With vaccination campaigns hindered by logistical blunders and industrial shortages, the blame game has started among European governments and industrialists over who is responsible for the delays and how to cope with them.
- European Union officials said on Monday that pharmaceutical companies producing COVID vaccines on EU territory would be required to register in advance exports of doses to third countries.
The decision would notably apply to U.K.-based AstraZeneca
The vaccine from Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech
is manufactured in Belgium, but the U.K. would not be affected by eventual EU export restrictions on the AstraZeneca vaccine because it is manufactured in the U.K.
- The decision of the European Commission comes after AstraZeneca warned the EU last week that it would not be able to fulfil its contractual obligations with the bloc and deliver the 100 million doses promised by the end of March, due to problems at a manufacturing site.
Discussions with AstraZeneca on Monday “resulted in dissatisfaction with the lack of clarity and insufficient explanations,” EU Commissioner for Health Stella Kyriakides said on Twitter
after a phone call between European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and AstraZeneca Chief Executive Pascal Soriot.
- German health minister Jens Spahn said on Tuesday that the EU move would enable it to control and potentially block exports of the vaccine if its own supplies were threatened.
- AstraZeneca said on Tuesday that reports in German newspapers that its vaccine hadn’t shown efficacy in the over-65 population were “completely incorrect.” And the German government took the step of issuing a release throwing doubt on the reports.
The outlook: Nervousness is mounting in Europe, where the slow start of the vaccination campaigns and industrial bottlenecks threaten the much-delayed economic recovery. And governments’ confidence that the COVID-19 pandemic can be tamed before summer is beginning to crumble.
Next step, we will hear about vaccine nationalism or even vaccine wars among western powers. Meanwhile, an academic study showed on Monday how a failure to get a serious vaccination campaign under way in poor countries will hurt the richest economies.