Vaccine shortages and spreading pandemic exacerbate tensions in Europe

Vaccine shortages and spreading pandemic exacerbate tensions in Europe

During a video summit on Thursday, European Union leaders bickered on COVID-19 vaccine distribution among member states and gave lukewarm support to a plan to better control the exports of shots to the rest of the world, as new restrictions are looming to avoid a third wave of the pandemic.

  • In a statement after their videoconference, EU leaders both “underlined the importance of transparency and the use of export authorizations” but also “recognized the importance of global value chains” in the distribution of vaccines. 

  • European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who has suggested a tougher export control on vaccines, noted on Thursday that since December, the EU has exported 77 million doses of vaccines, 21 million of which were destined for the U.K. It has imported none in return.

  • As Brussels keeps feuding with U.K.-Swedish drug company AstraZeneca

    which only delivered a fourth of its promised 120 million vaccine doses to the EU in the first quarter, production problems are postponing the signing of a contract with U.S. biotech Novavax
    according to Reuters, delaying the eventual delivery of 200 million doses of its shot.

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel has decided to put France on the list of high-risk countries most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper. If confirmed today, this would trigger new measures to restrict travel between the two neighboring countries.

Read: U.S. doubts hit AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine just as Europe resumes its rollout

The outlook: France is emerging as the problem spot of Europe, and travelers from the country could also soon face new, stricter restrictions to enter the U.K, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned this week.

Meanwhile, vaccine shortages and poor logistics continue to hamper inoculations throughout the EU, where only 14% of the population has received a shot so far.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday said it was time for the EU to think of a “faster, stronger” response to the crisis, on the model of the Biden stimulus plan. But his suggestion is unlikely to fly. Member states are yet to spend 1 cent from the Є750 billion package they managed to agree on last year to cushion the blow of the pandemic’s first wave.  

Read: Denmark extends suspension for using AstraZeneca vaccine for three weeks

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