04/03/2021

The EU vaccine reaction

2 min
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
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Slowly, the European Union is beginning to show signs that it is reacting to the doubts caused by its vaccination campaign, which is noticeably slower than that of Great Britain or the United States, to give just two examples, due to the limited availability of doses. On Thursday, Italy refused to allow AstraZeneca to export to Australia 250,000 doses of its vaccine manufactured near Rome. This is an unprecedented decision, taken with the support of the European Commission, which has already approved legal cover so that countries can take measures to prevent vaccines manufactured in the EU from being shipped away by companies that have signed commitments with Brussels. This is, let's remember, the case of AstraZeneca, which has already breached agreements to deliver doses to the EU on several occasions.

This Thursday there has also been other news in the field of the fight against the pandemic: the European Medicines Agency will begin to study whether to approve the distribution of the Russian vaccine, Sputnik V, by the abbreviated mechanism. The aim is to authorise as many vaccines as possible in order to speed up the process of immunising the European population, which so far has been progressing at an exasperatingly slow pace. The feeling is that the European Commission did not know how to guarantee, in the contracts it signed with the pharmaceutical companies, the supply of the committed quantities, and this has caused some countries, such as Austria and Denmark, to leave the European plan and look for vaccines on their own. The decision to launch the mechanism for withholding vaccines, which is the same one used by Great Britain, by the way, is along these lines and sends a powerful message: European countries will not stand idly by in the face of non-compliance and will make themselves respected.

In a way, the European Union is staking its credibility on its vaccination plan. It is clear that if each country had gone it alone it would have created a pernicious dynamic and a structural inequality in access to vaccines, rendering the concept of European citizenship worthless. But working together cannot be synonymous with inefficiency, and it has to be said that the British experience teaches us that in emergency situations such as the one we are currently experiencing we must overcome bureaucratic structures and create multidisciplinary teams. The European Union cannot simply be a purchasing centre, but must coordinate the anti-covid policies of the 27 Member States so that there are no dysfunctions, so that no steps backwards are taken. Respecting, of course, the autonomy of each level of government.

The European Union, which has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, must also be an example to the world of how to overcome the economic and social crisis it has caused. In this sense, the arrival of European funds must be speeded up as much as possible in order to transform and update the economy and also to leave no one behind. The EU will emerge from this crisis either strengthened or weakened, which would mean a return to the nationalism of the states. That is why it had better be the first option.

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