Johnson & Johnson authorisation expected on Thursday, delivery unfortunately much later

"Of course, the vaccine procurement in the European Union could have been better. The European People’s Party (EPP) already asked for the creation of a European institution for the procurement of vaccines and other pharmaceuticals in March last year and one reason why the US is faster in vaccination is that this institution existed already since 2006 which means not Donald Trump has created it but George W. Bush,” said the health spokesperson of the largest political group in the European Parliament (EPP, Christian Democrats), Dr med. Peter Liese.

“However, the most important reason for the different situation in the US and the UK compared to the European Union is that Europe is supplying the world and the US has an export ban. This has been introduced by Donald Trump but unfortunately, Joe Biden has not lifted it but even extended the respective rule until June. In this case, Biden is behaving like Trump and we should not let him go with this. Especially on the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine the difference is significant. The US production is only supplying the US and Europe serves the world. The BioNTech vaccine that is produced in Germany and filled and finished in Puurs, Belgium, is going not only to the whole EU but also to the rest of the world including Mexico and Canada. If the US only supply themselves and we supply the world, this cannot work out. Even worse is the case in the UK because we know that significant amounts of the AstraZeneca vaccine went from the continent to the UK, for example, from the plant in Dessau IDT Biologika in Dessau, Germany, and still the company is not ready to give vaccine that is produced in the UK to supply the European Union. They even wanted to export from the European Union to third countries. It was more than right that Italy blocked this export and in my view, this should have only been the first step. When we speak about mistakes of the European Commission, the main mistake was that the export control mechanism was not introduced earlier. This could have avoided the delivery of AstraZeneca vaccine from the continent to the United Kingdom. With BioNTech/Pfizer the case is different, because they live up to their commitment to the European Union, but still I think we should consider a more active approach here. The WTO rules allow an export ban, when it is necessary to protect people’s health and this is definitely the case here,” the EPP-MEP and doctor stated.

“On Thursday the European Medical Agency will most likely suggest the authorisation of the Johnson&Johnson vaccine and the Commission will approve it. This is in principal a good thing, because I am convinced, that the vaccine has a high efficiency and no serious side effects. The good thing is, that one shot of the vaccine would be enough to give protection. Unfortunately, Johnson&Johnson will not deliver immediately after authorisation, as for example BioNTech/Pfizer did in December. They have production problems, while they already started supply the United States. This is another reason to have a stronger reaction from Europe, when it comes to exports. The European leaders need to have a very strong word with the CEOs of the company and with Joe Biden. Export restrictions are of course only a solution in short term, in the long term we need to strongly increase international cooperation, we need to support partnerships with third countries, including South Africa and India. Just to abolish patents, or to introduce a force licensing, will however, not do the job, because especially the mRNA technology is very complicated. We need a comprehensive technology transfer and a public private partnership. EU and US public money should support technology transfer in third countries. We need to increase the production and Europe and the US hold the key with the mRNA technology. This technology can be easily adopted to the mutations. In short-term, it’s important to vaccinate Europe and to speed up the process for our citizens. In mid-term, it is important to help to vaccinate the world, otherwise new mutations will come again and again and nobody is safe until everybody is safe,” Liese concluded.

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