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The scramble for vaccines is getting ugly.

Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Noah Berger, Pool, File

The European Union, facing a shortfall in supply, is threatening to impose tighter export rules on vaccines.

Posted: Jan 26, 2021 10:36 AM

(CNN)The scramble for vaccines is getting ugly. The European Union, facing a shortfall in supply, is threatening to impose tighter export rules on vaccines.

The EU said drugmaker AstraZeneca had "surprisingly" cut down the number of doses it intends to supply to the bloc. Top EU officials did not mince words criticizing the company.

"The European Union has pre-financed the development of the vaccine and its production and wants to see the return," the European Commissioner for Health, Stella Kyriakides, said yesterday. The EU said AstraZeneca didn't provide sufficient explanations for the delays and is now demanding to know how many doses the company has produced, and who they've been sold to.

The company said that production had been hampered by a manufacturing issue. "While there is no scheduled delay to the start of shipments of our vaccine should we receive approval in Europe, initial volumes will be lower than originally anticipated due to reduced yields at a manufacturing site within our European supply chain," AstraZeneca said in a statement.

The delays are having a real impact in countries across the bloc. The Italian government was forced to revise its Covid-19 vaccination plan because of reduced vaccine supplies from both Pfizer and AstraZeneca.

Yet European countries and other rich nations are still on the winning side of the world's struggle to secure enough vaccines for everyone.

While US President Joe Biden said yesterday that he expects America to soon be vaccinating 1.5 million people a day, there are countries that haven't yet been able to secure any doses at all.

The vaccine rollout has shone a harsh light on global income disparities, and the Middle East is a microcosm of that problem. While oil-rich Gulf Arab nations were among the first in the world to receive a vaccine, war-torn countries such as Yemen and Syria must contend with vague timelines and complex distribution plans for the rollout, despite being among the worst affected by the virus.

Delayed access to vaccines will likely make this inequality worse, because countries that manage to get most of their populations immunized will be able to reopen their economies, while those at the back of the line will be stuck in perpetual lockdowns.

YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED.

Q: Is it true that vaccinated people can still get infected?

A: Yes, but the chances are very, very small. In trials, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were shown to be about 95% effective, which means some vaccinated people were still infected. That could be because it takes some time for the immunity to kick in. Also, no vaccine is 100% effective and the makers of coronavirus vaccines are still evaluating whether the shots protect against all infections, or just those that cause symptoms.

But there are some positive signs. New data from Israel show that only about 0.01% of 128,600 people who received two doses of Pfizer's vaccine tested positive for the coronavirus after their second shot -- and those patients had only a mild illness, according to preliminary data from an Israeli health care system.

Send your questions here. Are you a health care worker fighting Covid-19? Message us on WhatsApp about the challenges you're facing: +1 347-322-0415.

Send us your questions for President Biden's Covid-19 team and we'll try to get them answered. Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Rochelle Walensky and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith join Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta for a CNN Town Hall this Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET.

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