Tuesday, May 17

COVID-19 vaccines: Half of UK adults receive first dose as EU threatens AstraZeneca over supplies

Half of the adult population in the UK has received a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the Health Minister announced on Saturday, heralding a “great success” for the country, which has had the highest death toll in Europe. during the pandemic. .

“I am absolutely delighted to tell you that we have now vaccinated half of all adults in the UK. It is a great success,” said Matt Hancock in a video posted on Twitter. He thanked those involved in the vast vaccination campaign launched in early December.

“It is so important because this vaccine is our way out of this pandemic,” said the minister, encouraging the population to get vaccinated.

The UK has administered more than 26 million first doses of coronavirus vaccines. On Thursday alone, 660,276 doses of vaccine were injected.

The vaccination campaign was recently extended to people over 50 years of age. Boris Johnson, 56, received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Friday, following assurances from UK and EU regulators about its safety.

The prime minister was vaccinated at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, where he spent three days in intensive care in April 2020 with COVID-19.

The UK, where the virus has killed more than 126,000, uses the Pfizer / BioNTech and AstraZeneca / Oxford vaccines. A third vaccine, Moderna, has been approved by the British regulator and should be available “in the next few weeks,” the health minister said on Thursday.

Despite the expected drop in supply in April, Boris Johnson assured that the “roadmap” to gradually lift the restrictions linked to the pandemic in the coming weeks would not be affected.

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The government’s goal remains to offer a first dose of the coronavirus vaccine to everyone over the age of 50 in mid-April and to all adults by the end of July.

The success of the UK vaccination program is in stark contrast to much of the rest of Europe.

Delays in supplies procured by the European Commission were compounded by slow launches in individual countries. The recent suspension of the AstraZeneca jab by many countries for security reasons caused a further slowdown.

The EU and the UK have grappled with vaccine exports as many doses from the bloc have been shipped to Britain under contractual agreements.

On Saturday, the president of the European Commission again intensified pressure on pharmaceutical companies to speed up the delivery of vaccines. Ursula von der Leyen said AstraZeneca in particular could face export bans to countries outside the EU if it did not quickly meet agreed targets.

“We have the possibility to ban planned exports,” said Ursula von der Leyen in an interview with the German media group Funke. “This is a message to AstraZeneca: do your part of the deal to Europe before you start shipping to other countries.”

The President of the European Commission recalled that the EU contract with AstraZeneca provides for the delivery of doses produced both on the EU territory and in the United Kingdom.

“However, we have not received anything from the British, while we provide them,” said Ursula von der Leyen, adding that the EU had sent a “formal” complaint to the pharmaceutical group. “I cannot explain to European citizens why we export millions of doses of vaccines to countries that produce them themselves and do not send them to us.”

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AstraZeneca is due to deliver 70 million doses of its COVID vaccine in the second quarter, far less than the 180 million promised in the contract signed with the EU. In the first quarter, the EU is expected to have received a total of some 30 million doses, compared to the 90 million expected by the Swedish-British pharmaceutical group.


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