EU VACCINATION 2020

Source: https://ec.europa.eu/

Writer: Hendra Manurung is currently a doctoral candidate in international relations at Padjadjaran University, Bandung, West Java

EU countries simultaneously initiate COVID-19 vaccination for their citizens from 27 to 29 December 2020. The push for mass vaccination has become even more urgent as the spread of cases of the global outbreak is due to the discovery of a new variant of the COVID-19 virus which originated in England a week before Christmas celebrations.

Therefore, through contextual phenomenon currently happens in the blue continent, most European countries are working to ensure that there will be access to safe vaccines across Europe, and encourages a coordinated approach of vaccination strategies for deployment of the vaccines.

The European Union has secured almost 2 billion doses of potential vaccine through six advance purchase agreements (APAs) for promising vaccine candidates, i.e.: 1) AstraZaneca: 300+100 million doses; 2) Sanofi-GSK: 300 million doses; 3) Janssen P.NV: 200+200 million doses; 4) BioNTech-Pfizer: 200+100 million doses; 5) CureVac: 225+180 million doses; 6) Moderna: 80+80 million doses (https://www.consilium.europa.eu).

Moreover, in line with the 17 June 2020 EU Vaccines Strategy, the European Commission and the Member States are securing the production of vaccines against COVID-19 through Advance Purchase Agreements with vaccine producers in Europe. Any vaccine will need to be authorized optimally by the European Medicine Agency according to regular safety and efficacy standards. Thus, all EU member states should start preparing a common vaccination strategy for vaccine deployment.

Previously, since the end of June 2020, some European Union countries have coordinated with global pharmaceutical companies to secure safe and effective vaccination for their citizens. These pharmaceutical companies have begun to apply for authorization to the European Medicines Agency (EMA), a condition they have to meet in order to deploy their vaccines on the EU’s market.  If EMA’s opinion is positive, vaccination could start just a few weeks ahead.

Thereafter, AstraZeneca as an international pharmaceutical company has a special condition with an ability to sell more in millions of doses optionally and guarantee the quantity of vaccine secured in million doses to the EU countries.

Further, a mass vaccination program began rolling out across the European Union (EU) affected COVID-19 countries on 27 December 2020 after several countries reported cases of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus. Thus, initial vaccination is given to health workers and those most at risk of contracting the disease. Most Western European and Southern European countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal, and Spain have started injections in a campaign dubbed Vaccine Day or known as ‘V-Day:

Germany started its first vaccination campaign on 26 December 2020 and prioritized a small number of people in nursing homes inoculated at nursing homes in the city of Halberstadt. The German federal government plans to distribute more than 1.3 million doses of the vaccine to local health authorities starting at the end of December 2020.

Berlin plans to distribute more than 1.3 million doses by the end of 2020, and around 700 thousand doses per week starting January 2021. The COVID-19 vaccination program in Germany is free and can be implemented by every citizen starting mid-2021 once priority groups obtain it.

Hungary and Slovakia followed Germany and started vaccinating people on Saturday, 26/12/2020, a day before the vaccination launch announced by the EU.

Also, France started giving vaccines on Sunday, 27 December 2020. The country’s Ministry of Health declared that it had ordered nearly 68 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine from the EU. Related shipments will be made in the period of December 2020 and July 2021.

The first cases of a new variant of the coronavirus found in Britain were, according to British authorities, 70 percent more contagious. The Covid-19 mutation variant was detected in France, Ireland, and Sweden over the weekend. Fear of the new variant led Chinese aviation regulators to suspend flights to and from the UK on Sunday, 27/12/2020, until at least it lasts until January 10, 2021.

More than 40 countries, including France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, and Japan have also imposed travel restrictions from the UK. BioNTech believes that the coronavirus vaccine is expected to work against the new variant of the COVID-19 virus from the UK. But the German company says further studies are needed to fully confirm the efficacy of the vaccine it produces.

The UK government declares that it has allocated more than US$ 700 million (IDR 9.9 trillion) to ensure that lower-middle-income countries can vaccinate the continent’s most vulnerable populations.

Zimbabwe is one of the African countries that has received an offer from the British government to vaccinate 20 percent of Zimbabweans to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic (Herald, 24/12/2020). That 20 percent figure for COVID-19 vaccine assistance will cover the 3 million most vulnerable people in the country.

The Zimbabwean government plans to immediately prioritize vaccinations for frontline health workers and other vulnerable groups such as the elderly.

Zimbabwe is on the right track to becoming one of the African countries that will benefit from the international community regarding the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine aid.

The EU’s regional vaccination campaign is coordinated on a scale unprecedented on the European continent. This step is considered important and a top priority for EU leaders and policy-makers, particularly in controlling the spread of the global pandemic, because it is given to around 450 million people in the EU. In Italy, the first dose of a vaccine developed by the United States drug-maker Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.

Unfortunately, as of the last week of December 2020, Italy had recorded the highest death toll in Europe with 72,000, and it still has a long way to go to contain and limit the spread of the virus. A total of 9750 doses of the vaccine, which passed European regulations, have arrived in the country, which has an iconic Colosseum tourist destination. Italian Ministry of Health said that so far the dose was distributed in 20 regions.

Totally and still counting, these 27 EU countries have recorded nearly 16 million coronavirus infections and more than 353,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. More than 1.7 million people have died worldwide. Each decision-maker in EU countries is sure to make their own decisions about who should get the first injection. Most EU leaders pledged to prioritize vaccines for the elderly and residents in nursing homes.

It is targeted that all adult citizens in EU countries will be vaccinated during 2021.

Outside the EU countries, a number of countries have also implemented mass vaccinations, including China, Russia, Canada, the US, Switzerland, Serbia, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Mexico, Chile, and Costa Rica.

Meanwhile, the world is still currently competing to develop a Covid-19 vaccine, in which China has promised its neighboring countries in Southeast Asia to be at the forefront of meeting the need for vaccine availability after the development of vaccines in their country is ready for distribution.

A number of countries from Malaysia, the Philippines, to several countries in Africa, have been given priority access to the Chinese coronavirus vaccine. Chinese companies have also signed agreements with some of these developing countries to test and produce coronavirus vaccines. However, China’s aid has drawn many questions from world health experts that it is a diplomatic approach that can pressure other countries, particularly to support Beijing’s commercial and political interests under President Xi Jinping leadership.

It is concluded, as worldwide countries learn to live with the pandemic, the development and swift global deployment of safe and effective vaccines against COVID-19 remains an essential element in the eventual solution to overcome the current national public health crisis sooner or later.

‘Hope for the best and prepare for the worst’ by Roger L’Estrange (Seneca’s Morals, 1702).

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