Even as richer countries complain about slow delivery times for vaccines they order, many developing countries will not receive them for months, philanthropist Bill Gates warned.
High clash between EU, vaccine maker AstraZeneca intensified on Wednesday when EU officials accused the company of withdrawing from a planned meeting which was to discuss cuts in its supply.
Dana Spinant, a spokeswoman for the European Commission, the bloc’s executive, said AstraZeneca had canceled its meeting with the health steering group scheduled for Wednesday. A company spokesman later denied that AstraZeneca had withdrawn from the talks.
“We can confirm that we will be present at the EU negotiations,” spokeswoman Jenny Hursit said in an email. “It’s not accurate to say we withdrew,” she said.
The British-Swedish company AztraZeneca said last week that the delay in production would limit the number of doses delivered to EU countries, prompting a reaction from European leaders who threatened the company with legal action. Officials this week stepped up pressure on EU-based pharmaceutical companies, saying vaccine manufacturers could suffer tighter export controls.
Both AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech said reduced production capacity could lead to supply disruptions.
On Wednesday, however, French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi announced it would produce competing vaccine BioNTech to make the 125 million doses of vaccine available to the European Union.
The public unrest was in stark contrast to Biden’s promise that an additional 200 million doses of the two vaccines approved for use in the United States would be available by the summer, bringing the total to 600 million doses – enough to vaccinate 300 million people.
At present, vaccines are largely limited to first-line health workers and high-risk groups, with the hope of giving the general public access by spring.
Although the vaccine was launched in late December, countries complained that the promised number of doses had not arrived. However, as production increases, federal funds will increase by about 16 percent next week.
Still, authorities are facing a difficult battle to combat misinformation about the vaccine. In an internal document obtained from The Washington Post, Maryland health officials said only about 58 percent of the doses distributed to staff and residents of nursing homes were administered, even though vaccination clinics were conducted in each facility.
Their caution, say providers and union representatives, is fueled by online misinformation about the vaccine and historical distrust of the medical system of which they are a part.
It was also unclear whether increasing the number of vaccines in the United States would help Biden’s other priority of returning schools to personal learning. However, a report from the Centers for Disease Control on Tuesday gave some optimism, concluding that schools were not a major distribution center.
Data from the United States and abroad, reviewed by the CDC team, found that schools do not come close to the rate of transmission of sites such as nursing homes or high-density jobs. Preventive measures such as wearing masks seem to be key to these efforts.
“The conclusion here is with appropriate prevention efforts … we can keep school enrollment and educational conditions pretty low,” Margaret A. Honein said in an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association for Research.
Biden said his goal is to open most schools in 8th grade in 100 days and has asked Congress for $ 130 billion to offset the cost of providing safer educational institutions, as well as to provide guidelines how.
The battle to return to personal learning is fierce, with teachers especially opposed to returning. In Chicago, teachers’ union members refuse orders to return to classrooms.
In 22 countries, as in the district, teachers have been added to priority vaccine lists to speed up reopening. But the chaotic spread of vaccination programs in most countries and limited supplies hamper these efforts.
While Biden emphasizes that rebuilding schools is a priority, Europe seems to be moving in the opposite direction and closing them more and more. Many European countries initially kept schools open much longer than in the United States, but are now bowing under the pressure of a second wave.
Britain, Germany, Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands have announced closures over fears that new variants of the virus are thought to be more contagious.
In the morning news this week, British ministers were bombarded with questions about when schools would reopen, with staff unable to provide a timetable, especially amid revelations that one of the new options could be distributed more effectively to children.
With one of the fastest vaccines spreading in the West, Britain hopes to blunt the latest wave of infections. However, scientists say hopes for ending the current lock by April are too optimistic.
In Moscow, by contrast, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin abruptly lifted many of the city’s covid restrictions on Wednesday, saying the pandemic was “in decline” and that he was “obliged to create the conditions” for a speedy economic recovery.
Russia registered more than 18,000 new cases on Tuesday, the lowest daily increase since late October. About 2,300 of these new infections were in Moscow. The measures include a 23-hour evening for bars and restaurants and an order for 30% of employees in local companies to work from home. The mandate of the city mask will remain in force.
But elsewhere, tight restrictions have caused unrest. In the Netherlands on Wednesday, calm returned to the streets after three days of mass riots over a new night curfew – the first in the country since World War II.
The riots saw insurgents clash with police in more than a dozen Dutch cities, where they burned vehicles, looted shops and threw stones and fireworks at officers. Bars, restaurants and shops are closed as part of a monthly blockade to limit the spread of the virus.
And while infections have plummeted in recent weeks, authorities say they are worried about the rise in cases they attribute to new, more contagious variants that first appeared in Britain and South Africa.
Vaccine manufacturers Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech said their photos were effective against the new variants, but offered less protection against the South African strain. Moderna said this week that it was developing an accelerator shot designed to protect against the new options.
Concerns about the effectiveness of vaccines could complicate the wider battle for the global supply of vaccines, according to experts, which will deepen the divide between poorer and richer countries.
In an interview with Reuters on Wednesday, Bill Gates said poorer countries would face at least six to eight months behind richer countries in gaining access to coronavirus vaccines. He said the first release of the vaccine was a “super-severe distribution problem” that was putting pressure on global institutions.
“Every politician is under pressure to bid for his country to move on,” said Gates, whose foundation pledged $ 1.75 billion to fight the pandemic.
The World Health Organization said Wednesday that its own vaccine-sharing initiative, Covax, expects to have 25 million doses of vaccine by March for a wide region that includes the Middle East and Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as Somalia and Djibouti. It was not clear which nations received the first supplies.
The number of doses distributed to the region will reach 355 million by December, said WHO spokesman Ivan Hutin.
Isabel Hurshudyan in Moscow, Carla Adam in London and Quentin Owen in Brussels contributed to this report.