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HEALTH

EU toughens rules for vaccine exports to avoid shortfalls

The European Union tightened its vaccine export control mechanism on Wednesday to prevent what it sees as an unfair one-way flow of vaccines out of the bloc.

EU toughens rules for vaccine exports to avoid shortfalls
EU commissioner for internal market and consumer protection, industry, research and energy Thierry Breton, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and EU commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders, give a press conference following a college meeting to introduce draft legislation on a common EU Covid-19 vaccination certificate at the EU headquarters in Brussels on March 17, 2021. JOHN THYS / POOL / AFP

The measure could limit vaccine exports to countries like the UK, which produce some of their own vaccines but do not in turn send doses to the EU.

The EU Commission stated: “We are introducing reciprocity and proportionality as additional criteria to be examined before authorising exports under the EU’s authorisation mechanism for Covid-19 vaccine exports. This will ensure that the EU is able to vaccinate 70 percent of adults by the end of summer.

“We will consider: Reciprocity: whether the destination country restricts its own exports of vaccines or their raw materials, either by law or other means and Proportionality: the epidemiological situation in the destination country, its vaccination rate and vaccine stocks,” the statement published on Twitter read.

“This implementing act is targeted, proportionate, transparent and temporary. It is fully consistent with the EU’s international commitment under the World Trade Organization and the G20. We will continue to exclude from this scheme vaccines for humanitarian aid or under COVAX.”

Officials have said they don’t expect the changes to trigger mass export bans of vaccines produced in the EU.

In recent days EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen has repeatedly threatened to block the export of vaccines produced in the EU. The threat has been backed by the likes of German Chancellor Angela Merkel but sparked alarm in the UK, which has imported large numbers of vaccine doses from the EU.

“Europe has taken every step to act fairly and responsibly, mindful of our global leadership role, since the start of the pandemic. The EU remains biggest global exporter of vaccines,” European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said.

Europe’s battle to prevent a deadly third wave of infections has been complicated by a patchy vaccine drive that included several nations temporarily halting AstraZeneca’s shots in response to isolated cases of blood clots.

Most have since resumed using the vaccine after the European Medicines Agency found it “safe and effective”.

But AstraZeneca has delivered only 30 percent of the 90 million doses it promised the EU for the first quarter.

Member comments

  1. Since the EU has millions of unused doses, the suspicion must be that this action is more about slowing down the UK than speeding up Europe.

    1. Perhaps there is an element of that at some levels but the facts remain that 10million doses have travelled into the UK from EU based sites and none in the other direction. The EU has also been shorted by tens of millions of doses by various manufacturers. It is a shame it is coming to this but it is not unexpected. I think if i’d been calling the shots i wouldn’t have waited to long to take action but that is the EU way, slow and steady(most of the time). We have seen great scientific and business co-operation during the pandemic but incredibly clunky political co-operation. There have been major faults on both sides. Needless to say only 3 months after getting Brexit done, Boris’s government will soon need the EU and the EU the UK. Our economies and people are too interlinked to not have mass vaccination of our population as a priority for both sides. And as a side note i really hope that the sausage situation is sorted soon, I do miss my Lincolnshire and Cumberland sausages from M&S

  2. I think this is both political and the EU trying to deflect blame for the atrocious approach to getting the vaccine and distribution within the EU. They ordered late, it still hadn’t been approved by the EU medicine authority and they were haggling over the price? The vaccines are virtually made to order because of shelf life. Why did they imagine they would start getting them immediately ? Also, none of the other producers of the vaccine have fulfilled their orders but the EU isn’t making a song and dance about them – makes you wonder.

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HEALTH

Why are more people waiting to be given a GP in Norway?

As many as 116,000 people are waiting to be given a "fastlege", or GP, in Norway. So, why are residents having to wait to be assigned a doctor?

More than 116,000 people are waiting to be given a GP in Norway. Pictured is a picture of a stethoscope and some paperwork.
More than 116,000 people are waiting to be given a GP in Norway. Pictured is a picture of a stethoscope and some paperwork. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.

A recent quarterly report from the Norwegian Directorate of Health has revealed that 116,000 people in Norway are on the waiting list to be given a GP

Furthermore, the number of those without a doctor has grown in recent years, with those in rural and northern parts of the country more likely to be left waiting for a GP. 

The current GP scheme in Norway allows everyone to choose their own doctor, who acts as the patients’ main point of contact with the health service. Your GP is also responsible for your primary medical needs, and you are allowed to change your doctor twice a year. 

READ ALSO: How Norway’s health insurance scheme works and the common problems foreigners face

Doctors in Norway have warned that a lack of funding and staff is threatening the GP system. 

“The GP scheme is on the verge of collapsing because there are too few doctors,” Bernand Holthe, a GP on the board of the Nordland Medical Association and a member of GP’s association for the area, told public broadcaster NRK

He says that reform in 2012 to the GP system has left doctors with too much work with not enough resources at their disposal. 

“After the collaboration reform in 2012, the GP scheme has been given too many tasks without receiving a corresponding amount of resources,” Holthe said. 

The government has pledged around 450 million in funding for GPs in its state budget for 2022, which Holthe argues isn’t enough to recruit the number of GPs necessary. 

Nils Kristian Klev and Marte Kvittum Tangen who represent the country’s 5,000 or so GPs also said they were disappointed with the level of funding allocated for doctors in the national budget. 

“The Labor Party was clear before the election that they would increase the basic funding in the GP scheme. This is by far the most important measure to ensure stability and recruitment and it is urgent,” the pair told Norwegian newswire NTB.

Patients have been left frustrated, and in a recent survey on healthcare in the country, one reader of The Local expressed their frustration at not having a GP. 

“I moved from Olso to Tromso, and I’m currently without a GP. Helsenorge didn’t think this was an issue and told me to visit a hospital if I needed to see a doctor. How can a municipality have no places for a doctor? Everyone has a right to a local doctor, and I’ve been left with nothing. All I can do is join a waiting list in the hopes a place turns up before I get ill,” Sinead from Tromsø said in the survey. 

Another reader described the fastlege system as “horrible”. 

Key vocabulary

Fastlege– GP 

Legevakt– Emergency room

Sykehus– Hospital 

Helseforsikring– Health insurance

Legekontor- Doctors office

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