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Bjornebye

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1 minute ago, Bjornebye said:

My next door neighbour teaches special needs children and is still in everyday with a class of 10. She knocked yesterday for a parcel I took in for her. Forgot to ask if she's been approached about the vaccine. 

My daughter does. She was offered the vaccine last week. I think she's having it on Tuesday.

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1 minute ago, Harry's Lad said:

My daughter does. She was offered the vaccine last week. I think she's having it on Tuesday.

Your daughter lives next door to me? Interesting 

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1 minute ago, Bjornebye said:

Your daughter lives next door to me? Interesting 

You'd find her husband very interesting. 

Fucking loon he is.

Fucking hell, I'm turning into Yoda.

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14 hours ago, No2 said:

I think the EU's approach is perfectly fair. If a teacher plans to bring in 2 boxes of quality street for a treat day for 30 kids but left a box of treats behind, the fair thing to do is give each kid half what you planned rather then the AZ approach of giving half the kids the full amount and the rest get nothing.

We don't know all the details of the contracts do we? The UK certainly has had things inserted into the contract where their supply has to come from because there were some issues early on that production was behind in the UK and not Belgium, but our contract insisted a certain number of the vaccines were produced in the UK. It would make sense to me if the UK had put stipulations in their contract where the vaccine was made for those ordered here, AZ signing later contracts would be smart enough to protect their interests and stipulated the UK manufactured vaccines were already accounted for for a certain amount of time. 

 

Obviously none of this is ideal when there are vulnerable people awaiting vaccines, be that here or the EU, but the bottom line is you write and sign contracts for how to deal with things when stuff goes wrong. 

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The vaccinating teachers thing sounds a bit simplistic to me. It'd obviously be great to get them protected, but I don't get the idea that this would in some way make it easier and safer to open schools again. Schools weren't closed to protect teachers (ha!), they were closed to stop kids spreading it to each other's households. Vaccinating teachers won't change that.

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Maybe I'm being idealistic, but you would think that because of the importance and necessity of the vaccine, governments would help fund the acquisition of facilities to increase capacity of the vaccine and whatever is needed to actually make the stuff.

 

People are dying, health services are overloaded and economies are taking a massive hit, yet instead of doing something constructive they're just bickering and looking for someone to blame.

 

Or is that too simple.

 

 

 

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11 minutes ago, Section_31 said:

The vaccinating teachers thing sounds a bit simplistic to me. It'd obviously be great to get them protected, but I don't get the idea that this would in some way make it easier and safer to open schools again. Schools weren't closed to protect teachers (ha!), they were closed to stop kids spreading it to each other's households. Vaccinating teachers won't change that.

It's not just each other's households though is it.

Kids are spreaders. If schools are to 'reopen' then teachers should be vaccinated.

Nobody should have to go to work and face such a risk.

 

It not just one child coming home from school, it's a room with 30+ of them.

 

It's the right thing to do in my opinion.

 

 

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Just now, Harry's Lad said:

It's not just each other's households though is it.

Kids are spreaders. If schools are to 'reopen' then teachers should be vaccinated.

Nobody should have to go to work and face such a risk.

 

It not just one child coming home from school, it's a room with 30+ of them.

 

It's the right thing to do in my opinion.

 

 

No I agree with you, teachers should be vaccinated but not to allow schools to reopen, to protect them.

 

The idea that teachers being in harm's way was the reason schools were closed isn't true, they were closed because kids were clearly spreading it. Vaccinating teachers won't stop that happening, so can't be sold as "our route out of school closures".

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1 hour ago, Harry's Lad said:

Maybe I'm being idealistic, but you would think that because of the importance and necessity of the vaccine, governments would help fund the acquisition of facilities to increase capacity of the vaccine and whatever is needed to actually make the stuff.

 

People are dying, health services are overloaded and economies are taking a massive hit, yet instead of doing something constructive they're just bickering and looking for someone to blame.

 

Or is that too simple.

 

 

 

Governments are clearly not going to build production facilities. And they shouldn't have to. These pharma's taking the orders should only take orders on what they can produce. The bottom line is a little like everything in this crisis, there is so much demand there's absolutely no room for any disruption to any part of the supply chain. And clearly there's no love lost between the EU and UK. I absolutely despise governments and country boundaries, it brings nothing but hatred. 

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23 minutes ago, Barrington Womble said:

Governments are clearly not going to build production facilities. And they shouldn't have to. These pharma's taking the orders should only take orders on what they can produce. The bottom line is a little like everything in this crisis, there is so much demand there's absolutely no room for any disruption to any part of the supply chain. And clearly there's no love lost between the EU and UK. I absolutely despise governments and country boundaries, it brings nothing but hatred. 

Like I said, maybe I am being too idealistic, but my thinking was to assist in the short term and on a temporary basis with whatever is needed to up production so that the vaccines get to the people and save lives.

 

With the virus mutating and new and potentially more dangerous variants emerging, I just think more capacity is needed.

 

But yeah, idealism and realism are two different things.

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8 minutes ago, Harry's Lad said:

Like I said, maybe I am being too idealistic, but my thinking was to assist in the short term and on a temporary basis with whatever is needed to up production so that the vaccines get to the people and save lives.

 

With the virus mutating and new and potentially more dangerous variants emerging, I just think more capacity is needed.

 

But yeah, idealism and realism are two different things.

