EU approves millions of Pfizer vaccines for export to countries including UK and UAE
European Commission fielded 57 export requests in less than a month
The EU’s executive arm said on Wednesday that it had approved the export of millions of Pfizer vaccine doses to countries including Britain and the UAE.
The bloc gave the green light to 57 requests for vaccine export to 24 countries between January 30 and February 16.
The new approval scheme was set up after the EU was heavily criticised for shortages in its own inoculation campaign.
It had already exported millions of vaccines, mostly made by Pfizer, to Israel, Britain and Canada among others, before the new system came into effect, according to customs data.
Last month, the EU threatened to restrict the export of vaccines made in the bloc to make up for a shortfall in deliveries from pharmaceutical companies.
Israel has given the first vaccine dose to more than 75 per cent of its population, figures from University of Oxford-based Our World in Data show.
The figure for the UAE is about 50 per cent and for Britain it is above 20 per cent.
EU countries on average have vaccinated only about 5% of their populations, according to the data.
Countries with a high number of inoculations are already vaccinating people who are not among the most vulnerable, while those most in need elsewhere have not yet had a shot.
In a further blow to Europe's vaccine drive, officials said that Pfizer had not yet delivered about 10 million doses that were due in December.
It leaves the continent about one third short of the supplies it had expected by now from the US company.
AstraZeneca and Moderna have also faced delays on the delivery of vaccines to Europe.
The European Commission on Wednesday pledged more funds to step up the EU's capabilities to identify and tackle variants of the new coronavirus.
It comes after the bloc said it wanted to adapt existing vaccine contracts and strike new agreements with pharmaceutical companies to protect against new strains.
The contracts would include safeguards to avoid earlier missteps that tarnished the current vaccine distribution plan.
Experts believe a British variant is likely to become prevalent on the European continent.
However, most EU countries have so far done little or nothing to spot new variants, as they lack the capabilities to sequence the genome of the virus on a large scale.
The EU pledged at least €75 million ($90 million) to develop specialised tests to identify variants, and it will provide another €150 million euros to boost research in variants.
Brussels also pledged to accelerate regulatory approvals of upgraded vaccines that work against variants and to help increase vaccine production.
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Updated: February 17, 2021 05:05 PM