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Sunday, April 18, 2021

How EU failed to plan for vaccines rollout

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Britain and the US both spent seven times more on vaccine development than the EU, figures reveal – with both nations now outpacing the bloc’s beleaguered rollout.

The UK committed £1.67billion on Covid vaccines before it was known whether they would be effective – more than the £1.57billion the EU spent on behalf of 27 countries, with Britain spending £25.00 per capita compared to £3.51 for Brussels. 

The US government spent £7.9billion in total, according to the figures from science analytics firm Airfinity, an outlay of £24.02 for each of its 330million people. 

Now that the jabs have passed their trials, it is mainland Europe which is struggling to ramp up vaccinations and feuding with AstraZeneca about supplies to the continent. 

In addition, Brussels did not strike a deal with Pfizer until clinical trials had been concluded – while Britain and the US had deals in place in July 2020.  

The UK now ranks third in the world with 13.2 per cent of the population getting at least one dose of a vaccine, while America is fifth on 7.6 per cent and the EU is languishing on 2.2 per cent. 

French government minister Clement Beaune lashed out at Britain today by casting doubt on the UK’s one-dose strategy, saying: ‘I do not think that our citizens would accept us taking all these risks contrary to the opinion of our scientists’. 

In fact, the UK’s four chief medical officers have backed the one-dose strategy and said that a single shot offers ‘considerable protection’ at least in the short term. 

Meanwhile Angela Merkel – who has come under criticism for letting the EU take the lead – announced a ‘summit’ of drugmakers and officials in a bid to get more jabs.  

The UK committed £1.67billion on Covid vaccines before it was known whether they would be effective - more than the £1.57billion the EU put forward for its 448million people, with Britain spending £25.00 per capita compared to £3.51 for Brussels. The US government spent £7.9billion in total, according to the figures from science analytics firm Airfinity, an outlay of £24.02 for each of its 330million people

The UK committed £1.67billion on Covid vaccines before it was known whether they would be effective – more than the £1.57billion the EU put forward for its 448million people, with Britain spending £25.00 per capita compared to £3.51 for Brussels. The US government spent £7.9billion in total, according to the figures from science analytics firm Airfinity, an outlay of £24.02 for each of its 330million people

This chart from Our World In Data shows how the UK and US are both outpacing the EU's beleaguered vaccine rollout, with far slower progress in the 27-member bloc

This chart from Our World In Data shows how the UK and US are both outpacing the EU’s beleaguered vaccine rollout, with far slower progress in the 27-member bloc 

UK orders 40m extra doses of Valneva jab, due to arrive in 2022

The UK Government has ordered an extra 40million doses of Valneva’s coronavirus vaccine, taking its total to 100million doses.

The original order of 60million doses isn’t expected to be delivered until the second half of 2021. And the new order won’t be delivered until 2022.

It’s likely that most or all adults in Britain will already have had one of the other Covid vaccines by the time this one is ready. But infectious disease experts say people may need re-vaccinating in future — as happens against the flu each winter — and the UK may also export to other countries.

Britain has now ordered a total of 407million doses of Covid vaccines – enough to give the entire population, including children, six doses each.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng claimed the stockpile was enough to ‘protect the British public in 2021 and beyond’.

The fact that Valneva’s two-dose jab is being manufactured in Scotland may have helped to sway the decision, in the wake of a blazing row with the EU over vaccines, which saw European ministers threaten to block exports of other jabs.

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UNITED KINGDOM

Widely criticised for its handling of the pandemic, the UK government has boasted of its vaccine rollout as a rare success story in recent weeks.

Nearly nine million people in the UK have received a first dose of the vaccine after the UK switched strategies to hand out single doses to as many people as possible.   

It comes after Britain spent nearly £1.67billion investing in vaccines and signed a deal in May 2020 to get the AstraZeneca vaccine developed with Oxford scientists. 

As the EU row flared up last week, AstraZeneca’s CEO Pascal Soriot pointed to Britain’s earlier deal as a reason why the UK was enjoying uninterrupted supplies. 

‘The UK contract was signed three months before the European contract. So with the UK we have had an extra three months to fix all the glitches we experienced,’ he said.   

