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EU summit welcomes COVID-19 certificate to unlock travel

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EU leaders yesterday welcomed the introduction of a bloc-wide COVID-19 pass that they hope will unlock a tourist surge this summer. 

European Commission Chief, Ursula von der Leyen told a media conference after the summit that more than 300 million COVID-19 vaccine doses will have been delivered by the end of this week, rising to 400 million next month.

“If we continue like this, we have confidence that we will be able to safely reopen our societies. EU was on track to meet its goal of fully inoculating 70 per cent of adults by late July. Progressively, we should return to the ability to move freely throughout the European Union,” she said.

EU countries and the European Parliament struck agreement last week on the legislation to come into force mid-June for the COVID-19 certificate. Von der Leyen said all the technological infrastructure would be ready by June 1.

The leaders of Greece, Spain and Croatia, whose economies strongly rely on tourist spending, were particularly effusive about the common document.

They all had wipe-out summer seasons last year, but are already starting to welcome back foreign travellers, ignoring Brussels’ plea to coordinate at an EU level.

Luxembourg’s Prime Minister, Xavier Bettel, pointed out that a scannable QR code on the certificates will stymie the “hugely copied” PDF files of test results or vaccinations that some people were using to cross borders.

The EU’s COVID certificate will show the bearer’s vaccination status, or whether they have immunity from a COVID infection they have recovered from, or the result of a COVID test.

Conscious that the EU has procured up to 4.4 billion vaccine doses over the next two years — far more than it needs for its population of 450 million — leaders have rallied to a pledge made at a G20 summit in Rome last Friday, to share 100 million doses to countries in need by the end of this year.

Denmark and Sweden each promised three million doses from their stocks at the summit. Germany, Italy and France had already pledged higher amounts.

German Chancellor, Angela Merkel said she also pushed leaders to agree a mechanism to “react quickly and cohesively” if worrying new coronavirus variants popped up.

The Brussels gathering of EU leaders on Tuesday, also looked at ways to share out the burden on battling climate change, to meet the target of cutting emissions by 55 percent over the rest of this decade.

Von der Leyen’s commission has been tasked with mapping out the next steps — including potentially unpopular ones such as slapping carbon taxes on cars and buildings.

Moderna says COVID-19 vaccine ‘highly effective’ in adolescents

US biotech firm, Moderna, yesterday said trials had shown its COVID-19 vaccine was “highly effective” in adolescents aged 12-17 and the company would seek regulators’ approval in June.

The company’s Chief Executive Officer, Stephane Bancel, said this in a statement

“We are encouraged that mRNA-1273 was highly effective at preventing COVID-19 in adolescents. We will submit these results to the US FDA and regulators globally in early June and request authorisation,” he said.

If green lit, as expected, it would be the second COVID vaccine authorised for use in US adolescents after Pfizer’s, which began rolling out this month for 12-to-15-year-olds.

The Moderna study enrolled 3,732 adolescents aged 12 to 17 and randomised, with two-thirds receiving the two doses of the vaccine and the rest receiving a placebo.

After two doses, no cases of symptomatic COVID-19 were observed in the vaccine group compared to four cases in the placebo group, meaning the shots were 100 percent effective.

Adolescents are less likely than adults to contract the illness.

Therefore, the study also examined efficacy according to a more stringent definition of COVID, which requires just one symptom in addition to a positive test.

Under this definition, the vaccine was 93 per cent effective after the first dose.

The vaccine, called mRNA-1273, was generally well tolerated, consistent with what has been observed in adults, with no significant safety concerns.

The majority of side effects was mild or moderate and included injection site pain, headache, fatigue, muscle ache and chills.

Although adolescents are much less susceptible to severe COVID-19 than adults, experts believe they are important to reach in order to help achieve population immunity against the disease.

The US has reached almost 50 per cent of its population of 332 million with at least one dose, but its vaccination campaign is slowing in the face of hesitancy.

It will be recalled that President Joe Biden of United States had set a target of having 70 per cent of adults vaccinated with at least one dose by July 4. But the current figure is almost 62 per cent.

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