They did basically fund the production facilities by buying the vaccine in advance, this is one of the reasons EU is so furious. The production cost of vaccines delivered to other buyers, non-EU and EU members that broke ranks and ordered additional supplies themselves (and paid some form of premium to do so) is affected by the economies of scale reached also by huge contracts with EU, which are now being delayed in favour of premium customers. 

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Reading this on The Guardian, it seems the Tories have actually played a blinder and the EU have fucked up royally. (The formatting is a bit fucked so it might be easier to click the website link).

 

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/jan/29/we-had-to-go-it-alone-how-the-uk-got-ahead-in-the-covid-vaccine-race
 

'We had to go it alone': how the UK got ahead in the Covid vaccine race

Early partnership between Oxford and AstraZeneca, plus upfront funding, proved vital headstart

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A healthcare worker preparing a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine at a nursing home in Shropshire.  A healthcare worker preparing a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine at a nursing home in Shropshire. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA

When it became clear the China coronavirus outbreak might lead to a global pandemic, Oxford University’s life scientists convened a crisis meeting. It took place on Thursday 30 January last year, and if the rest of the world hadn’t yet realised the potential consequences of what was unfolding in Wuhan, they had.

Around the table in the Nuffield Department of Medicine were experts from in and around the university, gathered for a moment they had feared would one day come.

It was there that Prof Sarah Gilbert, a vaccine researcher, told her colleagues something remarkable; she had devised a likely vaccine, repurposing technology used by her team to develop vaccines against Ebola and Mers.

But she also said she badly needed to take the next step.

So began the international race to develop, manufacture and deliver drugs to tame a virus that has now killed more than 2 million people, and devastated the lives of many more. A race that this week has become bitter and angry.

Back then, Gilbert’s first suggestion was to start working with an Italian manufacturer, Advent, to produce initial stocks for trials and she wanted £1m of university money to underwrite the work.
 

“We just told her to go for it and spend what she needed,” said Prof Richard Cornall, the head of the Nuffield Department of Medicine. “Each of us had to do whatever we could. We were not happy about it, but in a way this was the moment we had all been preparing for.”

By the time it became clear to Downing Street that Covid would be the most serious national emergency since the war, the scientists at Oxford and elsewhere were already on their way.

In a country not known for thinking strategically about industrial policy, the UK actually had an advantage. Gilbert’s Jenner Institute, for example, was founded in 1998, when Peter Mandelson was industry secretary, and funded at first by the UK drug company GlaxoSmithKline. It was critical in ensuring the UK got ahead.

The Oxford scientists began meeting weekly, and by late March, Oxford scientists realised they needed a pharmaceutical giant to manufacture the vast quantities of vaccine required. The initial choice of partner was the US company Merck.

However, the prospective deal collapsed. The UK was desperate to secure enough supply for its own citizens – and at the time, ministers including the health secretary, Matt Hancock, were concerned. Not about the EU – but about the behaviour of the then-US president, Donald Trump.
“We were worried about vaccine nationalism – but the person we feared was Trump, that he would be able to pressurise a US company, and perhaps buy up the drug stocks,” said a former adviser at the Department of Health. “We never expected there would be a row with the EU.”

 

The British government wanted written guarantees of supply from Merck, but the company was only prepared to give verbal one , the adviser said. The deal fell through.

Enter the Anglo-Swedish firm, AstraZeneca, whose French chief executive, Pascal Soriot, was a trusted figure in political circles.

At the time, AstraZeneca was not considered a vaccine specialist, but Soriot was prepared to give written undertakings the UK wanted, and was prepared to sell the vaccine at no profit during the pandemic, at $2-5 a dose globally, which was what Oxford’s scientists wanted to hear.

AstraZeneca was signed as Oxford’s partner on 30 April and signed a deal to supply 100m doses to the UK a fortnight later. Ministers were prepared to pay a few hundred million upfront, allowing the company to build its first virus manufacturing process, and the UK government to demand its citizens be vaccinated first.

“That underpinned all of it,” an industry insider said.

Building on relationships established by the Oxford scientists, the vaccine for the UK market is cultivated at sites in Oxford and at Keele, near Stoke. It is then sent to Wrexham, where it is bottled into vials before being dispatched for final tests by UK regulators and sent on to the NHS.

AstraZeneca says the headstart it had was vital.
 

The vaccine brewing process – as it described by the company – takes three months and the yield it produces is uncertain. There were yield shortfalls in the UK, but as Soriot said in an interview earlier this week, “we have had an extra three months to fix all the glitches we experienced” before the vaccine was approved at the end of December.

With Brexit looming, the UK drew huge criticism for declining to join EU schemes to purchase PPE and ventilators. There was also growing pressure to join a joint EU procurement plan for vaccines, and to put aside the Brexit rhetoric.

But Brussels’ demands were eye-watering: the UK, unlike EU member states, would not be able to take part in the governance of the scheme, including the steering group or the negotiating team.

Britain would have no say in what vaccines to procure, at what price or in what quantity, and for what delivery schedule. There would be no side-deals possible.

British officials were not convinced. “We had to go it alone,” said a UK source. “There was nothing there for us.” By the time a special UK vaccine taskforce was created in April, the seeds of a successful strategy had been sown.

Run from May by the venture capitalist Kate Bingham, a no-nonsense operator, it directed government money up and down the vaccine supply chain, and helped ensure that two other vaccine candidates were manufactured in the UK – an interventionist policy not seen since before the days of Margaret Thatcher.

