Vaccine: 'EU is the virus, not the pandemic' says Gallois
The European Commission President blamed Brussels bureaucracy the EU’s sluggish roll-out of Covid jabs. And attempting to justify her shortcomings, she conceded independent Britain had been nimble like a “speedboat” and able to administer vaccinations at breakneck speed. With the EU slipping almost five weeks behind vaccination schedule, Mrs von der Leyen faces growing criticism of her handling of the pandemic.
Brussels had hoped to offer jabs to 70 percent of all adults by the end of September but experts have warned it must deliver shots seven-times faster to meet that target.
In contrast, Britain is aiming to offer vaccines to all over-18s by the end of summer.
“Alone, a country can be a speedboat, while the EU is more like a ship,” Mrs von der Leyen told a group of European newspapers.
“Before concluding a contract with a pharmaceutical company, the 27 member states had five full days to say whether they agreed or not.
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“This naturally delays the process. Indeed, we must constantly put pressure on ourselves so that each step of the decision-making process is as fast and efficient as possible.”
Britain signed its contract with AstraZeneca, which makes the Oxford-produced jab, three months ahead of the EU.
And Downing Street secured a three-week head start over Brussels by using emergency authorisations for vaccines.
As a result, Britain has raced ahead of the EU, giving over 10.5 million jabs so far, at a rate of 15.5 doses per 100 people.
The EU, which has delivered 14.3 million jabs, is trundling along at a rate of 3.16 per 100 people.
Mrs von der Leyen defended the bloc’s deliberately slow approach, adding: “The UK has chosen the route of emergency marketing authorisations, we have chosen another, and we believe it is the right one.”
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The top eurocrat triggered a vaccine war, introducing plans to blockade exports of jabs to Britain, after AstraZeneca announced delays to its shipments to member states due to production hiccups.
Mrs von der Leyen admitted she had “underestimated” the challenges faced by the EU in securing sufficient supplies for the mass rollout of Covid jabs.
She said: “We have certainly underestimated the difficulties we are experiencing.
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“We should have warned, explaining that at first the process would not be smooth, that there would be ups and downs.”
Mrs von der Leyen has previously suggested that Britain’s rapid vaccine scheme had cut corners and compromised on safety.
In a separate interview earlier this week she said the UK’s only secured a head start over the EU after comprising on “safety and efficacy” tests.
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