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EUROPEAN UNION

‘Highly probable’ EU won’t renew AstraZeneca orders

The European Union is very unlikely to renew its Covid-19 vaccine contracts with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, a French minister said on Friday.

'Highly probable' EU won't renew AstraZeneca orders
(Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP)

Denmark this week banned the use of AstraZeneca jabs over blood clot concerns, just as the EU said it was expecting 50 million Pfizer vaccine doses earlier than expected.

No final EU decision had been taken, French Industry Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher told RMC radio, but “it is highly probable” that no further AstraZeneca doses would be ordered.

“We have not started talks with Johnson & Johnson or with AstraZeneca for a new contract, but we have started talks with Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna,” Pannier-Runacher said.

AstraZeneca has had major problems in fulfilling its orders to the EU, with the Bloc ending up with many million fewer doses of the vaccine than it was expecting in the first two quarters, which has had an effect on the speed of the rollout across EU countries.

Denmark said on Wednesday it would stop using the AstraZeneca vaccine altogether over blood clot fears, despite assurances from the EMA and the World Health Organization that the benefits far outweigh possible risks.

Switzerland has never licensed the AstraZeneca vaccine for use and most other European countries now restrict the vaccine only to the older population, who appear to be less at risk from the rare blood clots that have been associated with it.

READ ALSO COMPARE The different strategies used in Europe to vaccinate against Covid-19

Pannier-Runacher’s prediction comes after US drugmaker Johnson & Johnson said it would delay its European rollout, also over blood clot fears – a major hit for the continent’s immunisation campaign as several countries battle rising caseloads.

The J&J and AstraZeneca setbacks are dampening hopes that mass immunisations will allow a swift exit from a pandemic that has killed close to three million people and ravaged the global economy.

Meanwhile, 50 million BioNTech/Pfizer doses that were due to arrive in Europe only at the end of 2021 have been brought forward for delivery as soon as this month.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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