Meanwhile, over the Channel, Brussels’ faltering efforts soon convinced Downing Street that it had done the right thing.

There had been concerns from the beginning of the crisis in key EU capitals that others – the US in particular – would steal a march in the hunt for a successful vaccine. But despite the anxiety, the process of organising and purchasing prospective vaccines had been slow.

There was an early initiative by the European commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, to steal away CureVac, a biotech company working on a coronavirus vaccine, from Donald Trump, with whom it was in talks. The EU offered the company €80m in financial backing. “I hope that with this support, we can have a vaccine on the market, perhaps before autumn,” Von der Leyen said at the time. CureVac is still yet to come good.

The governments of Germany, Italy, France and the Netherlands had privately decided they could not wait on Brussels finding common agreement among the 27 on a strategy – and they spotted the potential in AstraZeneca from the start.

The so-called “inclusive alliance” group drafted a one-page set of terms for a deal for between 300m and 400m doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab. But other EU member states were getting restive, concerned that they were being left out.

The four governments passed on the negotiation to the commission “for the common good”, recalled Prof Walter Ricciardi, an adviser to the Italian government on its coronavirus strategy.

“We opened the door for the commission to take over but even then it took time, even when we tried to speed up the process,” Ricciardi said. “There were some countries fully aware of the importance of the vaccine but there were others that were reluctant to put money into this without guarantees of the result. That took time and the best possible energy of the commission. They did recruit the best possible officers to do that but it was a long process”.

It was another three months before the commission finally signed the deal, behind the UK, with some serious ramifications to come.
 

Authorisation of any vaccines would be done through the European medicines agency, rather than national regulators, to ensure that the rollout was done across the EU in tandem. But that also proved a fateful decision.

The slower authorisation by the EMA ensured that liability for the vaccine – should it prove dangerous – could potentially be pinned on the pharmaceutical companies during contract negotiations.

But if they were maintaining solidarity and perhaps even earning some extra public confidence, they were giving up speed.

The fast-track mechanisms available to national regulators, including the UK’s medicines and healthcare regulatory authority, gave Britain another potential advantage.

Nevertheless, with the announcement in early November that the German startup BioNTech had made a breakthrough in the development of a new type of vaccine to combat Covid-19, hopes remained high that the bloc was on the right path.

“It is Europe’s moment”, Von der Leyen tweeted in mid-December as she announced that between 27 and 29 December, people across the EU’s 27 member states would be vaccinated. “We protect our citizens together,” she said. But her confidence was misplaced. There were hidden frailties.

Rasmus Hansen, the chief executive of Airfinity, a data analytics company working in the life sciences sector, said the EU had failed to invest as it should have in scaling-up production plants.

The EU had spent just €1.78bn in “risk money”, cash handed to pharmaceutical companies without any guarantee of a return, compared to €1.9bn by the UK and €9bn by the US, he said. There were consequences.

The first hit to the EU strategy was the announcement by Pfizer/BioNTech, one of only two vaccine producers authorised for use in the EU at this stage – along with Moderna, with whom only a smaller order has been made – that they needed to slow down production in order to upgrade a facility in Belgium and boost output in late February.

This did not unduly upset officials initially. They had AstraZeneca, and its total of 400m doses, coming down the line. “I am not sure why this debate is there because the numbers are there, the production is ramping up,” Sandra Gallina, the commission’s chief negotiator, told MEPs on 12 January.
But then the hammer blow: last Friday, AstraZeneca, not yet approved by the EMA but expected to get the green light, said it would now be able to deliver only 25% of the intended 100m doses due in the first quarter of this year. A filtering problem at its plant in Seneffe, south of Brussels, had left the company with a lower yield than expected.
“It took a wrecking ball to the national plans,” admitted one diplomat. Just 2% of the EU adult population has so far received a jab, compared with 11% in the UK.

Shortages have been reported across Europe, with programmes suspended in Madrid and Paris, and the loss of the Oxford/AstraZeneca offered little hope of a pick-up in momentum.

Officials angrily pointed to the success of the British end of AstraZeneca’s vaccine production. “If the UK plants are working better, are we expecting the UK plants to deliver doses to us? Yes. Yes. Yes. They are part of our contract,” argued an official.

Gallina, shaken by the move, dived into the customs records to find evidence that AstraZeneca had shipped EU-produced doses to the UK – but without success.

AstraZeneca’s chief executive gave an interview with a group of European newspapers. “The UK agreement was reached in June, three months before the European one,” Soriot said.

“As you could imagine, the UK government said the supply coming out of the UK supply chain would go to the UK first. Basically, that’s how it is.”

The commission has accused AstraZeneca of a breach of contract. It has given its member states the power to block exports of vaccines, raising the spectre of Pfizer doses not being delivered to the UK. But at a meeting of EU ambassadors with commission officials earlier this week, the message was that the capitals were unimpressed.

“The commission was told to change the terms of the debate – we just want vaccines,” said one diplomatic source. “That’s all we want”.

Shortages have been reported across Europe, with programmes suspended in Madrid and Paris, and the loss of the Oxford/AstraZeneca offered little hope of a pick-up in momentum.

Officials angrily pointed to the success of the British end of AstraZeneca’s vaccine production. “If the UK plants are working better, are we expecting the UK plants to deliver doses to us? Yes. Yes. Yes. They are part of our contract,” argued an official.

