France says ‘highly probable’ EU won’t renew AstraZeneca orders

The European Union is very unlikely to renew its Covid-19 vaccine contracts with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, a French minister said on Friday.

France says 'highly probable' EU won't renew AstraZeneca orders
French industry minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher says a repeat AstraZeneca order would be unlikely. Photo: Martin Bureau/AFP

Denmark this week banned the use of AstraZeneca jabs over blood clot concerns, just as the EU said it was expecting 50 million Pfizer vaccine doses earlier than expected.

No final EU decision had been taken, French Industry Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher told RMC radio, but “it is highly probable” that no further AstraZeneca doses would be ordered for 2022.

“We have not started talks with Johnson & Johnson or with AstraZeneca for a new contract, but we have started talks with Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna,” Pannier-Runacher said.

AstraZeneca has had major problems in fulfilling its orders to the EU, with the Bloc ending up with many million fewer doses of the vaccine than it was expecting in the first two quarters, which has had an effect on the speed of the rollout across EU countries.

Denmark said on Wednesday it would stop using the AstraZeneca vaccine altogether over blood clot fears, despite assurances from the EMA and the World Health Organization that the benefits far outweigh possible risks.

Switzerland has never licensed the AstraZeneca vaccine for use and most other European countries now restrict the vaccine only to the older population, who appear to be less at risk from the rare blood clots that have been associated with it.

READ ALSO COMPARE The different strategies used in Europe to vaccinate against Covid-19

Pannier-Runacher added: “We have a portfolio of mRNA vaccines that work very well and have few side effects.

“We are going to have new vaccines, if all goes well, Novavax and Sanofi, which have very good results and we have 50 years of experience with this type of technology. Those vaccines are going to come in the second half of the year, so we’re going to see a lot of doses on different platforms that allow us to meet all the needs.”

Her prediction comes after US drugmaker Johnson & Johnson said it would delay its European rollout, also over blood clot fears – a major hit for the continent’s immunisation campaign as several countries battle rising caseloads.

The J&J and AstraZeneca setbacks are dampening hopes that mass immunisations will allow a swift exit from a pandemic that has killed close to three million people and ravaged the global economy.

Meanwhile, 50 million BioNTech/Pfizer doses that were due to arrive in Europe only at the end of 2021 have been brought forward for delivery as soon as this month.

Member comments

  1. Get the doses, put a warning on them that there is a 1 in a “x million” chance of blood clots, and let people decide whether they would get that vaccine or not. I’ll take that risk, because it’s less dangerous that crossing the street or riding a bicycle, or even swimming in the sea.

    1. When it happens to you, it is 100%. I know two people who died from blood clots. Go ahead and take the chance.
      This is an experiment and a crime against humanity.

      1. The number of people who got blood clots from AZ and subsequently died is so low, that it is safe to say that you don’t know anyone. Get a life and stop spreading fear online.

        You have higher chance of dying from taking aspirin than from AZ vaccine.

        1. COVID was created as was Aids, SARS, and Ebola. They have patents. Why haven’t the creators been arrested? The media are the ones spreading fear. Now, Pfizer is saying one may need a third jab. Really??? They are also saying people who have COVID antibodies shouldn’t take it as the risk is even higher for clots. You take it. Everyone is different and no one should be force jabbed. Medical history is between patient and doctor only.

  2. AZ did not deliver (- 70 % !), keeps lying (about delivery, “contract priorities”, clinical studies), causes the famous clots, protects you less than the competitors, and almost not at all against variants, has an invisible and arrogant (and French) CEO. Well, it’s a no brainer: AZ tried to play smart, they failed, others delivered big time, bye bye AZ, flog your stuff to the Brits, since they seem to love you so much over there (at least the tabloids do).

    1. It is also cheap, can be stored in normal fridges, and works against British variant (which is the dominant variant in Europe now).

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EU countries to extend range of offences foreign drivers can be fined for

The EU has agreed to extend the number of driving offences for which motorists from other member states can be fined for and to make it easier for authorities to chase up the fines and make foreign drivers pay.

EU countries to extend range of offences foreign drivers can be fined for

In the last voting session of this term, in April, the European Parliament passed new rules to ensure drivers who breach local traffic rules in another EU member state are found and fined.

The cross-border enforcement (CBE) directive was first adopted in 2015 after it was found that non-resident drivers were more likely to commit speeding offences. The European Commission estimated that in 2008, foreign drivers accounted for about 5 percent of road traffic in the EU but committed around 15 percent of speeding offences.

The directive partially improved the situation, but according to the Commission 40 percent of traffic violations committed in other EU countries are still unpunished “because the offender is not identified or because the fine is not enforced”.

In March 2023, the Commission therefore proposed updating existing measures.

New rules extend the type of offences that will trigger assistance from another member state and seek to improve collaboration among national authorities to identify and fine offenders.

The European Parliament and Council agreed in March on the final text of the directive, which is now being formally approved by the two institutions.

André Sobczak, Secretary-General at Eurocities, a group representing European cities in Brussels, said: “While the final outcome of the discussions is not ideal, we are pleased that EU policymakers have at least put the issue of the enforcement of local traffic rules on foreign vehicles on the table. As we approach an election year, I believe such a practical example can demonstrate why a European approach is necessary to address local issues.”

Which traffic offences are covered?

The previous directive covered eight driving misconducts that would require member states to cooperate: speeding, not wearing seat belts, failing to stop at a red traffic light, drink-driving, driving under the effect of drugs, not wearing a helmet (motorcycles / scooters), using a forbidden lane and using a mobile phone or other communication devices while driving.

The Commission proposed to add to the list not keeping a safe distance from the vehicle in front, dangerous overtaking, dangerous parking, crossing one or more solid white lines, driving the wrong way down a one way street, not respecting the rules on “emergency corridors” (a clear lane intended for priority vehicles), and using an overloaded vehicle.

The Parliament and Council agreed to these and added more offences: not giving way to emergency service vehicles, not respecting access restrictions or rules at a rail crossings, as well as hit-and-run offences.

Despite calls from European cities, the new directive does not cover offences related to foreign drivers avoiding congestion charges or low emission zones. In such cases, information about vehicle registration can only be shared among countries with bilateral agreements.

Karen Vancluysen, Secretary General at POLIS, a network of cities and regions working on urban transport, called on the next European Commission to take other local traffic offences, such as breaches of low emission zones, “fully at heart”.

Collaboration among national authorities

For the traffic violations covered by the directive, EU countries have to help each other to find the liable driver. The new directive further clarifies how.

Member states will have to use the European vehicle and driving licence information system (Eucaris) to get the data of the offender.

National authorities will have 11 months from the date of the violation to issue the fine to a vehicle from another EU member state. However, they will not have to resort to agencies or private entities to collect the fine. This was requested by the European Parliament to avoid scams or leaks of personal data.

Authorities in the country of the offender will have to reply to requests from another EU member state within two months.

When the amount of the fine is more than €70, and all options to have it paid have been exhausted, the member state where the violation occurred can ask the country of the offender to take over the collection.

The person concerned will be able to request follow-up documents in a different official EU language.

When will the new rules will be enforced?

Now that the EU Parliament has passed the law, the EU Council has to do the same, although there is no date set for when that will happen. Once the directive is adopted, EU countries will have 30 months to prepare for implementation.

Last year the Commission also proposed a new directive on driving licenses, but negotiations on the final text of this file will only take place after the European elections.

This article has been produced in collaboration with Europe Street news.