EU prepares to cope with new COVID-19 variants

EU prepares to cope with new COVID-19 variants
# 17 February 2021 20:17 (UTC +04:00)

The European Commission on Wednesday said it is preparing a plan to fight new variants of the novel coronavirus, APA reports citing Anadolu Agency.

The new bio-defense preparedness plan aims at preventing another wave of the COVID-19 pandemic deriving from the mutations of the virus, Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission said at a news conference.

The plan -- named HERA Incubator -- is based on the cooperation of vaccine producers, researchers and public authorities.

The EU has already offered €225 million ($271 million) for studies on the new virus variants, work on adapting vaccines to become effective against them and setting up a European network for clinical trials.

The head of the EU executive body also warned about unknown side effects of counterfeit vaccines and jabs received through unofficial channels.

Von der Leyen pointed out that EU governments or other national authorities should not negotiate individually with vaccine producers for further purchases.

Asked about the Sputnik V vaccine, von der Leyen confirmed that the Russian producers had not asked for conditional market authorization from the European regulator.

The bloc requires vaccines producers to apply for the license and to set up manufacturing capacities in one of the EU member states in order to ensure continuous and controlled supplies, she explained.

“We wonder why Russia offers millions and millions of doses to buy when the vaccination of its own people is not progressing,” she added.

The EU is aiming to vaccinating 70% of the adult population by the end of September.

Some 22 million people have so far received one dose of vaccines, while 7 million have been fully vaccinated, meaning they have received both of the required doses.

The EU signed advanced purchase agreements with six biotechnological firms --Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, CureVac, Johnson & Johnson, and Sanofi/GlaxoSmithKline -- to buy about 2.6 billion vaccine doses for the bloc’s 450 million population and its neighboring countries.