07 January 2021

Politico: “The EU’s coronavirus vaccine blame game. Why so slow?”

I don’t think that the issue is really the number of vaccines, it is the fact that we are at the beginning of a rollout, Commission chief spokesperson Eric Mamer said. We’re all judging this as if this campaign is over; in fact, the campaign is just starting.

It’s certainly been a slow start. EU countries have vaccinated hundreds of thousands of people collectively, but the numbers differ drastically between countries.

Even Germany, which has vaccinated 265,000 people — more than any other EU country — as of January 4, is still far off from the 1.3 million doses it has available.

Meanwhile, the U.K. has given jabs to around a million people and the U.S. more than 4 million. Both countries got a weeks-long head start and are facing their own issues (the U.S. has 13.2 million doses available, for example), but the EU’s slow rollout is down to delays in producing the vaccines, a more substantive but bureaucratic approval process, and poor planning in many EU countries.

Jillian Deutsch

The amount of criticism directed at the EU because of slow vaccination has been surprising, and the arguments misplaced to frankly absurd, for example complaints that the Commission hasn’t ordered more doses from Pfizer when nobody could have anticipated back in summer which vaccine would be approved first. But for many people, particularly in the English-speaking world, it has become almost a sport to blame the EU for everything – after all, that is how Brexit got started.

When comparing EU countries so far, it is fairly obvious that problems are caused primarily by a lack of preparation: as mentioned above, Germany has yet to administer the doses it received, and France and Netherlands have not even started the vaccination campaign. I suspect there is a shortage of qualified staff as well, as caring for COVID patients is a priority in many countries after the second wave. To speed up the process, I would invite people to volunteer to administer vaccines, give them the minimal training required, and put them to work under supervision of senior medical staff, to intervene only in the case of complications.

Total number of vaccination doses administered per 100 people
Total number of vaccination doses administered per 100 people in the total population (Jan 6, 2021)

Another important point that gets conveniently left out by outspoken critics:

It is true that the U.K. and U.S. were able to vaccinate hundreds of thousands of people before European regulators approved the first coronavirus vaccine. There are a few reasons for this, most notably that the European Medicines Agency recommended a conditional marketing authorization, which comes with more strings attached for drugmakers than the British emergency authorization procedures. As a result, if there are any unforeseen issues with the vaccines, the U.K. government will be held liable; while in the EU, drugmakers would be on the hook.

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