was “too slow in approving vaccines” leaving the bloc vulnerable to supply bottlenecks at pharmaceutical companies.

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

But France’s foreign ministry defended the agency and insisted that “the most effective solution for meeting our vaccination needs must remain within a European framework”.

“This is what guarantees the solidarity among member states that is more essential than ever,” it said in a statement late Wednesday.

European officials are under pressure to step up vaccination drives that have lagged behind those of other countries, including Israel  and Britain, which approved coronavirus vaccines several weeks before the EMA.

“We should not be solely dependent on the EU any more,” Kurz said ahead of a trip to Israel with his Danish counterpart Mette Frederiksen on Thursday to agree on common production of future vaccines and cooperation on research.

Austria’s neighbours Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic have already bypassed the EMA to approve Russian and Chinese coronavirus vaccines.

France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian acknowledged on Wednesday “significant” shortcomings in the EU’s vaccination policies, but criticised what he called “attempts at secession”.

European nations should instead pool their resources to increase vaccine production capacity in Europe, “something we are in the process of doing”, the ministry said in its statement.

“The approval process for the European market has also been reviewed, with the introduction of ’emergency procedures’ for vaccines targeting new variants,” it added.

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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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