Germany backs EU export restrictions on vaccine after supply cuts

Germany’s health minister supported European Union proposals to introduce restrictions on COVID-19 vaccines on Tuesday as tensions grew with AstraZeneca and Pfizer over sudden supply cuts just a month after the bloc started vaccinating citizens.

The EU has proposed setting up a register of vaccine exports, amid frustration over delays in deliveries of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 shot and other supply problems.

“I can understand that there are production problems but then it must affect everyone in the same way,” Health Minister Jens Spahn told ZDF television. “This is not about Europe first but about Europe’s fair share,” he said, adding it therefore made sense to have export limits on vaccines.

Separately, a spokesman for the minister joined AstraZeneca in dismissing reports by two German newspapers that the British drugmaker’s COVID-19 vaccine was less effective in the elderly.

Spahn said he expected European authorities to approve the third vaccine against COVID-19 on Friday.

Late on Monday, Handelsblatt and Bild each reported that the vaccine had an efficacy of less than 10% in those over 65 and that the German government was bracing for the European healthcare regulator to only clear it for those below that age.

AstraZeneca described the reports as “completely incorrect”.

When asked about the prospect of an approval only for younger adults, Spahn’s spokesman said this was up to EU regulators and that AstraZeneca trials had a lower rate of elderly participants than competing vaccine developers.


AstraZeneca told the 27-country EU on Friday it could not meet supply targets for its vaccine up to the end of March - a further blow to the bloc’s pandemic efforts after Pfizer announced a temporary slowdown in supplies in January.

AstraZeneca said on Monday its Chief Executive had told the EU it was doing everything it can to bring the vaccine to millions of Europeans as soon as possible.

An EU official has told Reuters AstraZeneca had received an upfront payment of 336 million euros ($408 million) when the EU sealed a deal with the company in August for at least 300 million doses and an option for another 100 million. The deal was the first signed by the bloc to secure COVID-19 shots.

That was after the United States in May secured 300 million doses for up to $1.2 billion, and Britain, also in May, secured 100 million doses for 84 million pounds ($114 million).

Britain’s vaccine deployment minister Nadhim Zahawi said that although supplies were tight, he was confident Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna would meet their commitments.

“Any new manufacturing process is going to have challenges, it’s lumpy and bumpy, (then) it gets better, it stabilises and improves going forward,” he told BBC TV on Tuesday.

Spahn said it was encouraging that the number of new coronavirus cases was falling in Germany and that if that trend continues, a decision can be taken on future restrictions.

Schools and nurseries would be the first places to re-open, he added.

German hospitals association DKG said on Tuesday that about 4,600 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care in the country, down from a peak of 5,781 on Jan 4.

“The lockdown is working. But still, this is not the time to sound the all-clear,” said DKG head Georg Baum.

Similar articles

  • Sweden's PM Lofven maintains voters' trust despite political crisis

    Sweden's PM Lofven maintains voters' trust despite political crisis

    Social Democrat PM Stefan Lofven is Swedish voter's most trusted leader, a poll showed on Thursday, despite a crisis that saw parliament pass a vote of no-confidence in him on Monday, Reuters reported. The Novus poll showed 38% of Swedes have confidence in Lofven, ahead of his most likely rival for the post of prime minister, centre-right Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson, who was backed by 35% of voters.


  • Merkel remains strongly against patent waivers for Covid-19 vaccines

    Merkel remains strongly against patent waivers for Covid-19 vaccines

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke out strongly on Thursday against suspending patent protection for coronavirus vaccine manufacturers, in what is likely to be her last government statement to parliament, dps reported. Speaking to the Bundestag ahead of an EU leaders' summit in Brussels, Merkel said she backed increasing the production of vaccines for poorer countries through increased licensing. But she told lawmakers: "In contrast, I consider a politically obtained release of patents to be the wrong way to go."


  • Germany borrows another €100m to offset pandemic pressure

    Germany borrows another €100m to offset pandemic pressure

    Germany government approved a 2022 draft budget which includes new loans of up to 100 million euros, Reuters reported. The extra debt burden will be targeted to offset the effect of Covid-19 pandemic. The envisaged new loans increase total pandemic-related borrowing in the period 2020-2022 to 470 billion euros.