Gallina, shaken by the move, dived into the customs records to find evidence that AstraZeneca had shipped EU-produced doses to the UK – but without success.

AstraZeneca’s chief executive gave an interview with a group of European newspapers. “The UK agreement was reached in June, three months before the European one,” Soriot said.

“As you could imagine, the UK government said the supply coming out of the UK supply chain would go to the UK first. Basically, that’s how it is.”

The commission has accused AstraZeneca of a breach of contract. It has given its member states the power to block exports of vaccines, raising the spectre of Pfizer doses not being delivered to the UK. But at a meeting of EU ambassadors with commission officials earlier this week, the message was that the capitals were unimpressed.

“The commission was told to change the terms of the debate – we just want vaccines,” said one diplomatic source. “That’s all we want”.

 

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49 minutes ago, Harry's Lad said:

Like I said, maybe I am being too idealistic, but my thinking was to assist in the short term and on a temporary basis with whatever is needed to up production so that the vaccines get to the people and save lives.

 

With the virus mutating and new and potentially more dangerous variants emerging, I just think more capacity is needed.

 

But yeah, idealism and realism are two different things.

I'm assuming it's not so simple and as quick to resolve. So unless they just built extra up front just in case there were later production issues, I don't see what they could do. 

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36 minutes ago, Vincent Vega said:

Reading this on The Guardian, it seems the Tories have actually played a blinder and the EU have fucked up royally. (The formatting is a bit fucked so it might be easier to click the website link).

 

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/jan/29/we-had-to-go-it-alone-how-the-uk-got-ahead-in-the-covid-vaccine-race
 

'We had to go it alone': how the UK got ahead in the Covid vaccine race

Early partnership between Oxford and AstraZeneca, plus upfront funding, proved vital headstart

 and 

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A healthcare worker preparing a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine at a nursing home in Shropshire.  A healthcare worker preparing a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine at a nursing home in Shropshire. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA

When it became clear the China coronavirus outbreak might lead to a global pandemic, Oxford University’s life scientists convened a crisis meeting. It took place on Thursday 30 January last year, and if the rest of the world hadn’t yet realised the potential consequences of what was unfolding in Wuhan, they had.

Around the table in the Nuffield Department of Medicine were experts from in and around the university, gathered for a moment they had feared would one day come.

It was there that Prof Sarah Gilbert, a vaccine researcher, told her colleagues something remarkable; she had devised a likely vaccine, repurposing technology used by her team to develop vaccines against Ebola and Mers.

But she also said she badly needed to take the next step.

So began the international race to develop, manufacture and deliver drugs to tame a virus that has now killed more than 2 million people, and devastated the lives of many more. A race that this week has become bitter and angry.

Back then, Gilbert’s first suggestion was to start working with an Italian manufacturer, Advent, to produce initial stocks for trials and she wanted £1m of university money to underwrite the work.
 

“We just told her to go for it and spend what she needed,” said Prof Richard Cornall, the head of the Nuffield Department of Medicine. “Each of us had to do whatever we could. We were not happy about it, but in a way this was the moment we had all been preparing for.”

By the time it became clear to Downing Street that Covid would be the most serious national emergency since the war, the scientists at Oxford and elsewhere were already on their way.

In a country not known for thinking strategically about industrial policy, the UK actually had an advantage. Gilbert’s Jenner Institute, for example, was founded in 1998, when Peter Mandelson was industry secretary, and funded at first by the UK drug company GlaxoSmithKline. It was critical in ensuring the UK got ahead.

The Oxford scientists began meeting weekly, and by late March, Oxford scientists realised they needed a pharmaceutical giant to manufacture the vast quantities of vaccine required. The initial choice of partner was the US company Merck.

However, the prospective deal collapsed. The UK was desperate to secure enough supply for its own citizens – and at the time, ministers including the health secretary, Matt Hancock, were concerned. Not about the EU – but about the behaviour of the then-US president, Donald Trump.
“We were worried about vaccine nationalism – but the person we feared was Trump, that he would be able to pressurise a US company, and perhaps buy up the drug stocks,” said a former adviser at the Department of Health. “We never expected there would be a row with the EU.”

 

The British government wanted written guarantees of supply from Merck, but the company was only prepared to give verbal one , the adviser said. The deal fell through.

Enter the Anglo-Swedish firm, AstraZeneca, whose French chief executive, Pascal Soriot, was a trusted figure in political circles.

At the time, AstraZeneca was not considered a vaccine specialist, but Soriot was prepared to give written undertakings the UK wanted, and was prepared to sell the vaccine at no profit during the pandemic, at $2-5 a dose globally, which was what Oxford’s scientists wanted to hear.

AstraZeneca was signed as Oxford’s partner on 30 April and signed a deal to supply 100m doses to the UK a fortnight later. Ministers were prepared to pay a few hundred million upfront, allowing the company to build its first virus manufacturing process, and the UK government to demand its citizens be vaccinated first.

“That underpinned all of it,” an industry insider said.

Building on relationships established by the Oxford scientists, the vaccine for the UK market is cultivated at sites in Oxford and at Keele, near Stoke. It is then sent to Wrexham, where it is bottled into vials before being dispatched for final tests by UK regulators and sent on to the NHS.

AstraZeneca says the headstart it had was vital.
 

