UPDATED: Individual COVID vaccine deals cannot undermine EU joint orders, Portugal says

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Any side deals for COVID-19 vaccines by European Union countries cannot undermine the bloc’s joint orders, the health minister of Portugal, which holds the six-month EU presidency, said on Friday.

Health Minister Marta Temido told reporters the EU should strive for as much of a joint approach to combating the coronavirus pandemic – including on vaccine purchases – as possible.

That did not rule out member states taking further steps on their own if they deem them necessary, she said, but stressed that any vaccine side deals “couldn’t run any risk” to what was already agreed under joint purchases.

EU countries are not allowed to negotiate separate vaccine deals with pharmaceutical companies in parallel to the efforts of the European Union as a whole, the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday.

“The only framework we are negotiating in is as 27. We do this together and no member state on this legal binding basis is allowed to negotiate in parallel or to have a contract in parallel,” von der Leyen told reporters in Brussels.

“The whole portfolio covers 2.3 billion doses of vaccines so this is more than enough to vaccinate the whole European population,” she said.

Meanwhile, Europe’s medicines regulator expects drugmaker AstraZeneca to apply for approval of its COVID-19 vaccine next week, it said on Friday.

The Astrazeneca shot, which was developed with Oxford University, was given a green light by authorities in Britain on Dec. 30.

Emergency use authorisation has since been granted in India, Argentina, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Mexico and Morocco for the active immunisation of adults, it said.

The European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) Deputy Executive Director, Noel Wathion, last week said that approval of AstraZeneca’s vaccine this month looked highly improbable because the company had yet to submit sufficient information.

But the watchdog said on Twitter on Friday that it could possibly reach a conclusion on the vaccine by the end of the month.

It has so far recommended the Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna vaccines for European Union approval, which was quickly granted for both. 

Main Photo: A nurse prepares a dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine during a medical staff members vaccination at the Semur en Auxois hospital center, near Dijon, France. EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON

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