In addition, the UK described its deal for 30million Pfizer/BioNTech jabs last July as the company’s ‘first binding agreement signed with any government’. 

When Pfizer’s product became the first coronavirus vaccine approved in the West, it was Britain which handed out the historic first doses in early December. 

The UK is also in line for 60million doses of another jab from Novavax, which will be made in Teesside and passed clinical trials last week.  

However, the UK is behind the US and EU in getting hold of the Moderna vaccine, which is not expected to arrive in Britain until the spring.  

Britain has also boasted of continuing to fund vaccine development even after some jabs have become available, with ministers today announcing a deal for 40million yet-to-be-approved Valneva jabs. 

Touting their ‘wide approach’ to investing in vaccines, ministers said the deal was an ‘endorsement of the UK government’s strategy of investing in vaccine development’.  

‘It will also give the UK future flexibility should we need to revaccinate any of the population,’ a statement said. 

Britain handed out the first doses of a fully-tested coronavirus vaccine anywhere in the world, with Margaret Keenan (pictured) getting the historic first jab

Britain handed out the first doses of a fully-tested coronavirus vaccine anywhere in the world, with Margaret Keenan (pictured) getting the historic first jab  

ALL UK CARE HOME RESIDENTS HAVE BEEN OFFERED JABS AS ROLL-OUT STEAMS AHEAD 

Every elderly care home resident across England has now been offered their first Covid vaccination, with Boris Johnson promising to continue the ‘acceleration’ of the programme across the country.

NHS England said people living at more than 10,000 eligible care homes with older residents had been offered the jab as almost 600,000 coronavirus vaccines were given out in Britain – a daily record.

Care home residents were the top priority group for the UK because they are most at risk of dying if they catch Covid-19. 

The Government will announce today that the care home milestone, which it promised to reach by the end of January, has been achieved in the nick of time.

A small number of homes had visits deferred for safety reasons during a local outbreak but would be visited as soon as it was safe for NHS staff to do so, a spokesman for NHS England said.

Nine in 10 people over 80 have received their first jab, along with three quarters of people aged 75 to 79, the figures show. People in their 60s are expected to start receiving invitations for jab in the next few weeks as the rollout continues to gather pace.

Care UK, one of the largest care home chains, said that all but one of its 124 homes had already been visited by vaccination teams. It said that about 85 per cent of residents had received the first dose of the vaccine but it was expecting the proportion to rise once it received updated figures.

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EUROPEAN UNION

The EU and many of its 27 members have faced criticism over their sluggish rollout, with fewer than 10million people getting a dose so far across the entire bloc. 

While excessive bureaucracy in countries such as France and Germany has been one reason for the slow start, the EU has also struggled to get hold of enough supplies. 

Pfizer and BioNTech have slowed down production to make manufacturing changes, while AstraZeneca said it was cutting supplies to the EU in the first quarter of 2021. 

That prompted outrage from Brussels, which imposed export controls last week to supervise vaccines leaving the bloc for other countries. 

Pharmaceutical companies have since made public pledges to make up for the shortfalls with additional doses later on – though none has pledged to speed up the initial delivery, meaning the EU’s Covid pain will drag on for some time.

BioNTech and Pfizer have promised to send up to 75 million extra doses to the bloc in the spring thanks to progress at key manufacturing sites.

Meanwhile Ursula von der Leyen, who signed the vaccine contracts on behalf of the bloc, said Sunday that AstraZeneca would deliver 40 million doses in total in the first quarter – 30 per cent more previously promised – but shipments will not start until the second week of February. 

And chemicals giant Bayer announced that from 2022 it would produce a coronavirus vaccine that fellow German pharmaceuticals company CureVac is developing.

CureVac CEO Franz-Werner Haas said his company would also produce several hundred million doses of its own vaccine by the end of 2021.

CureVac’s mRNA vaccine has yet to receive the green light from regulators, but German health minister Jens Spahn said it was ‘on its way to approval in the coming weeks’.

French pharma group Sanofi agreed last week to help produce 125 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. 

A European source said on Monday that Germany was putting ‘tremendous’ pressure on the Commission to improve the vaccine rollout, adding that von der Leyen’s position had been ‘severely weakened’. 