The vaccine brewing process – as it described by the company – takes three months and the yield it produces is uncertain. There were yield shortfalls in the UK, but as Soriot said in an interview earlier this week, “we have had an extra three months to fix all the glitches we experienced” before the vaccine was approved at the end of December.

With Brexit looming, the UK drew huge criticism for declining to join EU schemes to purchase PPE and ventilators. There was also growing pressure to join a joint EU procurement plan for vaccines, and to put aside the Brexit rhetoric.

But Brussels’ demands were eye-watering: the UK, unlike EU member states, would not be able to take part in the governance of the scheme, including the steering group or the negotiating team.

Britain would have no say in what vaccines to procure, at what price or in what quantity, and for what delivery schedule. There would be no side-deals possible.

British officials were not convinced. “We had to go it alone,” said a UK source. “There was nothing there for us.” By the time a special UK vaccine taskforce was created in April, the seeds of a successful strategy had been sown.

Run from May by the venture capitalist Kate Bingham, a no-nonsense operator, it directed government money up and down the vaccine supply chain, and helped ensure that two other vaccine candidates were manufactured in the UK – an interventionist policy not seen since before the days of Margaret Thatcher.

Meanwhile, over the Channel, Brussels’ faltering efforts soon convinced Downing Street that it had done the right thing.

There had been concerns from the beginning of the crisis in key EU capitals that others – the US in particular – would steal a march in the hunt for a successful vaccine. But despite the anxiety, the process of organising and purchasing prospective vaccines had been slow.

There was an early initiative by the European commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, to steal away CureVac, a biotech company working on a coronavirus vaccine, from Donald Trump, with whom it was in talks. The EU offered the company €80m in financial backing. “I hope that with this support, we can have a vaccine on the market, perhaps before autumn,” Von der Leyen said at the time. CureVac is still yet to come good.

The governments of Germany, Italy, France and the Netherlands had privately decided they could not wait on Brussels finding common agreement among the 27 on a strategy – and they spotted the potential in AstraZeneca from the start.

The so-called “inclusive alliance” group drafted a one-page set of terms for a deal for between 300m and 400m doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab. But other EU member states were getting restive, concerned that they were being left out.

The four governments passed on the negotiation to the commission “for the common good”, recalled Prof Walter Ricciardi, an adviser to the Italian government on its coronavirus strategy.

“We opened the door for the commission to take over but even then it took time, even when we tried to speed up the process,” Ricciardi said. “There were some countries fully aware of the importance of the vaccine but there were others that were reluctant to put money into this without guarantees of the result. That took time and the best possible energy of the commission. They did recruit the best possible officers to do that but it was a long process”.

It was another three months before the commission finally signed the deal, behind the UK, with some serious ramifications to come.
 

Authorisation of any vaccines would be done through the European medicines agency, rather than national regulators, to ensure that the rollout was done across the EU in tandem. But that also proved a fateful decision.

The slower authorisation by the EMA ensured that liability for the vaccine – should it prove dangerous – could potentially be pinned on the pharmaceutical companies during contract negotiations.

But if they were maintaining solidarity and perhaps even earning some extra public confidence, they were giving up speed.

The fast-track mechanisms available to national regulators, including the UK’s medicines and healthcare regulatory authority, gave Britain another potential advantage.

Nevertheless, with the announcement in early November that the German startup BioNTech had made a breakthrough in the development of a new type of vaccine to combat Covid-19, hopes remained high that the bloc was on the right path.

“It is Europe’s moment”, Von der Leyen tweeted in mid-December as she announced that between 27 and 29 December, people across the EU’s 27 member states would be vaccinated. “We protect our citizens together,” she said. But her confidence was misplaced. There were hidden frailties.

Rasmus Hansen, the chief executive of Airfinity, a data analytics company working in the life sciences sector, said the EU had failed to invest as it should have in scaling-up production plants.

The EU had spent just €1.78bn in “risk money”, cash handed to pharmaceutical companies without any guarantee of a return, compared to €1.9bn by the UK and €9bn by the US, he said. There were consequences.

The first hit to the EU strategy was the announcement by Pfizer/BioNTech, one of only two vaccine producers authorised for use in the EU at this stage – along with Moderna, with whom only a smaller order has been made – that they needed to slow down production in order to upgrade a facility in Belgium and boost output in late February.

This did not unduly upset officials initially. They had AstraZeneca, and its total of 400m doses, coming down the line. “I am not sure why this debate is there because the numbers are there, the production is ramping up,” Sandra Gallina, the commission’s chief negotiator, told MEPs on 12 January.
But then the hammer blow: last Friday, AstraZeneca, not yet approved by the EMA but expected to get the green light, said it would now be able to deliver only 25% of the intended 100m doses due in the first quarter of this year. A filtering problem at its plant in Seneffe, south of Brussels, had left the company with a lower yield than expected.
“It took a wrecking ball to the national plans,” admitted one diplomat. Just 2% of the EU adult population has so far received a jab, compared with 11% in the UK.

Shortages have been reported across Europe, with programmes suspended in Madrid and Paris, and the loss of the Oxford/AstraZeneca offered little hope of a pick-up in momentum.

Officials angrily pointed to the success of the British end of AstraZeneca’s vaccine production. “If the UK plants are working better, are we expecting the UK plants to deliver doses to us? Yes. Yes. Yes. They are part of our contract,” argued an official.

Gallina, shaken by the move, dived into the customs records to find evidence that AstraZeneca had shipped EU-produced doses to the UK – but without success.

