Moderna CEO’s brutal summary of ‘slow’ EU as new jab dubbed turning point for UK

Moderna vaccine: Unpaid carer receives first UK jab

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The UK has started giving the Moderna vaccine today, bolstering its immunisation programme amid ongoing concerns over potential side effects relating to the AstraZeneca shot. The Moderna vaccine, which is first being offered in Wales, is Britain’s third approved coronavirus jab alongside those from AstraZeneca and partners Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE. The UK has ordered 17 million doses of the new vaccine, enough for 8.5 million people.

According to ministers, it will be a turning point for the country’s vaccination programme, which has already proven to be extremely successful.

So far, 60 percent of Britain’s adult population have had at least one dose.

The EU, which accounts for 27 nations, is still stuck at 13 percent.

This can arguably be attributed to Brussels’ slow decision-making and clunky contracting.

In an interview with AFP in November, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel shed light on the negotiations between the two sides.

The Frenchman revealed how dealing with 27 member countries was slowing everything down.

By contrast, he claimed the American company had struck a deal with Canadian authorities two weeks after starting talks.

Mr Bancel said: “It is clear that with a delay this is not going to limit the total amount but it is going to slow down delivery.”

When Moderna reported efficacy rates higher than 90 percent on November 16, the UK managed to wrap a deal with the American company that same day.

The deal with the EU was close to completion, but the Commission failed to get everyone on board.

The bloc and Moderna only signed a contract nine days later, on November 25.

According to the Head of Oxford-based think-tank Euro Intelligence Wolfgang Munchau, the bloc would never have been able to deliver a successful vaccination rollout on a par with the UK’s or Israel’s.

He explained in a recent report: “The EU could not have done what Israel and the UK did.

“Israel handed all health data to the manufacturers.

“That’s not possible in the data-protection-obsessed EU.

“The UK put a venture capitalist in charge of the operation.”

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He added: “Inexperience plays a role. But the biggest problem in the procurement delays is the constant need in the EU to coordinate between all members.

“Policy coordination works in situations that are purely symmetric – of which there are not many.

“Vaccination is surely not in that category.”

With a population of just nine million, Israel is not a large country but its contributions to health innovation, in particular digital health, are outsized.

In 2019, Israel’s cabinet approved a one billion shekel (£276million) investment in digital health, focusing primarily on commercialising and otherwise deriving value from the country’s medical databases.

Israel’s healthcare system has been paperless for about 20 years.

And while its hospitals are not all on the same Electronic Health Records (EHR) system, those systems do all talk to each other.

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The ability to reach patients at the drop of a hat, have immediate access to their medical history, and seamless capabilities for appointment bookings have been fundamental for Israel, which is one of the countries at the top of the COVID-19 vaccine league table.

Britain’s successful vaccination rollout is another story.

As Mr Munchau mentioned, the UK did put a venture capitalist, Kate Bingham, in charge of the operation.

Her taskforce helped the Government secure vital agreements to have access to six different vaccines across four different formats, amounting to 357 million doses.

She invested a huge £1billion upfront, without any guarantee that any vaccine would work.

It was a risk that has paid off handsomely, and has allowed the UK to race ahead and vaccinate its population against the virus.

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