A version of this story appeared in the January 28 edition of CNN’s Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction newsletter. Sign up here to receive the need-to-know headlines every weekday.
Remember all that talk about vaccine solidarity? The spat over Covid-19 vaccine supplies is getting more embarrassing each day.
The European Union, which has long prided itself on rejecting nationalism in favor of international cooperation, is fighting an ugly battle with British-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca over delays in supply, and threatening to impose export controls on vaccines.
AstraZeneca says the EU has been too slow to place orders while EU officials are pushing back against what they call “the logic of first come first served.” European Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides lashed out, saying, “That may work at the neighborhood butchers but not in contracts, and not in our advanced purchase agreements.”
“We lose people everyday. These are not numbers, they are not statistics, these are persons … pharmaceutical companies, vaccine developers, have moral, societal and contractual responsibilities which they need to uphold,” she added.
EU officials have declined to specify the scale of the vaccine shortfall, but it’s clear that it is large enough to cause problems. German Health Minister Jens Spahn warned today the country will face shortages for at least another 10 weeks. Italy had to revise its vaccination program, saying the over-80s would be vaccinated four weeks later than previously planned. In Spain, the regional government of Madrid has stopped administering first doses of the vaccine for the next two weeks to ensure there is enough to provide second doses for those who already got their first shots.
The EU isn’t the only one scrambling for vaccines. In the United States, many states – including New York, South Carolina, Hawaii and Florida – have had to cancel or delay thousands of vaccination appointments because of supply shortages and the unpredictability of shipment sizes. One official described the current situation as the “Hunger Games approach.”
Manufacturing and distributing hundreds of millions of vaccines from scratch was always going to be hard. But while the rich countries of the world fight over the supplies, the developing world is being left behind.
US President Joe Biden is aiming to have almost the entire US population vaccinated by the end of summer or early fall. The European Commission’s goal is for 70% of adults to be inoculated by June. The UK is hoping to offer the vaccine to all adults by September.
Meanwhile, the People’s Vaccine Alliance has estimated that nine out of 10 people in the world’s poorest countries will miss out on the vaccine this year.
YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED.
Q: Why can’t other companies manufacture the approved vaccines?
A: When asked about US President Joe Biden’s use of the Defense Production Act, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said the purpose was to “facilitate” the process of administering vaccines, and not to make more doses.
“You just can’t open up another factory from a company that isn’t Moderna, or isn’t Pfizer, and say make mRNA vaccine. It’s just not going to happen that way, because of the process. It’s one that is difficult, in the sense of starting from scratch,” Fauci told Anderson Cooper during a CNN Global Town Hall yesterday.
Some cooperation is possible though. Sanofi said it will fill and pack millions of doses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine from July in an effort to help meet the huge demand for the US drugmaker’s shots.
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WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY
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The UK was the first country to begin inoculating its citizens with a fully vetted and authorized Covid-19 vaccine, and is among the countries with the highest number of shots administered per capita.
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ON OUR RADAR
- Regeneron says its monoclonal antibody cocktail works against the new coronavirus variants.
- The son of polio vaccine creator Jonas Salk got the Covid-19 vaccine. He wants you to do it, too.
- British people arriving home from “high risk” countries will have to undergo a 10-day hotel quarantine at their own expense. Non-UK residents will be refused entry.
- Millions in US vaccine research funds went to unrelated office expenses instead, HHS inspector general says.
- Washington state hospital has apologized after inviting donors to sign up for a Covid-19 vaccine.
- Oklahoma state officials are trying to return the state’s $2 million stockpile of hydroxychloroquine.
- Sekou Smith, an NBA reporter and analyst for more than two decades, has died from Covid-19. He was 48.