AstraZeneca’s chief executive gave an interview with a group of European newspapers. “The UK agreement was reached in June, three months before the European one,” Soriot said.

“As you could imagine, the UK government said the supply coming out of the UK supply chain would go to the UK first. Basically, that’s how it is.”

The commission has accused AstraZeneca of a breach of contract. It has given its member states the power to block exports of vaccines, raising the spectre of Pfizer doses not being delivered to the UK. But at a meeting of EU ambassadors with commission officials earlier this week, the message was that the capitals were unimpressed.

“The commission was told to change the terms of the debate – we just want vaccines,” said one diplomatic source. “That’s all we want”.

Shortages have been reported across Europe, with programmes suspended in Madrid and Paris, and the loss of the Oxford/AstraZeneca offered little hope of a pick-up in momentum.

Officials angrily pointed to the success of the British end of AstraZeneca’s vaccine production. “If the UK plants are working better, are we expecting the UK plants to deliver doses to us? Yes. Yes. Yes. They are part of our contract,” argued an official.

Gallina, shaken by the move, dived into the customs records to find evidence that AstraZeneca had shipped EU-produced doses to the UK – but without success.

AstraZeneca’s chief executive gave an interview with a group of European newspapers. “The UK agreement was reached in June, three months before the European one,” Soriot said.

“As you could imagine, the UK government said the supply coming out of the UK supply chain would go to the UK first. Basically, that’s how it is.”

The commission has accused AstraZeneca of a breach of contract. It has given its member states the power to block exports of vaccines, raising the spectre of Pfizer doses not being delivered to the UK. But at a meeting of EU ambassadors with commission officials earlier this week, the message was that the capitals were unimpressed.

“The commission was told to change the terms of the debate – we just want vaccines,” said one diplomatic source. “That’s all we want”.

 

 

So UK has stipulated in its deal with AZ that vaccine produced in the UK must go to the deliveries to the UK regardless of what happens with its production elsewhere and WHO is now accusing the EU of vaccine nationalism because it wants to introduce export controls on vaccines produced in the EU (by AZ and other pharmas, mainly Pfizer and some Moderna) and going to the UK (and US and other countries). EC was certainly naive in all this and some heads will have to roll. Ursula out. 

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53 minutes ago, Vincent Vega said:

Reading this on The Guardian, it seems the Tories have actually played a blinder and the EU have fucked up royally. (The formatting is a bit fucked so it might be easier to click the website link).

 

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/jan/29/we-had-to-go-it-alone-how-the-uk-got-ahead-in-the-covid-vaccine-race
 

'We had to go it alone': how the UK got ahead in the Covid vaccine race

Early partnership between Oxford and AstraZeneca, plus upfront funding, proved vital headstart

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A healthcare worker preparing a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine at a nursing home in Shropshire.  A healthcare worker preparing a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine at a nursing home in Shropshire. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA

When it became clear the China coronavirus outbreak might lead to a global pandemic, Oxford University’s life scientists convened a crisis meeting. It took place on Thursday 30 January last year, and if the rest of the world hadn’t yet realised the potential consequences of what was unfolding in Wuhan, they had.

Around the table in the Nuffield Department of Medicine were experts from in and around the university, gathered for a moment they had feared would one day come.

It was there that Prof Sarah Gilbert, a vaccine researcher, told her colleagues something remarkable; she had devised a likely vaccine, repurposing technology used by her team to develop vaccines against Ebola and Mers.

But she also said she badly needed to take the next step.

So began the international race to develop, manufacture and deliver drugs to tame a virus that has now killed more than 2 million people, and devastated the lives of many more. A race that this week has become bitter and angry.

Back then, Gilbert’s first suggestion was to start working with an Italian manufacturer, Advent, to produce initial stocks for trials and she wanted £1m of university money to underwrite the work.
 

“We just told her to go for it and spend what she needed,” said Prof Richard Cornall, the head of the Nuffield Department of Medicine. “Each of us had to do whatever we could. We were not happy about it, but in a way this was the moment we had all been preparing for.”

By the time it became clear to Downing Street that Covid would be the most serious national emergency since the war, the scientists at Oxford and elsewhere were already on their way.

In a country not known for thinking strategically about industrial policy, the UK actually had an advantage. Gilbert’s Jenner Institute, for example, was founded in 1998, when Peter Mandelson was industry secretary, and funded at first by the UK drug company GlaxoSmithKline. It was critical in ensuring the UK got ahead.

The Oxford scientists began meeting weekly, and by late March, Oxford scientists realised they needed a pharmaceutical giant to manufacture the vast quantities of vaccine required. The initial choice of partner was the US company Merck.

However, the prospective deal collapsed. The UK was desperate to secure enough supply for its own citizens – and at the time, ministers including the health secretary, Matt Hancock, were concerned. Not about the EU – but about the behaviour of the then-US president, Donald Trump.
“We were worried about vaccine nationalism – but the person we feared was Trump, that he would be able to pressurise a US company, and perhaps buy up the drug stocks,” said a former adviser at the Department of Health. “We never expected there would be a row with the EU.”

 

The British government wanted written guarantees of supply from Merck, but the company was only prepared to give verbal one , the adviser said. The deal fell through.

Enter the Anglo-Swedish firm, AstraZeneca, whose French chief executive, Pascal Soriot, was a trusted figure in political circles.

