EU’s ‘acceptance problem’ around AstraZeneca vaccine

 

As Europe deals with the sluggish rollout of the coronavirus vaccine to its citizens, it has been revealed that four out of five of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine doses delivered to European Union countries are yet to be used on a patient.

It comes as global deaths from the coronavirus passed 2.5 million on Thursday (local time).

According to a report in the Guardian, data taken from the European Centre for Disease Prevention Control (ECDC) and other official sources, said that is estimated that 4,849,752 of the 6,134,707 doses distributed among the 27 member states have not yet been administered.

 

Health authorities believe that the decision by countries such as France, Germany, Poland and Italy to only recommend use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for use in people aged under 65 has been a significant factor in its slow administration, with authorities failing to redirect jabs to younger people.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel admitted there was an "acceptance problem" among Europeans being offered the vaccine.

In an interview with the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Ms Merkel said that the vaccine was also being rejected by those concerned over its efficacy and safety following a run of bad publicity.

"There is … currently an acceptance problem with the AstraZeneca vaccine," Ms Merkel said.

"AstraZeneca is a reliable vaccine, effective and safe, approved by the European Medicines Agency and recommended in Germany up to the age of 65 years. All the authorities tell us that this vaccine can be trusted. As long as vaccines are as scarce as they are now, you cannot choose what to vaccinate with."

Asked whether she would volunteer to be administered with the vaccine, Ms Merkel said: "I am 66 years old and I do not belong to the recommended group for AstraZeneca."

 

And as the worldwide death roll passed 2.5 million, Europe remains the hardest-hit region with 842,894 deaths, followed by Latin America and the Caribbean (667,972 deaths) and the US and Canada (528,039). Almost half of deaths have occurred in just five countries: the US, Brazil, Mexico, India and Britain.

 

PFIZER JAB 94 PER CENT EFFECTIVE

Meanwhile, EU leaders met on Thursday (local time) under the spectre of Europe's slow vaccine drive as a new study showed Pfizer's COVID jab to be 94 per cent effective, raising hopes for mass immunisation campaigns to help end the pandemic.

The news came as the World Health Organisation (WHO) urged governments to try to better understand the long-term consequences of coronavirus on some sufferers, calling the impact of prolonged symptoms a "significant" burden.

The virus was centre stage at the virtual EU meeting where leaders were due to discuss Europe's vaccine procurement woes, and also debate so-called "green passports".

Ahead of the videoconference, Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov called for passes to be issued to allow Europeans who have been vaccinated to travel and socialise.

"We want to get back to normal as quickly as possible, have our old lives back and maximum freedom," Mr Kurz tweeted.

The bloc has been plagued by vaccine supply problems and has come under fire for its stuttering rollout.

Just four per cent of the EU's 450 million people have received at least one jab, according to reports, but European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said her goal is to have 70 per cent of adults in the bloc vaccinated by mid-September.

 

 

 

BRITAIN LOWERS COVID ALERT LEVEL

Britain on Thursday (local time) lowered the country's virus alert level down one notch from the highest possible, saying a fall in cases had reduced the threat to the state-run National Health Service.

Since January, the country has been at the highest level 5, indicating a "material risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed" and a need for "extremely strict" social distancing.

It is now moving to level 4, indicating a "high or rising level of transmission" with enforced social distancing.

The UK's chief medical officers and the medical director of NHS England said they had agreed to the move as cases have been "consistently declining" and the threat of the NHS "being overwhelmed within 21 days has receded".

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he is "very optimistic" that all coronavirus restrictions will be lifted by June 21 as the vaccine rollout has led to a sharp fall in cases, hospitalisations and deaths.

The UK has administered a first dose of coronavirus vaccine to more than 18 million people.

On Wednesday it reported 9,938 new cases and 442 deaths. Since the start of the pandemic the country has registered more than four million cases and over 121,000 people have died.

 

 

 

 

ISRAEL, US LEAD VACCINE ROLLOUTS

The COVID-19 vaccines are boosting hopes that countries can finally start to emerge from the pandemic that has killed more than 2.4 million people and infected at least 112 million worldwide.

But rollouts have been patchy so far and most of the 217 million vaccine doses administered globally have gone to wealthier countries, with Israel and the United States leading the way.

Britain, which has also forged ahead with its vaccine drive, said Thursday (local time) it was lowering its alert level from the highest tier, citing a dip in cases.

The latest data about the Pfizer vaccine came from a large real-world study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that involved 1.2 million people in Israel, where 52 per cent of the population has received at least one dose.

The jab's efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19 was 94 per cent seven or more days after the second dose - very close to the 95 per cent achieved during clinical trials.

"This is the first peer-reviewed large scale evidence for the effectiveness of a vaccine in real world conditions," Ben Reis, a researcher at Harvard Medical School and one of the paper's authors, told reporters.

And on Thursday (local time), Pfizer and BioNTech said they were looking into adding a third dose to their vaccine regimen, six to 12 months after the booster jab.

The firms also said they were talking to regulators about testing a modified version of their vaccine to target the more contagious South African variant.

As spirits were buoyed over the good vaccine news, the WHO urged governments to look into long-term COVID, which causes some people to show symptoms for months, including tiredness, brain fog, and cardiac and neurological disorders.

"It's a clear priority for WHO, and of the utmost importance. It should be for every health authority," said Hans Kluge, regional director for WHO Europe.

In France, hopes of a return to normal on the sports front were dashed after more than a dozen rugby players and staff tested positive, forcing Sunday's Six Nations match against Scotland to be scrapped.

And in Japan, organisers of the delayed Olympic torch relay said fans could line the route when it kicks off next month, but cheering is strictly banned and social distancing will be enforced.

Some sex workers in Bangladesh's largest brothel started getting their vaccines, a health official said Thursday.

Beauty, 40, who goes by one name, said she was initially hesitant about getting the shot.

"But the health officials reassured us. Now we understand it is important as we meet many people every day," she said.

Meanwhile in the US, business has been unexpectedly booming for plastic surgeons who have seen an uptick in cosmetic procedures - seemingly a Zoom-era speciality.

"It's something new when you have to stare at your face for a couple of hours a day, and there's only so much you can do with good lighting and good angles," said real estate trainee Hudson Young after a series of nips and tucks.

Originally published as EU's 'acceptance problem' around AstraZeneca vaccine



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