EU split over Moderna as 16 states rejected vaccine before UK breakthrough

Moderna vaccine: Unpaid carer receives first UK jab

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The first doses of the Moderna jab were administered at West Wales General Hospital on Wednesday, with a total of 5,000 doses having been distributed to vaccination centres across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire. Moderna is the third vaccine to be approved for use in the UK, and is being rolled out alongside jabs from Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford University-AstraZeneca. The UK has purchased 17 million doses, enough for 8.5 million people, and phase three results suggest the vaccine has 100 percent efficacy against severe cases of coronavirus.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock hailed the new key milestone in the fight against coronavirus, saying: “I’m delighted we can start the UK rollout of the Moderna vaccine in west Wales today.

“The UK Government has secured vaccines on behalf of the entire nation and the vaccination programme has shown our country working together at its best.

“Three out of every five people across the whole United Kingdom have received at least one dose, and today we start with the third approved vaccine. Wherever you live, when you get the call, get the jab.”

So far, 60 percent of Britain’s adult population have had at least one dose.

The EU, which accounts for 27 nations, is still stuck at 13 percent.

This can arguably be attributed to Brussels’ slow decision-making and clunky contracting.

Last month, it emerged that more than half of EU countries did not order as many doses of Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine as they could have.

After opposition parties blamed the Hungarian government for not buying enough Western vaccines, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s chief of staff, Gergely Gulyás, published the delivery schedule and two pages of the EU’s purchasing agreement with the American producer.

Mr Gulyás confirmed his government did not purchase as many Moderna doses as it could have but only because they would have arrived too late in 2021.

It therefore decided to stick with its initial order for 1.7 million doses of the American vaccine and look elsewhere.

Hungary is the only country in the EU to currently be administering both the Chinese and Russian vaccines in addition to Western ones.

POLITICO’s Jili Bayer and Jillian Deutsch explained in a report at the beginning of March: “The European Commission has two contracts with Moderna for a total of 460 million doses.

“The Commission’s first contract with Moderna secured EU countries an initial 80 million doses, and included the option for countries to purchase an additional 80 million doses.

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“The EU exercised this option in December.

“The Commission then signed a second contract with Moderna in February for another 300 million doses.”

Mr Gulyás wrote in his Facebook post: “Additional orders for Moderna would have arrived at a time when there would already be sufficient vaccines from other sources.”

The schedule confirmed that a number of EU countries similarly chose not to purchase any of the additional Moderna doses from the December top-up.

The document showed 16 countries opted out, including Poland, Romania, Belgium, Greece, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Ireland, Lithuania, Slovenia, Latvia, Estonia, Cyprus, Luxembourg and Malta.

The schedule also revealed that Portugal, Austria and Croatia placed smaller orders for the second batch of Moderna doses.

On the other hand, Germany and Denmark both opted for the top-up.

Germany, which initially ordered 14 million doses, made a second order of more than 35 million.

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Denmark made a second order of nearly five million.

The schedule, which was not dated, appears to only show deliveries from the EU’s first contract.

It remains unclear whether these countries placed orders when the Commission signed a second contract with Moderna in February.

Mr Gulyás blamed the company for being too slow in its deliveries, writing that actual fulfillment of the contract was “progressing worse” than the original schedule.

Moderna’s deliveries to the EU were short throughout February, sometimes as high as 25 percent in one week.

However, in an interview with AFP in November, the company CEO Stéphane Bancel warned slow deliveries would have been the bloc’s fault.

The Frenchman explained how dealing with 27 member countries was slowing everything down.

By contrast, he claimed the American company had struck a deal with Canadian authorities two weeks after starting talks.

Mr Bancel said: “It is clear that with a delay this is not going to limit the total amount but it is going to slow down delivery.”

When Moderna reported efficacy rates higher than 90 percent on November 16, the UK managed to wrap a deal with the American company that same day.

The deal with the EU was close to completion, but the Commission failed to get everyone on board.

The bloc and Moderna only signed a contract nine days later, on November 25.

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