London approves vaccine: Covid breakthrough?
The UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has approved the Covid-19 vaccine from Biontech and Pfizer. The first 800,000 Britons are to be vaccinated with BNT162b2 as early as next week. British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he was proud that the UK had become the first state to approve a Covid-19 vaccine. But not all commentators see the express approval as a major step forward.
Embarassing for the EU
Brussels must learn from London, Die Tageszeitung taz comments:
“The European Medicines Agency must face the question of why the evaluation of the clinical data for the vaccine is not going faster. ... [Politicians] must face the question of why there is no instrument at the EU level for an emergency approval of a vaccine for particularly vulnerable groups. ... What we know now is that the vaccine is highly effective and causes at most minor side effects, even among elderly people with pre-existing conditions. ... Instead of pretending that its British colleagues are rash fools, the EU should learn from Britain as quickly as possible how it is managing to protect its most vulnerable citizens from death by suffocation at least one month before continental Europe.”
Speed is not the decisive factor here
Commenting in La Repubblica, science journalist Luca Fraioli fears a pointless race is now underway:
“London prefers to go it alone, regardless of the fact that formally it is still a member of the European Union until December 31st, and should therefore have waited for the European Medicines Agency evaluation process before approving the vaccine. It is to be feared that the green light on the other side of the English Channel will trigger a pointless race to hoard vaccines in other European nations. Pointless, because the amount of doses that will be available to each country will not depend on how quickly the vaccine is approved, but on the agreements made either bilaterally or at the European level with the manufacturer.”
Health secretary Matt Hancock's claim that Brexit made the rapid approval for the vaccine possible is simply untrue, The Independent rails:
“The UK is still entirely bound by EU regulations and will be until 1 January, which allows any country at all to grant regulatory approval to a new drug or medicine for emergency use, which the UK has done. ... But who cares about that? Certainly not Matt Hancock, who, having campaigned for Remain, sees absolutely no problem at all anymore with praising Brexit as the ultimate deliverer of a vaccine invented in Germany by Turkish immigrants.”
Getting it all wrong again
El País points out that the early approval by London does little for most of humanity:
“The British government will start the vaccination campaign next week - but with only 800,000 doses, which is not enough for even one percent of the population. We need 70 percent to stop the pandemic. ... The three fastest companies can produce 5.3 billion doses in total by the end of 2021, enough to immunize a third of the world's population (you need two doses per person). ... This is good news for the rich world, but not for the remaining two-thirds. As expected, the European Union and five other developed countries have already reserved half of these drugs, even though they account for only 13 percent of the global population. ... Yet by definition, a pandemic calls for immunization of the entire planet. Once again we are getting it all wrong.”
At the expense of those at risk of malaria
Portugal plans to vaccinate its entire population against coronavirus from January 1. Público is pleased about the recent success in the fight against Covid-19, but laments that the malaria vaccination efforts had to be cut back because of this:
“The good news is that Portugal has secured the purchase of 22 million doses of vaccine against Covid-19 to vaccinate the entire national population in a free vaccination programme that will last until the summer ... The bad news is that no marketing approval deadlines have been set for a potential malaria vaccine that won the 64th edition of the Pfizer Awards in 2020. Malaria is not a global disease, but according to the World Health Organization it will cause more deaths this year than Covid-19.”