While Brussels boasts of having a portfolio of 2.3billion doses, it has paid dearly for failing to sign its agreement with AstraZeneca until August last year.  

Meanwhile, the EU’s contract with Pfizer was not signed until November 2020, two days after the company had announced its successful trial results.  

The Pfizer rollout did not begin until the very end of December, and even a month later the daily vaccination rates in countries such as France, Germany, Italy and Spain are well below those in Britain and the US. 

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, pictured in Brussels on Sunday, has come under pressure over the bloc's slow jab rollout

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, pictured in Brussels on Sunday, has come under pressure over the bloc’s slow jab rollout 

Brussels did sign a deal with Moderna days before Britain, but again this was after the jab had already passed clinical trials. 

And the EU was again shown to be lagging when the Novavax trial results were published last week showing 89.3 per cent efficacy. 

While Britain has 60million doses ordered, the EU has only conducted ‘exploratory talks’ with the manufacturer, which were completed in December. 

Even then, the 200million doses envisaged in an ‘exploratory contract’ are a smaller stockpile when adjusted for population size than Britain has ordered.  

The EU also has other agreements in place with vaccines from Sanofi-GSK and CureVac, which have yet to conclude clinical trials.  

UNITED STATES

Like Britain, the US has received little praise for its handling of the pandemic but has had better luck with the vaccine rollout than with preventing infections and deaths. 

More than 25million people have received at least one vaccine dose in the US, 2.5 times more than in the EU despite the bloc’s larger population. 

Joe Biden’s target of one million vaccinations a day has already been met, with the president now targeting a 50 per cent increase to take the rate to 1.5million a day. 

People line up to receive a coronavirus vaccine in California, with the US ranking fifth in the world by number of people who have received at least one dose

People line up to receive a coronavirus vaccine in California, with the US ranking fifth in the world by number of people who have received at least one dose 

Deals signed under the Trump administration included an agreement for up to 600million Pfizer doses last July, around the same time as in Britain. 

America is also using the Moderna vaccine after placing an order for 100million doses last August, before either Britain or the EU had signed a deal. 

The federal government poured nearly $2billion into Pfizer’s research last July as well as $1.2billion to AstraZeneca and $1.6billion for Novavax manufacturing. 

However, while the US has a deal for 300million AstraZeneca doses, the jab has yet to be approved by federal regulators. 

Several vaccine trials took place in the United States, including the Johnson & Johnson jab which was shown to be 72 per cent effective there. 

The US is in line to get 100million doses of the jab. 

Back to normal by the summer? Sage expert says Britain could be ‘pretty close’ to pre-pandemic life within months

Britain could be back to something close to pre-coronavirus life as soon as the summer thanks to the UK’s vaccine juggernaut, a top scientist said today.

Professor Mike Tildesley, an infectious disease expert and member of the Sage advisory panel, said the jab could introduce huge changes within months if the rollout continues apace.

And he suggested that the lockdown could start to be eased some time next month as hoped – but will need to be done ‘relatively gradually’ and carefully to avoid a spike in cases.

Professor Mike Tildesley, an infectious disease expert and member of the Sage advisory panel, said the jab could introduce huge changes within months if the rollout continues apace.

Professor Mike Tildesley, an infectious disease expert and member of the Sage advisory panel, said the jab could introduce huge changes within months if the rollout continues apace.

Matt Hancock has long been a summer optimist despite the horrific coronavirus death rate. In December he revealed he had already booked his summer holiday

Matt Hancock has long been a summer optimist despite the horrific coronavirus death rate. In December he revealed he had already booked his summer holiday

His optimism came after a weekend of mixed messages from ministers about what the summer will look like for lockdown-weary Britons.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock raised the hopes of millions yesterday as he said that he expected a ‘Great British summer’ powered by the success of the vaccine rollout.

But less than half an hour after his local BBC interview, Trade Secretary Liz Truss said it was ‘dangerous’ for ministers to go on television ‘making promises about people’s summer holidays’.

Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Today programe this morning, Prof Tildesley said: ‘The danger is that as we start to unwind controls we offset the gains we get from vaccinations so we need to be very careful.

