European Union is facing backlash over lagged vaccination pace among its member states against Coronavirus infection. The European Commission has imposed strict export controls over vaccines produced within bloc borders after vaccine rollout faced a massive hurdle with insufficient vaccine availability and supply. The United Kingdom, on the other hand, has been able to approve, procure and distribute Covid-19 vaccines much faster and efficiently.
The European Union Vaccine Scheme that was established in June 2020, lets the EU negotiate and purchase Covid-19 vaccines on behalf of the bloc member states. The scheme was formed with the aim that this would avoid competition between nations. Individual countries are not required to join the scheme but still all 27 EU nations did. Despite the scheme, nations are permitted to make individual deals with the manufacturers, like Hungary that procured Russia’s Sputnik V individually.
The prime problem with delayed vaccination drive across EU nations has been vaccine supply delay by the manufacturers. EU had signed an agreement with Pfizer-BioNTech for their vaccine’s 300 million doses in December 2020. But delay in production and supply has led to staggering vaccination drive in member nations. In order to increase the production capacity of Pfizer, the initially promised doses to certain nations were reduced. The same problem occurred with Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines. Oxford vaccine suffered a reduced supply due to pitfall at their production plants in Netherlands and Belgium.
To tackle the vaccine shortage, European Commission introduced vaccine export control measures on January 29. These measures were imposed to check vaccine export between non-EU part Northern Ireland and EU part Republic of Ireland. This decision was however revoke by the EU after much criticism.
Next, the skepticism around the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine too has taken its toll in form of loss of confidence in people about this vaccine. The vaccine was approved by the EU regulator for all age groups, but later regulators of nations like France and Germany said that the Oxford vaccine shouldn’t be used in people above 65 years of age.
The delayed production, supply, and diplomatic controversies related to EU and vaccine manufacturers have led to delayed vaccination drive in EU bloc nations. This has further led to a surge in Covid-19 cases in European nations increasing the death toll.