EU woes: Bloc’s ‘complex’ system blamed for ‘unacceptably slow’ Covid vaccine rollout

Emmanuel Macron discusses the vaccine rollout in France

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Europe’s vaccine programme against coronavirus is headed by the European Commission, who negotiate contracts with drugs firms and are responsible for overseeing jab exports produced in the bloc. But European member states organise their own health policy and vaccine programmes. The two-tier system is creating issues with the EU’s coronavirus jab rollout, according to a professor.

Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, suggested the system of how the bloc runs may add to the EU’s vaccine woes.

Prof Bauld said “various problems” with the EU’s “complex system” have caused issues with its vaccine rollout.

She said: “There is issues to do with both (national and EU institutions).

“There clearly is politics in it and we have all heard about that in the media, but there are also issues to do with the decision-making structures, the commissions’ views and the priorities of member states.”

As a result of the sluggish vaccine rollout, the World Health Organisation said the continent’s jab programme needs to speed up as infections rise.

They branded the bloc’s rollout as “unacceptably slow”, and added the rise in cases is “more worrying” than it has been for several months.

Speaking to CNBC, Dimitri Eynikel, coordinator at Medecins sans Frontieres, said the Commission appears to be focusing on securing doses rather than administering vaccines.

He said: “It is quite concerning at the political level the whole discussion about exports restrictions, controls or even bans.”

While Mr Eynikel believes the EU is “prioritising its population first”. He added that the US and the UK are “doing the same”.

Danny Hendrikse, Pfizer’s vice-president of global supply, has also this week accused the EU of causing “uncertainty” over vaccines.

Under the EU’s vaccine export rules, firms must get approval from the Commission before exporting doses.

He said the rules have caused “a significant administrative burden and some uncertainty” in pharmaceutical firms.

He added: “Ultimately what we would like our colleagues to do is to focus on making and distributing the vaccine.”

Ursula von der Leyen, Commission President, admits the EU’s vaccine rollout has struggled, and described the start as “tough”.

The EU received a lower batch than hoped for from AstraZeneca, which prompted outrage.

In a press conference in March, Ms von der Leyen claimed: “We also know that AstraZeneca has unfortunately under-produced and under-delivered.

“And this painfully, of course, reduced the speed of the vaccination campaign.”

AstraZeneca has blamed low yields in European plants for the delivery numbers.

Germany has administered the most coronavirus vaccine doses out of the EU states, at more than 13.77 million as of March 31.

In contrast, the UK has administered 31,301,267 first doses and 4,948,635 second doses of coronavirus vaccine.

Yesterday saw another 3,402 cases and 52 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test.

In total, the UK has seen 4,353,668 cases and 126,816 deaths.

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