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MEP for Laois hits out at ‘tardy delivery’ of vaccine as non-EU countries ‘power ahead’

MEP for the South, which include Laois, Billy Kelleher, has hit out at the European Union’s vaccine roll-out programme.

The Cork native says that the ‘tardy’ delivery of Pfizer BioNTech vaccine and ‘tardy’ approval of Moderna and Oxford Astrazenca vaccines is ‘incredibly frustrating for citizens’.

The Fianna Fail MEP alled for an urgent review of the European Commission’s Vaccine Purchase and Rollout programme.

He says that it is ‘not working as efficiently as it should be’ and that people are ‘getting frustrated seeing non-EU countries power ahead with their own vaccine rollout’.

Kelleher, a member of the Parliament’s Public Health Committee, said: “The purpose of Member States agreeing to co-ordinate their vaccine purchase and rollout through the Commission was to secure both price and rollout efficiencies.

“What is now obvious is that only a price efficiency has been secured. In normal times, this may have sufficed. However, in the midst of a worsening pandemic, it’s simply not acceptable.

“The cost of not vaccinating the population quickly enough, and thereby not opening up society and the economy quickly enough, is considerably greater than the savings made on bulk purchasing through the Commission.

“Citizens across the Union are seeing non-member states accessing the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine much quicker than they are.

“We are seeing delays in deliveries, yet no response from the Commission to rectify this. I am very concerned that the pharma companies have taken the Commission for granted.

“Furthermore, I am concerned by the bureaucratic delays in authorising of the use of the Moderna and Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccines.

“As WHO Emergencies Director, Mike Ryan said last spring, ‘Perfection is the enemy of good in emergencies’.

“The European Medicines Agency should not be placing greater bureaucratic red tape on vaccine producers than other countries.

“Of course, they must be confident in the efficacy and safety of vaccines, but I do not believe we need to reinvent the wheel.

“The HSE and the Department of Health can only vaccinate the people of Ireland if they have enough vaccines.

“I am urging Minister Donnelly and the Taoiseach to raise these concerns at EU Council and Commission level.

“The people of Ireland, and indeed Europe, will not accept any unnecessary delays or failure when it comes to getting their vaccines, and neither should our government.”

Mr Kelleher’s call comes as the EU medicines watchdog has said it will continue its discussions about authorising the Moderna coronavirus vaccine on Wednesday.

It has already fast-tracked the decision from the originally scheduled date of 12 January under pressure from EU countries as infections soar.

In a tweet it said: “EMA’s committee for human medicines (CHMP) discussion on COVID-19 vaccine Moderna has not concluded today.

“It will continue on Wednesday 6th January 2021. No further communication will be issued today by EMA.”

The Moderna vaccine would be the second to be approved for the EU, after the EMA gave the green light for the Pfizer/BioNTech jab in another fast-tracked decision on 21 December.

However, the EMA said last week that the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, which was approved on Wednesday in the UK, is unlikely to be permitted for use in the EU in the next month.

EU countries started inoculations on 27 December with the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine, but progress has been much slower than in the US, Britain or Israel.

Those three have each already given vaccines to more than a million of their citizens but EU countries have been lagging far behind.

France, for instance, has given a first jab to just over 500 people. Germany has started immunising 200,000.

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