EU launches ‘second generation’ COVID-19 vaccine programme | Daily News

EU launches ‘second generation’ COVID-19 vaccine programme

South Africa offers AstraZeneca jabs to AU

BELGIUM: The European Union (EU) will launch a programme to study COVID-19 variants and produce “second generation” vaccines against future strains, the bloc’s president has said.

The “HERA incubator” programme, which began yesterdayy brings together the pharmaceutical industry, laboratories, health authorities and researchers, Ursula von der Leyen told French daily Les Echos on Tuesday.

“The virus has evolved and will continue to evolve,” said a spokesperson for the bloc -- which has been criticised for its a slow rollout of vaccines so far.

“It is important we prepare for mutations.” Member states will also be asked to contribute additional funds so the EU can adapt and modify contracts already signed with vaccine providers and secure doses against future variants, Bloomberg reported.

With delays to deliveries of three already-authorised vaccines by AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, the EU's medicines regulator is under pressure from European capitals to speed more into service.

Meanwhile, South Africa said it would offer its doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to the African Union (AU) after scrapping their use due to efficacy concerns.

The country suspended its vaccine rollout -- meant to begin with the AstraZeneca shots earlier this month -- after a study found the jab failed to prevent mild and moderate illness caused by a variant found in South Africa.

“The doses we purchased have been offered to the African Union to distribute to those countries who have already expressed interest in acquiring the stock,” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize told Parliament.

The African Union (AU), through its African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, has secured some 270 million doses of anti-COVID vaccines for the continent and last week said it would not “walk away” from the AstraZeneca formula.

South Africa has now settled for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, securing nine million doses, including 80,000 delivered late on Tuesday.

Those vaccines will be supplemented by 20 million doses of the Pfizer formula as South Africa embarks on an ambitious aim to inoculate around 40 million people -- 67 percent of the population -- by the end of the year.