Germany says AstraZeneca lawsuit ‘not priority’ for now

Germany would support legal action against AstraZeneca for under-delivering Covid-19 vaccine doses to the EU, but the priority now should be on securing the jabs, Health Minister Jens Spahn said Friday.

Germany says AstraZeneca lawsuit 'not priority' for now
An AstraZeneca vaccine on display at Berlin's former Tegel airport, which now serves as a vaccine centre. Photo: DPA

The European Commission is considering a lawsuit against the Swedish-British pharmaceutical giant for so far delivering just 31 million of the 120 million doses it had promised, according to EU diplomats.

Asked if he thought the lawsuit was a good idea, Spahn said: “If (the commission) decides to take legal action, then yes… but it’s much more important to me that I get this vaccine.”

READ ALSO: Denmark ‘lends’ Germany 55,000 AstraZeneca vaccine doses

Germany wants to “cooperate with AstraZeneca to get as many deliveries as possible as quickly as possible”, he said, adding that legal issues are “not yet a priority in this phase of the pandemic”.

EU diplomats said Thursday no final decision has been taken on legal action but the EU executive has informed member state envoys and wants them to confirm whether they would back a lawsuit.

“As you know, AstraZeneca is not delivering the number of doses which have been agreed upon in the contract… This is one of the reasons why we keep our options open together with member states to take any further steps,” commission spokesman Stefan De Keersmaecker said on Thursday.

One diplomat told AFP that “not all member states are in agreement” on taking the company to court, stressing that their aim was simply to have AstraZeneca deliver the doses it had promised in its contract.

Public confidence in the AstraZeneca jab has taken a blow after the European Medicines Agency, the bloc’s regulator, said it was likely linked to a very rare form of blood clot affecting the brain.

The EMA and the commission have not changed their stance on a general use of AstraZeneca, saying its benefits outweigh the risks, but several EU countries have restricted its use to older citizens.

The EU, however, is now increasingly relying on the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine for its rollout, which has been accelerating since the end of March.

On Thursday, four German states announced that the would roll-out the use of AstraZeneca for all adults who wanted a jab, as long as they consulted with a doctor first.

READ ALSO: Four German states offer AstraZeneca vaccine to all adults

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Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now