What is important now is that the vaccines arrive
The Catalan Government presented this Tuesday a mass vaccination plan for when a sufficient quantity of doses arrives, which is not happening now . In the best case scenario, as explained by acting vice president Pere Aragonès and Health minister Alba Vergés, half a million people a week could be vaccinated and thus the goal of having most of the population immunised by summer met. The plan has as its highlights the enabling of up to six large venues, such as the Camp Nou, as mass vaccination centers in areas of high population density. Even so, the big question remains when enough vaccines will arrive to implement this plan. The forecast is that the doses arrive in large quantities from May, when the production centers of all vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), including Janssen, will work at full capacity.
There is no doubt that this schedule brings a little light and optimism to a vaccination process that the population is perceiving as exasperatingly slow, especially compared to countries such as the United Kingdom, Israel or Chile. The European Union was diligent when it came to joint purchase of the vaccines, but it has not been diligent when it came to demanding that pharmaceutical companies fulfil their commitments. This, coupled with the fact that the processes to validate EMA vaccines take two to three weeks longer than in other countries and that vaccination has been left to the authorities in each country, has resulted in a delay that is compromising the EU's image around the world.
Moreover, it should be added that two powers of dubious democratic credentials such as Russia and China are playing their geopolitical cards well, using their vaccines to gain influence in Africa and South America, to the point that Europe itself seems determined to open its doors to Sputnik V, the Russian vaccine. A delegation from the EMA has travelled to Russia to check the safety of Russian to check the safety of the Russian vaccine production plants, a step prior to considering approval. It is clear that the greater the availability of vaccines, the better, but it will also have to be assessed at what price.
In short, the vaccine crisis has once again shown that the EU's cumbersome bureaucratic structure is ineffective when it comes to responding quickly to major challenges such as the pandemic. It was also seen with the tortuous path that was taken to approve the plan to rescue the economy with European funds, money which, incidentally, has still not arrived. It would not be fair, however, not to recognise that there have also been positive things, such as halting a shipment of AstraZeneca vaccines destined for Australia and the threat to do the same with the United Kingdom. But in time it will be necessary to take stock of the damage and see what has been the cost in human lives and economic impact of this slowness. And, above all, measures will have to be taken so that a similar failure does not happen again in the future.