German Health Minister Jens Spahn waits for the start of the weekly cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin. File/AFP
Germany and three other European Union states are forging a new alliance aimed at securing access to coronavirus vaccines, once developed, and making sure they are distributed fairly around the world, business daily Handelsblatt reported.
Handelsblatt quoted German Health Minister Jens Spahn and his colleagues from France, Italy and the Netherlands as writing in a letter to the EU Commission it had seen that access to vaccines is "one of the most urgent issues that the European Union has to address at present".
Therefore, a core group of member states had joined up to "achieve the fastest and best possible outcome in negotiations with key players in the pharmaceutical industry".
The four, acting on Berlin's initiative, want to prevent the EU from losing out to the United States and China in the race for a coronavirus vaccine, the paper reported.
Efforts by US President Donald Trump to gain first access to vaccine candidates in return for billions of dollars invested in pharmaceutical companies are viewed with suspicion in Europe, Handelsblatt added.
The United States has secured almost a third of the first 1 billion doses planned for AstraZeneca's experimental COVID-19 vaccine by pledging up to $1.2 billion, as world powers scramble for medicines to get their economies back to work.
Handelsblatt cited government sources as saying Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands were talking to several pharmaceutical companies, including AstraZeneca, about government research funds and purchase guarantees.
Europe must build up a "market power" in order to survive in the struggle for vaccines, Handelsblatt cited government sources in Berlin as saying.
The four were also talking to Britain, Norway, Singapore and Japan about possible cooperation.
Britain is aiming for a "cautious but irreversible" plan to exit coronavirus lockdown, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday, as the country greeted the first arrivals subject to a new hotel quarantine regime.
Merkel announced steps on Wednesday to ease the coronavirus lockdown in Germany but at the same time launched an "emergency brake" mechanism allowing for renewed restrictions in case infections pick up again.
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