Vaccine: UK 'taken more seriously' by EU claims expert
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The European Commission President announced a €75million war chest to ramp up testing and vaccinations across the EU to combat the spread of Covid variants. In a statement, the Brussels-based EU executive said it would work to “reduce from future variants”. But eurocrats singled out Britain’s mutant strain, which first emerged in south-east England, as a potential risk to the bloc.
The Commission said: “A number of variants of coronavirus are already causing great concern as they are more transmissible and spreading rapidly across Europe.
“According to the European Centre for Disease prevention, the B.1.1.7 variant first reported in Britain appears to be on course to become dominant over the previous strains in the EU.”
As part of the plan to counter new strains of the virus, Mrs von der Leyen said the bloc needed to spot mutations faster and support the tweaking of vaccines to clamp down on them.
The so-called “HERA incubator” programme will bring together health authorities and laboratories under one umbrella, with its own EU funding.
Mrs von der Leyen told reporters: “Our priority is to ensure that all Europeans have access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines as soon as possible.
“At the same time, new variants of the virus are emerging fast and we must adapt our response even faster.
“To stay ahead of the curve, we are launching today the HERA Incubator.
“It brings together science, industry and public authorities, and pulls all available resources to enable us to respond to this challenge.”
The Commission is planning to fast-track the authorisation process for coronavirus vaccines targeting mutant strains.
It has also signed a new agreement to secure hundreds of millions of additional doses after the bloc’s vaccination scheme was hit by significant delays.
Brussels finalised terms on a deal with Pfizer for 200 million more doses, and announced a major new order of 150 million more Moderna jabs.
Mrs von der Leyen said: “Of course, we have to fight with many, many detailed problems, bottlenecks, delays, which we do overcome step by step.
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“But it’s an ongoing learning process.”
EU countries are lagging behind Britain and the United State’s vaccination efforts.
The bloc has only dished out 22.3 million doses of coronavirus vaccines, at a rate of five per 100 people.
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Whereas, Britain – with a population seven-times smaller – has vaccinated more than 16 million people alone, about one-fifth of its citizens.
But EU single market chief Thierry Breton said the bloc was now on a “war footing” in the rollout of vaccines.
He said the UK-based AstraZeneca had ramped up production of the Oxford-produced jab, after delaying delivery to the bloc due to manufacturing hiccups on the Continent.
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