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  • The EU's vaccine rollout hasn't gone smoothly.

  • The regulators have been blamed for taking too long to approve vaccines,

  • suppliers have missed delivery targets and more recently, 13 EU nations

  • suspended the use of the AstraZeneca shot over fears about possible side effects.

  • It is a messy picture, further complicated by the unique nature of European politics.

  • So, what's going wrong with the EU's vaccine rollout?

  • The European Union, a group of 27 advanced economies,

  • is lagging in terms of how many people have been vaccinated so far against coronavirus.

  • While Israel, the UAE and the U.S. are quite advanced in their vaccination drives,

  • the EU is only slightly above the global average inoculation rate so far,

  • despite extensive resources and advanced vaccine production capacities.

  • There are a few reasons behind these numbers,

  • starting with: how much was invested in research at the start.

  • If we look at the differences between how did the U.S. approach this

  • and how did Europe approach this, we see two quite different strategies.

  • The U.S. government said 'we are going to push money into the research and development,

  • we are going to subsidize and reduce the risk for companies,

  • we are going to push money in manufacturing, we are going to pay companies early on,

  • you scale up production even if we don't know if your product is going to be successful'.

  • Europe took a very different approach. They didn't put as much money into R&D.

  • Some, but not at the scale of the U.S. 

  • and instead they put all  of the emphasis at the end.

  • By the end of 2020, the U.S. government had committed almost $13 billion

  • to develop, manufacture and distribute vaccines.

  • In comparison, the EU has only invested about $1.2 billion in vaccine research

  • and another $3.4 billion in expanding production capacity.

  • And although this total doesn't include contributions from individual member countries,

  • it contrasts starkly with the efforts made across the Atlantic.

  • This brings us to the next step in putting together a vaccination program:

  • negotiating contracts with the vaccine manufacturers.

  • The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU,

  • assumed the responsibility for this task on behalf of the bloc.

  • By negotiating as one, smaller countries within the bloc

  • could leverage the body's power to secure access to the future vaccines and negotiate lower prices.

  • However, the Commission struck deals with the pharma firms later than the U.S. and the U.K.

  • While these countries inked  their first deals in May 2020, 

  • the EU only closed its first  vaccine agreements in August.

  • This three-month delay has been viewed as one of the reasons

  • why it took EU member states longer to receive Covid-19 shots.

  • Then there is the issue of vaccine approval.

  • The first pharmaceutical venture to announce positive results from its Covid shot

  • was a joint effort between American drug giant Pfizer and German firm BioNTech.

  • The U.K. greenlit their shot on December 2. 

  • In the U.S., the FDA approved the same vaccine on December 11,

  • while the European Medicines Agency only announced they had reached the same decision on December 21.

  • MHRA had adopted a rolling approval model, so they were obviously looking at data

  • at every stage of the process, from the early-phase lab-based studies

  • right through to the phase 3 trials. EMA was actually adopting a similar model,

  • but their systems are just a little bit less responsive and I think potentially more complex.

  • I think it's really important to emphasize that the rigor of both systems is really strong.

  • Even as other vaccines entered the market in the following weeks and months,

  • that didn't end the challenges for European nations.

  • In fact, the region has been receiving significantly fewer doses than it initially expected

  • from one supplier in particular: AstraZeneca.

  • The EU was initially expecting 90 million doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine in the first quarter of 2021.

  • However, the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical giant said it could only deliver 40 million doses

  • and then further revised this number down to just 30 million doses.

  • AstraZeneca has pinned the blame for the delay on low yields in European plants.

  • Like you, of course I am disappointed that lower-than-expected output

  • in our dedicated European supply chain has affected our ability to deliver,

  • but I want to assure you that we are working up production and doing everything that we can.

  • But then things got worse.

  • In addition to adjusting its first-quarter targets, the firm also said it could not deliver

  • the 180 million vaccines that the EU was expecting in the second quarter.

  • Instead, it will provide less than half.

  • We also know that AstraZeneca has unfortunately under-produced and under-delivered.

  • And this painfully, of course, reduced the speed of the vaccination campaign.

  • These delivery issues infuriated many officials in Brussels,

  • who are keen to ensure that the region gets as many vaccines as possible.

  • As a result, the Commission introduced restrictions on the export of Covid-19 vaccines at the end of January 2021.

  • Do you think that the EU is indeed practicing vaccine nationalism?

