Brussels / Vienna (dpa) – The EU commission opposes criticism from some member states of alleged unjust distribution of corona vaccines.
The fact that some EU countries got more than the quota to which they were entitled was “not due to an arbitrary act by Brussels,” said EU budget commissioner Johannes Hahn. Some countries have fully used their quotas and others have not, the Austrian told the “Salzburger Nachrichten” and “Oberösterreichische Nachrichten” (Monday). In addition, some countries have relied on the cheaper Astrazeneca vaccine and are now affected by the manufacturer’s supply problems.
However, Vice-President Frans Timmermans of the European Commission admitted omissions. “It is true that mistakes have been made in ordering the vaccines in Brussels and in the Member States,” he told the “Tagesspiegel am Sonntag”. He added, “I am ready to take stock at the end of the pandemic. Then we can see what we have done wrong and what we have done right. “
Austria and five other EU countries had previously criticized Brussels’ ordering policy and demanded high-level talks in the Union about a fairer distribution of corona vaccination doses. The current organizational system would “create and deepen enormous inequalities between Member States by the summer,” wrote the heads of government of Austria, Bulgaria, Latvia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic to EU Council President Charles Michel and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Croatia joined the advance on Saturday.
FDP Deputy Chief Michael Theurer stated that Von der Leyen, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Health Minister Jens Spahn Timmermans should follow suit and “admit their own failures under the German presidency of the EU Council with equal clarity”. That would be “at least a first step to learn from these historical mistakes for the future”.
Timmermans stated that a European approach was “also in the interest of the wealthier states” such as Germany. Now it is first about “that all of Europe gets a vaccine”. The European Commission has ordered a total of at least 1.4 billion doses of the four corona vaccines approved in the EU for approximately 450 million EU citizens. However, the delivery does not go as expected and the Commission is accused of hesitant measures, strategic errors in ordering and an unfair distribution system.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) complained on Friday that vaccination doses were not evenly distributed among EU countries and that there were additional supply contracts due to opaque negotiations in an EU steering group. According to the European Commission, there may be a delay if not all countries order on their share. Unused quotas could then be divided among other Member States. According to fellow party member of Hahn Kurz, the Netherlands and Denmark, for example, have access to significantly more vaccines per capita than Bulgaria or Croatia.
The Netherlands and Malta rejected Vienna’s allegations. Maltese Health Minister Chris Fearne said the vaccines for his country were obtained through the EU mechanism. The Dutch Ministry of Health said to the DPA: “We stick to the agreements.” The Netherlands made maximum use of the room for maneuver and would take over a quota if another country renounced it. The Netherlands was the last EU country to start the vaccination campaign, but is now catching up.
Uncertainty about Astrazeneca’s vaccine is also contributing to bottlenecks in some countries. On Sunday, the Irish Vaccination Commission recommended that vaccinations be suspended with the British-Swedish manufacturer preparing until reports from Norway of four cases of serious blood clots following administration of the drug were investigated. However, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) stated that there was no appreciable accumulation of thrombosis associated with the vaccination and that the benefits of inoculation of the Astrazeneca drug outweighed the risks. Astrazeneca itself, after analyzing vaccine data, again denied concerns about the safety of its corona vaccine.
In Italy, as a precaution, the administration of a particular batch of the vaccine was discontinued after “serious adverse events”. Previously, other countries had already removed the product or a batch of Astrazeneca from the market as a precaution. It was always emphasized that a link between complications and the drug had not been proven. Other countries continue to abuse the drug.
Another problem is Astrazeneca’s ability to perform. On Friday, the group announced that it would be able to deliver only 100 million cans to EU countries by mid-year, instead of 220 million. Various German federal states draw conclusions from this. Thuringia stopped giving vaccinations and postponed the planned start of vaccinations for GPs. Saxony-Anhalt is postponing the vaccinations of police officers. New vaccination dates are being extended in Berlin.
EPP Group Chairman Manfred Weber (CSU) told “Welt am Sonntag”, as long as Astrazeneca has not met its delivery obligations, “the EU should impose a blanket ban on exports of vaccine doses produced by the company”. Because it “gives the impression that other countries are preferred over the EU”. The EU had accused the US and UK of not exporting country-produced vaccines.