International 22/03/2021

Brussels pledges 300 million doses in second quarter

Internal Market Commissioner forecasts collective immunity for July 14

2 min
A healthcare professional prepares to administer a dose of AstraZeneca's vaccine

SabadellThe European Union could be immunised against covid-19 on 14 July. This is the forecast made by the Commissioner for the Internal Market, the French Thierry Breton: "We clearly have in our hands the capacity to deliver [to member states] between 300 and 350 million doses by the end of June," Breton said on Sunday night in an interview with the French television channel TF1. This would allow, according to him, "to achieve immunity at continent level" around July 14, coinciding with France's national holiday.

Breton also stressed that the EU does not depend "on anyone" to be able to have these doses in the next three months, since all these vaccines will be produced in plants located within the Union. Taking into account that member states have the ability to veto the export of vaccines produced within their territory, this would guarantee the supply of doses, the great obstacle that the EU has encountered so far in immunising its citizens.

So far, about 60 million units of covid-19 vaccine have been administered in the European Union. This, added to the more than 300 million doses Breton is promising for the second quarter (and those that have already been distributed but not yet administered), brings the total to around 400 million units. The vaccines used so far require two doses to ensure immunisation, but with Janssen's vaccine, which will begin to be distributed from mid-April, one injection is enough. Therefore, these 400 million doses should be enough to vaccinate 70% of the adult population of the EU (about 260 million people), which is the threshold at which a population is considered to be immunized.

Accelerating the pace

In any case, beyond the availability of vaccines, to achieve this goal would also have to ensure that the health systems of the states are able to significantly increase the pace of vaccination: right now they are administering about seven million vaccines every week, but to administer 350 million in the next four months they would have to triple this ratio.

The European Commission has long since set a target of having 70% of the adult population vaccinated by the summer and, as Breton has now pointed out, the July 14 date is similar to what has been proposed in the United States (where President Joe Biden designated July 4, American Independence Day, as "virus independence day") and in the United Kingdom, where the intention is that immunity will have been achieved by June 21, coinciding with the start of summer

"We don't need Sputnik V"

Thierry Breton also referred to the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine, but did so to distance the option of it ending up in widespread use in the European Union. "We don't need it at all," he said, according to Efe, and pointed out the difficulties that Russian laboratories are encountering to mass produce it, so they are looking for places to produce it in EU territory. Probably, he said, European countries will end up helping Russia to manufacture its vaccine later.

Breton's position contrasts with that expressed last week by German Health Minister Jens Spahn, who expressed his clear predisposition to close agreements with Russia to be able to use Sputnik V in his country. "I am very much in favour of us doing it at state level if the European Union doesn't do something," he warned. Also within the EU, Hungary has long since begun to use the Russian vaccine, and countries such as Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland have shown interest.

Hungary approves two new vaccines

Hungarian Health authorities have authorised two new vaccines against covid-19: Chinese pharmaceutical CanSino's and Covidshield, an Indian version of the AstraZeneca vaccine. So far, however, they will not be generally allowed. "We are in a race against time. We will go to the end of the Earth to obtain as many safe and efficient doses as possible", said Hungarian Head of Public Health, Cecilia Muller.

The country had already previously authorised massive use of Sputnik V, Chinese vaccine Sinopharm, which it is using alongside Pfizer's, Moderna's and AstraZeneca's, which have been authorised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). This adquisition of vaccine doses independently from the EU has meant Hungary is the EU country with the second largest proportion of vaccinated citizens: 21,42% have received at least the first vaccine, which conrasts with 12% for countries such as France, Germany, Italy or Spain, which are cloase to 12%.

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