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VACCINES

Germany threatens legal action if pharma firms ‘favour other countries’

Germany's government on Sunday threatened legal action against laboratories failing to deliver coronavirus vaccines to the European Union on schedule, amid tension over delays to deliveries from AstraZeneca.

Germany threatens legal action if pharma firms 'favour other countries'
A protester in Berlin calls for governments to seize patents. Photo: DPA

“If it turns out that companies have not respected their obligations, we will have to decide the legal consequences,” Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told German daily Die Welt.

“No company can favour another country over the EU after the fact,” he added.

There has been growing tension in recent weeks between European leaders and the British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant  AstraZeneca, which has fallen behind on promised delivers of its Covid-19 vaccine.

The company said it could now only deliver a quarter of the doses originally promised to the bloc for the first quarter of the year because of problems at one of its European factories. 

Brussels has implicitly accused AstraZeneca of giving preferential treatment to Britain in the delivery of its vaccine, at the expense of the EU.

The EU briefly threatened to restrict vaccine exports to Northern Ireland by overriding part of the Brexit deal with Britain that allowed the free flow of goods over the Irish border. It backed down after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson voiced “grave concerns”.

AstraZeneca is not the only drugs company in the firing line.

Last week, Italy threatened legal action against US pharmaceutical firm Pfizer over delays to promised deliveries of its vaccine.

Top German officials are due to meet with the drugs manufacturers to thrash out the problems over the delays.

On Friday, the European Medicines Agency cleared the vaccine produced by AstraZeneca for use inside the EU, the third Covid-19 vaccine it has approved after Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

SEE ALSO: Germany assures worried states that 5 million more vaccine doses are on way

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VACCINES

Major milestone: more than 40 million Germans vaccinated against Covid

More than 40 million people in Germany have received at least one vaccination against the coronavirus so far, while a quarter of the population are fully inoculated, new government data shows.

Major milestone: more than 40 million Germans vaccinated against Covid
A vaccine is prepared in Munich. credit: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

Cracking the 40 million mark means that 48.1 percent of the total population has now received at least a first jab against the disease, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) that was released on Saturday.

Some 21.35 million people have received both jabs while 60.1 million vaccine doses have been administered in Germany so far.

This week, for the first time, the million mark in daily vaccinations was cracked on three days, Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) wrote on Twitter. According to the RKI, about two-thirds of all vaccinations have been administered in vaccination centres, and one-third in doctors’ offices.

Among the states, Bremen continues to record the highest proportion of people with first-time vaccinations at 52.9 percent, with Saxony bringing up the rear at 43.0 percent.

Meanwhile Saarland has the highest proportion of residents with full coverage, at 30.4 percent, and has also administered the most vaccine doses per resident to date.

While the first five months of the vaccine programme were based on a priority list, since Monday everyone resident in the country can register themselves for a vaccine appointment.

Case rate continues to fall

Health authorities reported 1,911 new infections to the RKI on Saturday morning. A week ago that figure stood at 2,294 new infections. The seven-day incidence dropped lightly to 18.3 from 18.6 cases per 100,000 people on Friday.

Nationwide, 129 new deaths were recorded within 24 hours on Saturday.

Opposition plans inquiry into pandemic failures

Wolfgang Kubicki, deputy leader of the Free Democrats, has said his party will push for a Bundestag inquiry into the pandemic response after September’s national election.

“There needs to be a parliamentary review of this after the election,” Kubicki said on Saturday at a party convention. “That was the announcement of a committee of inquiry,” he confirmed when asked for clarification by a journalist.

Kubicki criticized, among other things, the purchase of “unfit masks” by Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU). He said that the committee would also look into controversial aspects of the pandemic response including the government’s testing strategy and the disputes over whether intensive care units reached breaking point.

SEE ALSO: 7 things the Covid-19 crisis has taught us about Germany

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