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Europeans seeking to ensure vaccine stocks

By JULIAN SHEA in London | China Daily | Updated: 2021-03-09 10:01

A volunteer receives a dose of CureVac vaccine or a placebo during a study by the German biotech firm CureVac as part of a testing for a new vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Brussels on March 2, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

Amid delays in EU rollout, talks with US focus on delivery of shots, source says

The European Union was believed to be seeking to ensure the delivery of contracted supplies of a COVID-19 vaccine from the United States as the bloc attempts to make up for shortfalls in supply and rejuvenate its faltering vaccine program.

The EU's Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton-Brussels' pointman on vaccine production-was due to confer with White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeffrey Zients on Monday, a source familiar with the talks told Agence France-Presse.

The agenda was believed to include discussion over the export from the US of the vaccine from AstraZeneca.

The European Commission insisted on vaccination requisition and administration for the 27-member bloc being centralized, but has been heavily criticized for the lack of progress made.

The EU has pointed the finger of blame for the delays at the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company, saying production problems have delayed the supply of 300 million doses, ordered in June last year. The company is on course to deliver just 40 percent of the expected allocation in the first three months of 2021.

In addition to doses of the finished vaccine, the EU is also keen to keep up supplies of ingredients from the US required for its own vaccine-making facilities.

"We trust that we can work together with the US to ensure that vaccines produced or bottled in the US for the fulfillment of vaccine producers' contractual obligations with the EU will be fully honored," a commission representative said.

The administration of US President Joe Biden is widely regarded as being far more sympathetic to Europe than Biden's predecessor Donald Trump. Last week, he spoke to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on working together to manage the pandemic.

As a result, Breton will be working with Zients on matters relating to the supply chain.

'Sense of normality'

Elsewhere in the world, British children are gearing up to return to school on Monday after a two-month closure, part of what Prime Minister Boris Johnson said was a plan to get the country to "start moving closer to a sense of normality".

As part of the plan, millions of high school and college students coming back to UK classrooms will be tested for the first few weeks. Authorities want to quickly detect and isolate asymptomatic cases in order to avoid sending entire schools home.

"We are being cautious in our approach so that we do not undo the progress we have made so far," Johnson said as he urged people to get vaccinated.

In the Middle East, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his wife have tested positive for the coronavirus, the president's office said on Monday, with both having mild symptoms of the illness.

In a statement, Assad's office said that Assad, 55, and his wife Asma will return to work after spending two to three weeks in isolation in their home.

Both were in "good health and in stable condition," it added.

Israel reopened most of its economy on Sunday as it removed many of the remaining coronavirus lockdown restrictions, thanks to its successful vaccination campaign.

The easing of restrictions comes after months of government-imposed shutdowns.

Bars and restaurants, event halls, sporting events, hotels and all primary and secondary schools that had been closed for months were permitted to reopen on Sunday. Some restrictions remained on crowd sizes, and certain places were open to the vaccinated only.

The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved the easing of limitations on Saturday night, including the reopening of the main international airport to a limited number of people each day.

Liu Xuan in Beijing and agencies contributed to this story.

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