At the time, AstraZeneca was not considered a vaccine specialist, but Soriot was prepared to give written undertakings the UK wanted, and was prepared to sell the vaccine at no profit during the pandemic, at $2-5 a dose globally, which was what Oxford’s scientists wanted to hear.

AstraZeneca was signed as Oxford’s partner on 30 April and signed a deal to supply 100m doses to the UK a fortnight later. Ministers were prepared to pay a few hundred million upfront, allowing the company to build its first virus manufacturing process, and the UK government to demand its citizens be vaccinated first.

“That underpinned all of it,” an industry insider said.

Building on relationships established by the Oxford scientists, the vaccine for the UK market is cultivated at sites in Oxford and at Keele, near Stoke. It is then sent to Wrexham, where it is bottled into vials before being dispatched for final tests by UK regulators and sent on to the NHS.

AstraZeneca says the headstart it had was vital.
 

The vaccine brewing process – as it described by the company – takes three months and the yield it produces is uncertain. There were yield shortfalls in the UK, but as Soriot said in an interview earlier this week, “we have had an extra three months to fix all the glitches we experienced” before the vaccine was approved at the end of December.

With Brexit looming, the UK drew huge criticism for declining to join EU schemes to purchase PPE and ventilators. There was also growing pressure to join a joint EU procurement plan for vaccines, and to put aside the Brexit rhetoric.

But Brussels’ demands were eye-watering: the UK, unlike EU member states, would not be able to take part in the governance of the scheme, including the steering group or the negotiating team.

Britain would have no say in what vaccines to procure, at what price or in what quantity, and for what delivery schedule. There would be no side-deals possible.

British officials were not convinced. “We had to go it alone,” said a UK source. “There was nothing there for us.” By the time a special UK vaccine taskforce was created in April, the seeds of a successful strategy had been sown.

Run from May by the venture capitalist Kate Bingham, a no-nonsense operator, it directed government money up and down the vaccine supply chain, and helped ensure that two other vaccine candidates were manufactured in the UK – an interventionist policy not seen since before the days of Margaret Thatcher.

Meanwhile, over the Channel, Brussels’ faltering efforts soon convinced Downing Street that it had done the right thing.

There had been concerns from the beginning of the crisis in key EU capitals that others – the US in particular – would steal a march in the hunt for a successful vaccine. But despite the anxiety, the process of organising and purchasing prospective vaccines had been slow.

There was an early initiative by the European commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, to steal away CureVac, a biotech company working on a coronavirus vaccine, from Donald Trump, with whom it was in talks. The EU offered the company €80m in financial backing. “I hope that with this support, we can have a vaccine on the market, perhaps before autumn,” Von der Leyen said at the time. CureVac is still yet to come good.

The governments of Germany, Italy, France and the Netherlands had privately decided they could not wait on Brussels finding common agreement among the 27 on a strategy – and they spotted the potential in AstraZeneca from the start.

The so-called “inclusive alliance” group drafted a one-page set of terms for a deal for between 300m and 400m doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab. But other EU member states were getting restive, concerned that they were being left out.

The four governments passed on the negotiation to the commission “for the common good”, recalled Prof Walter Ricciardi, an adviser to the Italian government on its coronavirus strategy.

“We opened the door for the commission to take over but even then it took time, even when we tried to speed up the process,” Ricciardi said. “There were some countries fully aware of the importance of the vaccine but there were others that were reluctant to put money into this without guarantees of the result. That took time and the best possible energy of the commission. They did recruit the best possible officers to do that but it was a long process”.

It was another three months before the commission finally signed the deal, behind the UK, with some serious ramifications to come.
 

Authorisation of any vaccines would be done through the European medicines agency, rather than national regulators, to ensure that the rollout was done across the EU in tandem. But that also proved a fateful decision.

The slower authorisation by the EMA ensured that liability for the vaccine – should it prove dangerous – could potentially be pinned on the pharmaceutical companies during contract negotiations.

But if they were maintaining solidarity and perhaps even earning some extra public confidence, they were giving up speed.

The fast-track mechanisms available to national regulators, including the UK’s medicines and healthcare regulatory authority, gave Britain another potential advantage.

Nevertheless, with the announcement in early November that the German startup BioNTech had made a breakthrough in the development of a new type of vaccine to combat Covid-19, hopes remained high that the bloc was on the right path.

“It is Europe’s moment”, Von der Leyen tweeted in mid-December as she announced that between 27 and 29 December, people across the EU’s 27 member states would be vaccinated. “We protect our citizens together,” she said. But her confidence was misplaced. There were hidden frailties.

Rasmus Hansen, the chief executive of Airfinity, a data analytics company working in the life sciences sector, said the EU had failed to invest as it should have in scaling-up production plants.

The EU had spent just €1.78bn in “risk money”, cash handed to pharmaceutical companies without any guarantee of a return, compared to €1.9bn by the UK and €9bn by the US, he said. There were consequences.

The first hit to the EU strategy was the announcement by Pfizer/BioNTech, one of only two vaccine producers authorised for use in the EU at this stage – along with Moderna, with whom only a smaller order has been made – that they needed to slow down production in order to upgrade a facility in Belgium and boost output in late February.

