Europe Calling On Surrounding Countries To Help Combat Delays In Vaccine Rollout

The European Union’s 27-member-state vaccine strategy is rolling out the Covid-19 vaccines at a much slower rate than initially anticipated.

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Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz made the announcement this week that he would be working with Israel and Denmark for future vaccine production and development as a means of combating new coronavirus mutations that are spreading throughout the world. Kurz has been very vocal within the past few months over his dissatisfaction of the EU’s vaccine strategy as well as the work of the European Medicines Agency (EMA). 

According to data from the World Health Organization only 5.5% of the EU’s 447 million citizens have received their first vaccine dose. The EMA currently has the Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Moderna vaccines approved for distribution, but individuals European countries are able to individually grant emergency use authorizations to other vaccines. 

“The European Medicines Agency is too slow in terms of authorization of pharmaceutical companies. That is why we have to prepare for further mutations and should no longer be dependent on the EU when it comes to vaccine production of the second generation,” Kurz explained. 

“The European vaccine effort can no longer stand alone like it is currently, that’s why countries like Denmark and Austria are cooperating with other nations to obtain more doses.”

Some EU nations have turned to Russia and China to hopefully fill the major gaps in vaccine distribution. Slovakia announced this Monday that they granted emergency use authorization for Moscow’s Sputnik V vaccine after the nation experienced a major shortage in Pfizer and AstraZeneca doses. 

The EMA has not yet approved of the Sputnik V vaccine, according to the Russian Direct Investment Fund, “the Slovakia approval is based on the results of clinical trials of Sputnik V in Russia and a comprehensive assessment of the vaccine by experts in Slovakia. We have received numerous requests from EU states to provide Sputnik V directly to them based on the reviews of their national agencies. We will continue to do so as well as work with EMA based on the rolling review procedure we initiated in January.”

Slovakia is now the second EU nation to independently grant the Sputnik V vaccine emergency approval, Hungary is the other. Hungary is also the first EU country to distribute China’s Sinopharm vaccine, which has also yet to be approved by the EMA. Hungary’s secretary of state for international communication and relations, Zoltan Kovacs, recently spoke with the media about the importance of distributing all of these vaccines especially if they’re working in other countries.

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“Vaccination is not a political issue, it is a matter of effectiveness and reliability.”

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Hungary also placed orders for the three approved vaccines in Europe, however, Kovacs claims that the EU’s centralized strategy for distribution failed to meet the entire continents expectations so far. “Well, it’s obvious and visible by now that that strategy compared to say the UK, Israel, even the United States, failed. The Brussels bureaucracy was not able to come up with fast and immediate resolutions regarding the contracts, we are lagging behind at least two months. Additionally, Hungary has long been an outlier in Europe, with our leaders regularly clashing with EU chiefs over human rights policy. But we’re not alone in our frustration by the bloc’s handling of the vaccine rollout.”

Czech Republic President Miloš Zeman spoke with the media recently about his nation’s interest in rolling out the Sputnik V vaccine if it is authorized: “I wrote to President Putin requesting the delivery of Sputnik-V. If I am properly informed, this request will be granted, but of course we will need the [medical regulator] certification. If various people warn us against having a Russian or Chinese vaccine, then it is good to tell them that the vaccine has no ideology,” he explained.

EU leaders have been meeting to discuss ways in which they can get their vaccine production and distribution back on track so these nations aren’t left to fend for themselves. European Council President Charles Michel recently spoke about how they hope to improve the rollout of these vaccines: 

“It’s why we support the Commission’s efforts to work with industry to identify bottlenecks, and guarantee supply chains and scale up production. And we want more predictability and transparency to ensure that pharmaceutical companies comply with the commitments,” he explained. Hopefully EU nations will receive some greater clarity in the next week over updated vaccine distribution methods.