Prepare second-generation vaccines now and vaccinate the whole world as soon as possible / Commission to hold concrete negotiations with manufacturer of Sputnik to provide clarity

"The number of intensive care patients is increasing at an alarming rate, and we urgently need to take countermeasures”, said the health spokesperson of the largest political group in the European Parliament Dr med. Peter Liese (EPP, Christian Democrats) on Thursday. "We must proceed intelligently and reduce risk contacts, so that the incidence rate falls as quickly as possible, preferably below 50 per 100.000 per week. Only then targeted openings will be possible. We need to do this by focusing more than before on the areas where most infections occur, which means private indoor meetings and workplaces. Schools should not be completely closed as far as possible, but the concepts must become much more intelligent than before," Liese said. "Above all, we need to accelerate the pace of vaccination in the European Union. I am optimistic that things will get better in the next few weeks as BioNTech/Pfizer in particular will be able to deliver significantly more vaccine thanks to the new plant in Marburg, which will soon be running at full capacity, and in a few days we will also have the vaccine from Johnson&Johnson, with which we will only have to vaccinate once. Nevertheless, from my point of view, things have to move faster, so I propose the following five concrete points:

  1. As far as technically feasible, every person willing to be vaccinated must be offered an antibody test in advance. According to scientific findings, someone who has been suffering from the disease, in case of doubt even without symptoms and without a positive PCR test, is almost as well protected as a vaccinated person. It would therefore be important to make the vaccine available to those who do not have antibodies. Moreover, it is at least to some extent likely that the severe side effects of AstraZeneca occur in connection with having suffered from the disease. It is therefore extremely important that the Commission's proposal on the Green Certificate will be adapted so that positive antibody tests are included as well, in addition to a vaccination.

  2. We should learn from the experience in the UK and vaccinate as many people as possible once at first. The second vaccination should not be stockpiled, nor the time limit should be respected rigidly. The maximum protective effect is achieved by vaccinating as many people as possible as soon as possible.

  3. Even though it is still not officially clear, we should act pragmatically and use seven doses from one vial of BioNTech and eleven doses from one vial of Moderna whenever possible.

  4. The European Commission must immediately start concrete negotiations on the supply of the Russian vaccine Sputnik V. I am very much in favour of the EMA carefully examining the vaccine. Emergency approvals, as some European countries have done, do not accelerate the trust in the vaccine. However, I think it is possible and now even likely that the outcome of the testing will be positive, so the European Union should be prepared. Russia is lacking behind the European Union in terms of vaccination. The Russians themselves do not have confidence in their own vaccine because of the non-serious procedure. However, if the EMA has approved it, we should use it. It does not make sense to import oil, gas and vodka from Russia, but not to import a vaccine that has approval from EMA. The national and regional initiatives are not helpful, however. Those should not be eliminated without replacement but should result in a European initiative. If Russia can deliver substantially before the end of the summer, the vaccine should be used, especially because complications with existing vaccine suppliers can never be completely ruled out.  
    5.    The export restrictions recently imposed by the EU Commission must be implemented consistently. A major problem with the European vaccination strategy is that, unlike the US and the UK, we export a lot of vaccine. It was a mistake to put the export control mechanism in place only after the vaccination campaign had started. A lot of vaccine left the European continent in the first few weeks, which contributed to the shortage in the last few weeks.

Liese pointed out that the European Parliament will adopt two important initiatives on vaccine policy in the legislative process before the end of April. The first is about the Green Certificate, which will allow citizens to benefit from freedoms from June 1 if they are either vaccinated or tested negative, or if they have suffered from an infection. The second is about preparing for the next generation of vaccines. "We need to act now to be prepared for wide spreads of the South African and Brazilian mutation. It is also quite likely that additional dangerous mutations will emerge for which the current vaccines will no longer work or not work as well. That is why it is good that the EU Commission has proposed its HERA Incubator. Under this proposal, the EU Parliament will adopt a so-called "early non-objection" before the end of April. We will support a delegated act to use an accelerated procedure in the case of vaccine adaptations. The Council has already decided this yesterday as well. Approved vaccines that are only used to be more effective against new variants of the virus can thus be adapted more quickly. It is extremely important that we do this in Europe, but we need to focus much more attention on third countries as soon as the vaccination campaign in Europe is going better, which will be the case in the next few weeks. The emergence of dangerous mutations can only be prevented if globally everyone is offered vaccination. Above all, it is a humanitarian imperative to help people in poorer countries who have far fewer opportunities to protect themselves against the virus," Liese concluded.  

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