“The EU has opted for certainty and wants to keep trust high by de procedure correctly. Not only the United Kingdom and Israel, but also Russia and China are vaccinating people with vaccines that do not have the same standard as the ones we use. ” Federal Deputy Prime Minister Petra De Sutter (Groen) said this in Terzake on Tuesday evening.
But to say that 182,000 Italians, 317,000 Germans, more than 1 million English, English and 1.5 million Israelis, who have already been vaccinated, would have been treated with too little care by their respective governments is asking for trouble.
There are three reasons why the EU is taking off slowly:
1. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is taking more time to approve vaccines
So far, the EMA has only approved one vaccine, that of Pfizer-BioNTech (which is in danger of a shortage). The EMA is not expected to approve a second vaccine – Moderna’s – until January 6. Both the UK (Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca-Oxford) and the US (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) have already approved two vaccines. Israel only bet on the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine and won.
2. The EU paid less to more producers
Unlike Israel, for example, the EU bet on several horses and placed smaller orders with a total of six producers. AstraZeneca-Oxford, Sanofi-GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer-BioNTech, CureVac and Moderna. This had the effect of lowering prices, but also made the EU dependent on the delivery times of those various producers.
For example, the Sanofi vaccine wouldn’t be available until the end of 2021. (Le très embarassant retard de Sanofi“Le Monde newspaper headlined in its Monday edition). If it still comes.
Because relatively few orders were placed from Pfizer-BioNTech – the only approved vaccine so far – we now have to wait for additional deliveries.
Israel, the US and the UK paid more for their vaccines and were also served earlier. The EU must now also wait for the Astra-Zeneca vaccine to become available before mass vaccinations can be carried out.
3. The logistical challenge is greater than anticipated
Finally, there are the logistical challenges. The EU was not prepared for a massive roll-out of a vaccine (BioNTech-Pfizer) that must be stored at minus 70 degrees.
This is also a consequence of the fact that it was still thought that the pandemic would be under control in the autumn. A premise that is completely against us today.
The UK, for example, put its money into the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine. That can be kept at a lower temperature. Then there is Israel, which put its logistics on military lines. The Frankfurter Allgemeine even reported last weekend that several German federal states had received sufficient vaccines. It was the logistical difficulties that prevented them from administering those vaccines.
Conclusion: Politicians in the EU think the real test for the bloc’s vaccination strategy won’t come until April. By then, it should produce three different vaccines full speed to go. But that Israel and the UK would have built a head start just because they took risks and started earlier is more like wishful thinking than to reality.