EU vaccine strategy 'a recipe for disaster' says MEP
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Canada relies on the EU for its procurement of vaccines as the country lacks home-grown vaccines and is not receiving jabs from neighbouring US. But since Brussels set up a mechanism to monitor vaccine exports on January 30, Moderna’s delivery of vaccines to Canada has hit delays.
The company has encountered problems with its European supply chain and restrictions on exports of vaccine supplies.
A Canadian government source told the Toronto Star that Moderna is trying to source the material needed to produce its vaccine, and to meet demand for materials needed to package the vaccines.
The source said the company’s own supply for materials has been affected by the EU’s new bid to control what goes out of the bloc before all member states are provided with the amount of jabs they need.
Moderna’s next shipment will be one-third smaller than expected – with only 168,000 jabs arriving instead of 250,000 – while Pfizer deliveries have seen a month-long slowdown because of delays at a manufacturing plant in Belgium.
On Thursday, the European Commission said that it has so far approved all requests for the export of COVID-19 vaccines, including to Britain, the United States, China and Japan.
The accommodating stance is expected to alleviate concerns from global partners about the EU’s willingness to allow COVID-19 vaccines to leave its territory, despite the 27-nation bloc having faced supply disruptions and a cut in vaccine deliveries.
The EU granted in total 37 authorisations for vaccine exports to 21 countries between January 30 and February 10, the spokeswoman said, without giving precise figures on the number of shots being exported from factories in the EU, citing confidentiality reasons.
The EU had exported millions of vaccines to several countries including Britain, Israel, China and Canada before the monitoring scheme was set up, according to customs data cited in an EU internal document seen by Reuters.
A second EU official said exports since the end of January concerned only vaccines produced by Pfizer Inc with BioNTech and Moderna Inc.
Nations that received COVID-19 vaccines produced in the EU since January 30 are: Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Oman, Panama, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Given the central role played by the EU for the international supply of vaccines, the bloc’s decision to register vaccine exports had caused a global outcry.
It came after AstraZeneca Plc announced large delivery cuts to the EU, and had told EU officials it could not ship doses from factories in Britain because of obligations it had under a contract with the British government, EU officials told Reuters in January.
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London has said it has no export ban in place for COVID-19 vaccines, but has repeatedly declined to comment on whether the contract it has with AstraZeneca prevents shipment of doses to the EU.
Moderna’s country manager for Canada, Patricia Gauthier, confirmed the company’s effort to scale up production in Switzerland is a factor in delayed deliveries to countries outside of the United States.
In a statement to the Toronto Star, Moderna provided revised short-term delivery guidance “outside of the US, including to the government of Canada based on the ramp up trajectory of drug substance manufacturing in Switzerland.”
The company also confirmed its contract with Canada specifies “delivery volumes per quarter,” and said it will “meet its contractual commitments for the first quarter and the following quarters in order to deliver 40 million doses by the end of the third quarter.”
Meanwhile, the Canadian province of Manitoba said on Thursday it will buy 2 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate now in early trials.
The provincial government bought the doses from Alberta-based Providence Therapeutics, Premier Brian Pallister said. The company is developing a candidate similar to those produced by Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc.
Alberta’s premier also said his government is pursuing vaccine supplies because of federal delays procuring doses internationally.
If approved by the regulator, Health Canada, Providence would supply Manitoba with its first 200,000 doses late this year at the earliest. Pallister did not release financial terms.
Asked if the federal government had concerns about provinces buying their own supplies, Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Ottawa has never prevented them from doing so.
In total, Manitoba will buy 2 million doses for the province of 1.4 million people. Emergent BioSolutions would fill vials at its Winnipeg plant, but the doses will be manufactured by another company, Emergent spokeswoman Assal Hellmer said.
Pallister, a Progressive Conservative, has criticized Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, saying he has not delivered vaccines fast enough.
Canada’s rate of vaccination lags behind rates per capita in the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries, but the number of new infections is dropping amid widespread restrictions.
“Canada first is in danger of becoming Canada last,” Pallister said. “I just want a Canadian home-field advantage for us.”
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