The European Union’s vaccine strategy seems to be faltering as two of its prominent members, Austria and Denmark, have teamed up with Israel to produce 2nd generation vaccines. The move comes amid frustration over delays in the EU’s vaccine rollout.
Austrian Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, termed the EU’s vaccination deployment as “too slow” as he announced the decision.
“We must prepare for further mutations and should no longer be dependent solely on the EU in the production of second-generation vaccines,” Kurz said.
Danish Prime Minister Danish Mette Frederiksen joined Kurz in criticism of the EU’s vaccine program and expressed delight over the partnership with Israel.
“I don’t think it can stand alone, because we need to increase capacity. That is why we are now fortunate to start a partnership with Israel,” she told reporters on Monday
As part of its strategy, the EU has six contracts for more than 2 billion doses of vaccines, with Moderna, AstraZeneca, Sanofi-GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer-BioNTech, and CureVac.
Out of these 33 million have been provided but the delays have meant that only 11 million Europeans have been vaccinated so far. Israel on the other hand has already vaccinated more than half of its 9.3 million population.
The alliance with Israel, being called “First Movers Group”, doesn’t mean that Austria or Denmark are moving away from the European Union’s vaccination strategy. EU Commission spokesman Eric Mamer confirmed that all member states want to continue to be part of it.
“The point is that none of the member states has signaled in any way that they want to receive fewer doses based on our EU vaccine strategy,” he said. “What certain member states are looking at is how to prepare the future. We will continue with our vaccine strategy exactly as before and continue to adapt as the situation evolves.”
Mamer also said that the comparisons between Israel and the EU over the vaccination strategy are invalid since the European bloc faces a much bigger challenge with a population of almost 450 million.
Meanwhile, European Commission spokesman Stefan de Keersmaecker denied suggestions that the EU’s strategy was crumbling in the face of difficulties faced in the recent weeks.
“It’s not that the strategy unraveled,” the spokesman said. “For our vaccines, we go through the European Medicines Agency because we want to ensure efficacy and safety. What member states do in addition to that, it’s their responsibility.”
Denmark and Austria are the latest countries from the European Union to look elsewhere for a Covid-19 vaccine. Slovakia, on Monday, granted authorization to Russia’s Sputnik V. It became the second EU country to independently grant Sputnik V after Hungary, which began rolling out the vaccine in February. Hungary is also the first EU country to have rolled out China’s Sinopharm vaccine, which has not been approved by the EMA.