  • I think the EU is definitely prioritizing its population first

  • but no different from other high-income countries or regions.

  • The United States is doing the same, the U.K. is doing the same,

  • so in that sense, it is no different. I think where the nuance is a bit,

  • that we have to be careful with the notion that the EU is stockpiling vaccines,

  • they are rolling out the vaccines that they get.

  • Between the start of February and late March, the EU exported 43 million vaccines to 33 countries.

  • The U.K., which recently left the bloc in a messy breakup,

  • was the biggest recipient, receiving just under 11 million doses.

  • The European Union has indeed, we have to say, been exporting

  • quite a substantial amount of vaccines. These export bans are not particularly helpful

  • and because European strategy is quite focused on European production of vaccines,

  • we should move beyond this logic.

  • Beyond the delivery issues, the EU's vaccine program has also been clouded

  • by decisions to suspend the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine temporarily.

  • In mid-March, 13 out of the 27 EU nations halted injections of the AstraZeneca shot

  • after a number of blood clot cases were observed in people who had received this shot.

  • Our position is that the benefits continue to outweigh the risks.

  • The European Medicines Agency maintained that member states should continue using this jab,

  • even while reviewing the data from the incidents. But these nations opted for the most cautious approach.

  • This is actually a sign that the alert system is working.

  • These countries and Europe as a whole have a well-established mechanism

  • for reporting adverse events and it's not uncommon when you have got

  • millions of people being vaccinated that there will be events and they need to be studied.

  • On the other hand, it causes harm. So the pause is scientifically justified in terms of

  • 'let's have time to look at the data and the cases', but the problem is that Europe as whole

  • and some countries in particular are facing another wave of Covid.

  • People are dying from this disease every single day. And if you only have a few days' delay in rollout

  • of a particular vaccine that is available, it means people will not receive it

  • and then at a population level you will have fewer people protected.

  • While most EU countries later resumed using the AstraZeneca shot after it was

  • deemed safe by Europe's drugs regulator, mistrust in the vaccine was growing.

  • A recent poll showed that German, French, Italian and Spanish citizens were

  • already less confident about AstraZeneca's vaccine compared with other shots.

  • But the same poll showed these citizens became even more skeptical about its safety following the suspensions.

  • And what about those countries in the bloc which continued to use the vaccine?

  • In Belgium, health authorities believed it would beirresponsibleto halt its use

  • while the blood clot cases were being reviewed.

  • The additional challenge facing the EU is that while the Commission is responsible

  • for negotiating contracts and overseeing exports of vaccines,

  • most of the responsibility for health policy remains with the individual countries.

  • It's a big organization and often it is not easy to get everybody on the same page

  • but nevertheless, the negotiation tried to spread the risk between different options

  • because at the time nobody really knew which one, or which ones, would be able

  • to reach the market, being safe and effective.

  • And therefore there was a significant risk involved in choosing the different options.

  • But we also need to be aware that health has not been a part of the core tasks of the EU.

  • Do you think that perhaps countries would have been better if they had done this alone?

  • I think it is very unlikely, this is a very competitive situation,

  • to try and negotiate the vaccines, so eventually some of the bigger countries

  • might be better off because they have more bargaining power but then

  • the smaller countries would probably be in a more difficult situation.

  • There have also been issues at the national level, such as bureaucratic red tape

  • slowing down the initial distribution of vaccines in France.

  • But there are some brighter prospects ahead for the EU's vaccine rollout.

  • The EU expects to receive 55 million doses of Johnson&Johnson's single-shot vaccine,

  • 200 million from Pfizer/BioNTech, 35 million from Moderna

  • and 70 million from AstraZeneca between April and June.

  • And this means the EU is well placed to achieve its target of

  • vaccinating 70% of the adult population by the end of summer.

  • This target is critical for the health of the bloc's citizens, and will also bring economic benefits.

  • The European Central Bank has projected a 4% increase in GDP this year

  • for the 19 countries that share the euro. However this forecast is heavily dependent

  • on a successful vaccine rollout, and it still doesn't lift economic activity to pre-pandemic levels.

  • Hi everyone, thank you for watching. If you have any ideas for any future videos?

  • Let us know in the comments section, and I will see you soon.

The EU's vaccine rollout hasn't gone smoothly.

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What's going wrong with the EU's vaccine rollout? | CNBC Reports

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    Summer posted on 2021/04/03
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