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Vaccine — EU reaches deal with Pfizer, BioNTech

WebPublicaPress (New York/Berlin) – The agreement that could see Europe secure 200 million doses of an experimental coronavirus vaccine is set to be approved on Wednesday by the European Commission, DW (Deutsche Welle) reported.  A European Commission spokesman said Tuesday that the EU had concluded negotiations with Pfizer and BioNTech to secure millions of doses of their coronavirus vaccine. The announcement comes just a day after the companies announced their experimental vaccine was shown to be 90% effective in preventing COVID-19. The Commission is expected to approve the agreement on Wednesday.

A nurse prepares a shot as a study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine

Securing vaccine rollout in the EU

German Health Minister Jens Spahn said the vaccine is likely to be ready in the first quarter of 2021 and hopes to secure 100 million doses for Germany.

Spahn, who contracted COVID-19 himself in late October, said it’s important that Germany and the rest of the EU don’t fall behind in the vaccine rollout.

“We of course couldn’t explain to Europeans and especially to Germans if a vaccine would be available and [distributed] in the USA or in other regions in the world, but not in Germany and Europe.”

Spahn emphasized that the European Commission had the mandate to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies — not individual states.

France, Germany, Spain and others in the 27-member bloc “absolutely” would have been able to secure national contracts, Spahn said. “The question is, whether that would have reflected our understanding of European solidarity.”

What is the latest on the vaccine?

On Monday, German company BioNTech and US firm Pfizer said their jointly-produced vaccine was 90% effective at preventing COVID-19. The announcement is a breakthrough in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, although the vaccine is still being tested in Phase II trials.

Researchers say they haven’t found any safety concerns in their trials, although that will need to continue to be tested. BioNTech said the immunization effect could “last for at least a year” but the duration of the effect remains to be seen.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will need to be administered in two injections, meaning that large numbers of doses will need to be produced.

When will the vaccine be available?

Although researchers and health agencies are working as quickly as possible, safety and public trust remain high priorities. The German government and others in Europe have made it clear that they would not rollout the vaccine until they were sure about its safety.

German lawmaker Dr. Andrew UIllmann told DW there had to be a discussion on how any vaccine would be distributed.

“We cannot say America first or Europe first,” he said. “Because we have a global responsibility in the global health arena.”

Countries around the world are clamoring to get sign contracts for millions of doses. Germany’s Spahn said on Monday the vaccine isn’t likely to come onto the market in 2020, but can be expected in the first three months of 2021. The British government, on the other hand, asked its National Health Service on Tuesday to prepare to deploy it from the start of December.

rs/rt (AFP, Reuters)

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