‘But if the vaccine rollout continues at high levels and we do find that actually these vaccines are good at blocking transmission as well as preventing severe infection, then we are in a good position.

‘And hopefully by the summer we can get back to something pretty close to what we have seen before the pandemic was normal.’

WHICH COVID VACCINES WILL BRITAIN GET ITS HANDS ON? 

Pfizer/BioNTech (approved) 40million doses

The breakthrough jab was the first in the world to be proven to successfully block severe Covid-19 last year and it gained approval in the UK on December 2. 

Type: It uses brand-new technology and is known as a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine. Conventional vaccines are produced using weakened forms of the virus, but mRNAs use only the virus’s genetic code to enters cells and tells them to create antigens, which make them look like the coronavirus.

Efficacy: Studies showed the two-dose vaccine could prevent severe illness in 95 per cent of people who were injected with it. 

How many? The Government has ordered 40million doses, enough to vaccinate 20million Brits, but only a handful of million Brits have received the jab so far. 

Oxford University/AstraZeneca (approved) — 100million doses  

Type: Oxford’s vaccine is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus known as adenovirus which is genetically engineered to carry the genetics needed to create ‘spike’ proteins that make cells look like the coronavirus.

Efficacy: It was shown to be about 70 per cent effective at blocking Covid-19. In early results this varied from 62 per cent in people who received the full two doses to 90 per cent in people who received 1.5, however scientists say the 62 per cent figure has improved since those results were published.

How many? The UK has ordered 100million doses.

Moderna (approved) — 17million doses ordered

Type: Moderna’s jab also uses mRNA technology and works in a similar way to the Pfizer one already being offered on the NHS.

Efficacy: It was found to have 95 per cent efficacy in clinical trials.

How many? Britain has ordered 17million doses but was late to the party because it didn’t want to bet on this as well as the Pfizer jab, because both are based on the same technology. The first doses are expected to arrive in March.  

Novavax (waiting approval) — 100million doses

Type: The Novavax vaccine works like other vaccines by teaching the immune system to make antibodies to the coronavirus spike protein. Researchers inserted a modified gene into a virus, called a baculovirus, and allowed it to infect insect cells. Spike proteins from these cells were then assembled into nanoparticles which, while they look like coronavirus, cannot replicate or cause Covid-19.

Efficacy: Novavax said the trials had shown its vaccine was 89.3 per cent effective at preventing Covid-19.

How many? Under a deal with the Government, 60million doses of the vaccine will be produced on Teesside for use in this country. 

Janssen/Johnson and Johnson (waiting approval) — 30million doses 

Type: The jab uses the same adenovirus technology as the Oxford University vaccine, making it just as easy to transport and store, but requires just a single injection to protect against Covid

Efficacy: Johnson and Johnson said it prevents, on average, 66 per cent of all coronavirus cases among people who get the jab.

The company also found it prevented severe symptoms in 85 per cent of people and no-one who got the jab died or needed hospital treatment from 28 days after being inoculated. 

The 66 per cent efficacy was a global average, with the jab preventing 72 per cent of cases in the US but only 57 per cent in South Africa, which is being devastated by a mutated variant that appears to be less susceptible to vaccines and immunity from older versions of the virus. It is promising, however, that the jab still worked in South Africa and still prevented hospitalisation.

How many? The UK has already struck a deal for 30million doses, with the option of ordering 22million more.  

Valneva (in trials) — 100million doses

Type: This jab is an ‘inactivated whole virus vaccine’ which uses a damaged version of the real coronavirus to stimulate the immune system.

Efficacy: Unknown – trials are still ongoing, 

How many? Britain has already ordered 100million doses and the first batches could be delivered by the end of 2021. 

GlaxoSmithKline/Sanofi Pasteur (in trials) — 60million doses  

Type: GSK’s vaccine is based on the existing technology used to produce Sanofi’s seasonal flu vaccine. Genetic material from the surface protein of the Covid virus is inserted into insect cells – the basis of Sanofi’s influenza product – and then injected to provoke an immune response in a human patient.

Efficacy: Unknown – trials are still ongoing.

How many?  The UK in July secured 60million doses of the prospective treatment, but the companies say they will likely not be ready before the end of 2021.

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This post was first published on DailyMail.

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