This did not unduly upset officials initially. They had AstraZeneca, and its total of 400m doses, coming down the line. “I am not sure why this debate is there because the numbers are there, the production is ramping up,” Sandra Gallina, the commission’s chief negotiator, told MEPs on 12 January.
But then the hammer blow: last Friday, AstraZeneca, not yet approved by the EMA but expected to get the green light, said it would now be able to deliver only 25% of the intended 100m doses due in the first quarter of this year. A filtering problem at its plant in Seneffe, south of Brussels, had left the company with a lower yield than expected.
“It took a wrecking ball to the national plans,” admitted one diplomat. Just 2% of the EU adult population has so far received a jab, compared with 11% in the UK.

Shortages have been reported across Europe, with programmes suspended in Madrid and Paris, and the loss of the Oxford/AstraZeneca offered little hope of a pick-up in momentum.

Officials angrily pointed to the success of the British end of AstraZeneca’s vaccine production. “If the UK plants are working better, are we expecting the UK plants to deliver doses to us? Yes. Yes. Yes. They are part of our contract,” argued an official.

Gallina, shaken by the move, dived into the customs records to find evidence that AstraZeneca had shipped EU-produced doses to the UK – but without success.

AstraZeneca’s chief executive gave an interview with a group of European newspapers. “The UK agreement was reached in June, three months before the European one,” Soriot said.

“As you could imagine, the UK government said the supply coming out of the UK supply chain would go to the UK first. Basically, that’s how it is.”

The commission has accused AstraZeneca of a breach of contract. It has given its member states the power to block exports of vaccines, raising the spectre of Pfizer doses not being delivered to the UK. But at a meeting of EU ambassadors with commission officials earlier this week, the message was that the capitals were unimpressed.

“The commission was told to change the terms of the debate – we just want vaccines,” said one diplomatic source. “That’s all we want”.

Shortages have been reported across Europe, with programmes suspended in Madrid and Paris, and the loss of the Oxford/AstraZeneca offered little hope of a pick-up in momentum.

Officials angrily pointed to the success of the British end of AstraZeneca’s vaccine production. “If the UK plants are working better, are we expecting the UK plants to deliver doses to us? Yes. Yes. Yes. They are part of our contract,” argued an official.

Gallina, shaken by the move, dived into the customs records to find evidence that AstraZeneca had shipped EU-produced doses to the UK – but without success.

AstraZeneca’s chief executive gave an interview with a group of European newspapers. “The UK agreement was reached in June, three months before the European one,” Soriot said.

“As you could imagine, the UK government said the supply coming out of the UK supply chain would go to the UK first. Basically, that’s how it is.”

The commission has accused AstraZeneca of a breach of contract. It has given its member states the power to block exports of vaccines, raising the spectre of Pfizer doses not being delivered to the UK. But at a meeting of EU ambassadors with commission officials earlier this week, the message was that the capitals were unimpressed.

“The commission was told to change the terms of the debate – we just want vaccines,” said one diplomatic source. “That’s all we want”.

 

No denying the British have done remarkably well with the vaccines and where cute fuckers with the contracts to. They've certainly wiped the eu's eye with that department. 

 

But I wouldn't go as far as to say they've played a blinder. I mean, look at the death rates in the UK. It's fucking scandalous. 

 

But I'm sure the British media will be able to spin that all those deaths was worth it, just to get one over the dreaded EU on vaccine roll out. 

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1 hour ago, chrisbonnie said:

No denying the British have done remarkably well with the vaccines and where cute fuckers with the contracts to. They've certainly wiped the eu's eye with that department. 

 

But I wouldn't go as far as to say they've played a blinder. I mean, look at the death rates in the UK. It's fucking scandalous

 

But I'm sure the British media will be able to spin that all those deaths was worth it, just to get one over the dreaded EU on vaccine roll out. 

The Tories have mishandled everything, I despise them and think this current government is the worst in history. I merely said they had played a blinder on vaccine procurement and that article highlights it. They realised very early that a vaccine was going to be the only solution and ensured they would have an adequate supply of them produced in this country. 

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12 minutes ago, Bellflower said:

We both got the Pfizer vaccination today.

Cup of tea and a biscuit.

Free hospital parking.

Result !

Nice one mate what biscuits were they ? 

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1 hour ago, Vincent Vega said:

The Tories have mishandled everything, I despise them and think this current government is the worst in history. I merely said they had played a blinder on vaccine procurement and that article highlights it. They realised very early that a vaccine was going to be the only solution and ensured they would have an adequate supply of them produced in this country. 

Think as I mentioned earlier up the thread, the reason Trump and Johnson led the way on vaccines is because, as populists they deal in simple solutions to complex problems.

 

When given options on how to deal with it all it was a case of.

 

Close the borders. "Mmm nah."

 

Mass testing. "Could do, dunno."

 

Track and trace. "Erm, what?"

 

Injection in arm, three quid. "Ooooh!"

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2 hours ago, Vincent Vega said:

The Tories have mishandled everything, I despise them and think this current government is the worst in history. I merely said they had played a blinder on vaccine procurement and that article highlights it. They realised very early that a vaccine was going to be the only solution and ensured they would have an adequate supply of them produced in this country. 

 

Yep. Its fair to say that this will be the narrative over the next six months. 

 

Ignore the first 10 months of the pandemic where they were fucking abysmal, Look at how well they outwitted the EU and vaccinated people. I'm sure they will try and twist it to say that the EU was somehow partly to blame and it was only once we had left that we were able to do certain things. It will be more believable now after the way the EU have acquitted themselves as well. 

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