Covid-19 vaccine passport trials will begin over coming weeks

Ruben Fields
February 26, 2021

The European Commission has sealed deals with several companies for well over 2 billion vaccine shots - far more than the EU population of around 450 million - but only three have been authorized: jabs from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca. "With such a highly protective first dose, the benefits derived from a scarce supply of vaccine could be maximized by deferring second doses until all priority group members are offered at least one dose", they said in a letter submitted last week to the New England Journal of Medicine.

One of Europe's poorest countries, Ukraine has lagged behind its neighbours in securing vaccines for its 41 million people, asking European Union member states for help while refusing to buy the Sputnik V vaccine from Russian Federation.

A spokesperson of the British-Swedish company said that AstraZeneca is constantly revising the delivery schedules and informing the commission on a weekly basis.

In total, 2,500,172 deaths and 112,618,488 cases have been reported with nearly half of the fatalities occurring in just five countries: the U.S., Brazil, Mexico, India and Britain.

In late January, President Emmanuel Macron referred to the vaccine "quasi-ineffective" for older people in comments to reporters, drawing criticism from the United Kingdom government for what was seen as unjustified undermining of the Oxford jab.

"We're moving in the right direction despite the mess we inherited", Biden said, referring to the program under his predecessor Donald Trump.

Divisions over border restrictions, particularly in Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic, have raised concerns over travel delays and traffic jams. "The epidemiological situation remains serious, and the new variants pose additional challenges", the leaders of European Union countries said in a joint statement. The variant first detected in South Africa has been identified in 14, while the Brazilian type is known to be in 7.

"There is a growing COVID fatigue among our citizens".

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At least one moderate Democrat, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, has also not publicly committed to supporting Tanden. But Democrats and interest groups say she is being unfairly targeted because of her gender and race.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called on European Union leaders to introduce controversial vaccine passports to restart the ailing air travel sector, according to a leaked document seen by EURACTIV. "But we should not let up now".

Southern EU member states, such as Spain, Italy, and Greece have been pushing for the adoption of a COVID pass, in order to facilitate travel and prop up their fledgeling tourism industries.

Officials said the first tranche of vaccine will be administered to medical workers and military personnel in eastern Ukraine, where conflict with Russian-backed separatists has been ongoing since 2014, and to regions of western Ukraine where the rate of infections has been the most severe.

"We can be confident that this is absolutely the right strategy to use for this vaccine", said Sarah Gilbert, a professor of vaccinology at the University of Oxford.

Perhaps the most important short-term announcement to emerge from the meeting was that of "convergence" around the concept of a vaccine passport. "It is a crucial question", Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told reporters.

Rutte also said Europeans should consider whether the discussion on vaccination certificates should involve other worldwide institutions such as the World Health Organization, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and the global Air Transport Association.

This was heavily disputed by some experts who said that while AstraZeneca's Phase 3 trials did have a small sample size for older people, there was other evidence that the shots were effective.

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