Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Sarah Mooney

Ireland may have access to four different Covid-19 vaccines by spring with the approval of those manufactured by AstraZenaca and Johnson & Johnson, according to an Irish Member of the European Parliament (MEP).

Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune said those negotiating Covid-19 vaccine contracts for European countries have said an “abundant level” will be available in the second quarter of this year.

The largest quantities of vaccines are expected to become available to countries such as Ireland during April, May and June of this year, Ms Clune said.

“In this week’s [Environment, Public Health and Food Safety] committee we had the opportunity to put questions forward to the EU’s lead negotiator on Covid-19 vaccine contracts, on the latest developments regarding contracts, transparency, authorisations, availability and deployment of Covid-19 vaccines,” she said.

“We heard that there will be an ‘abundant level’ of vaccines to be made available in the second quarter of this year, which I very much welcome.

“In Ireland we’re at the important stage of vaccinating the most vulnerable members of our society and with time vaccinations will become available for all who wish to be vaccinated,” she added.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has already approved vaccines manufactured by BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna for use across the bloc.

The BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine is currently being rolled out in Ireland, while the first delivery of Moderna doses arrived in the State on Tuesday evening.

The EMA has received an application for approval for the AstraZeneca vaccine, with its conditional market authorisation expected at the end of January. Johnson & Johnson is expected to seek approval for its vaccine from the EMA in February.

“The evaluation of the vaccine will proceed under an accelerated timeline. The EMA has already reviewed some data on the vaccine during a rolling review and has been working hard to scrutinise vaccines to ensure their safety and efficacy,” Ms Clune said.

“The European Commission last week purchased an additional 300 million doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine. This enables the EU to not only cover the needs of its whole population but also to supply vaccinations to neighbouring countries.”

Transparency

While the European Commission is negotiating vaccine doses on behalf of EU member states, each individual state will then decide how these doses are deployed.

In Ireland, the Government has established a task force to support the HSE and the Department of Health with a vaccine roll-out.

It comes as Fianna Fáil MEP for Ireland South, Billy Kelleher, has called for “full transparency” on Covid-19 vaccine contracts from the European Commission.

“Contracts signed by the European Commission with pharma companies developing Covid-19 vaccines must be made public, and not hidden away from scrutiny,” he said in a statement.

“In a somewhat underwhelming act of transparency, the Commission made available [a] redacted version of an advanced purchase agreement between them and the manufacturers of CureVac.

“While a step in the right direction, CureVac hasn’t even been approved yet. Crucially, the contracts signed with Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna have not been made available yet,” Mr Kelleher added.

“These contracts must be put into the public domain immediately.”

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