Is the EU's vaccination campaign taking too long?

Criticism of the sluggish progress of the EU-wide coronavirus vaccination campaign is growing in Europe. Biontech boss Uğur Şahin has said the EU was too slow in ordering vaccines. On a per capita basis, the EU states are currently lagging far behind countries like Israel, the US and Britain. But according to commentators, the dog is chasing its own tail over the question of whether the EU or the member states are to blame.

Open/close all quotes
The Spectator (GB) /

Paying the price of cooperation

The slow roll-out of vaccination campaigns in so many EU countries testifies to yet another failure of the Brussels bureaucracy, The Spectator comments:

“The EU, as so often, wills the ends but then hopelessly fails to put together the means to deliver them. It created a single currency with none of the mechanisms in place to make it work. This time around it has created a health policy, but without the budgets or expertise to deliver. Perhaps the most important lesson is this: the EU is governed by the idea that bigger is always better, and that co-operation is always better than competition. But it is clear that when it comes to creating and rolling out vaccines, that is far from true.”

Népszava (HU) /

Members should examine their own mistakes

The same contradictory attitude that prevailed in the spring is evident in the EU today, Népszava comments with annoyance:

“Yes, the EU Commission really could have done things better: when it had to make a decision about which vaccines to purchase, it wasn't yet known which ones were really effective. However, people have already forgotten that the member states took the decision on the EU's vaccine procurement programme together, precisely because they wanted to avoid the type of rivalry we saw in the spring. However, they haven't succeeded. In Hungary, for example, experiments were carried out with a [Russian] vaccine that's not even approved in the EU. ... If the house is now on fire, everyone is responsible. Before pinning the blame on Brussels, the member states should first examine their own mistakes.”

Polityka (PL) /

Europe's image is suffering

Polityka expects that the criticism of Brussels will increase:

“The hopes that the pandemic was coming to an end proved premature and the situation in Europe is far from perfect. A new mutation of the virus, which has shown up almost everywhere in the EU, is spreading and has forced Boris Johnson to quarantine his country. Some countries are reporting problems with the implementation of their vaccination strategies. ... In many countries, including Poland, we are hearing more and more voices saying that the EU is responsible for the delays in vaccination because it purchased too few doses and was too slow in making them available. But regardless of the nature of the problems with the vaccines, the conclusion for the continent is universal: the massive vaccination campaign has proved far more difficult to implement than expected.”

De Morgen (BE) /

Europe remains slow and ineffective

The EU lacks the necessary tempo, De Morgen sighs:

“Each time vigour, speed and decisiveness are called for in this health crisis, the European Union and its welfare states fail. Again and again they betray a sort of inert self-sufficiency. We insist on thinking everything will work out if we follow our established bureaucratic rules and procedures. Yet again and again this has turned out to be a tragic delusion. ... One would hope that learning from the mistakes of the past would make politics more effective, active and robust. Far from it. Do not underestimate the catastrophic repercussions of this administrative impotence!”

Politiken (DK) /

Member states hiding behind Brussels

National governments are ultimately to blame for the EU authorities' lack of flexibility, political scientist Roman Senninger points out in Politiken:

“Anyone who has insight into the EU system will clearly recognise that it is the national politicians who should bear the responsibility. For one thing they have not revised the EU strategy [from June 2020] on the purchase of vaccines and the planning of vaccinations, even though they had the opportunity to do so. For another, it is the national politicians who set the framework for the EU Commission. The current system ensures that the Commission acts in a targeted but inflexible manner. The citizens therefore have no real reason to hold the Commission accountable for its work. The national politicians must not hide behind the Commission but should start responding to the criticism.”

Club Z (BG) /

The British can move faster on their own

Britain's faster and more efficient handling of the coronavirus vaccine rollout is an early sign that Britain is better positioned without the EU, Club Z puts in:

“The apocalyptic predictions of chaos in Britain after Brexit have failed to pan out. What's more, in the first days of the new year Britain is ahead of Europe in the development and administration of vaccines against the coronavirus. Two vaccines are already in use - the German-American one from Pfizer-BioNTech and the British vaccine developed by Oxford University and the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. The number of people vaccinated has already exceeded one million. The EU is still a long way from that.”

Ekho Moskvy (RU) /

Propaganda is the only thing there is plenty of

Also in Russia, too, where many patted themselves on the back for being the first country to develop a coronavirus vaccine, the vaccination campaign has been slow to get off the ground. Echo of Moscow says the propaganda bubble is bursting:

“The health authority has stated that vaccine was not produced in the planned quantities. ... The purpose of vaccination is to protect people. In our case, however, the purpose is to beguile the population with record figures - whether they are true is irrelevant. That is why the government is now getting caught up in its own tall stories. The fact is that the production capacities are insufficient. And even worse: there is no guarantee that all the factories can deliver consistently high quality.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Vaccine nationalism would have been disastrous

Le Monde praises the EU's vaccination policy:

“In order to avoid a vaccine race between member states - which would have had even more devastating consequences than the shortage of masks in the spring - the EU Commission centralised the delivery of vaccines to the 27 member states . It then distributed the doses according to each country's population. ... One can easily imagine the inequality and the impact on prices that unregulated competition between member states would have had. This decision, along with the massive stimulus plan to support economies, is without doubt the most positive measure adopted by the EU in 2020.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Czech Republic should be grateful to Germany

Czech Prime Minister Babiš has criticised the EU's joint purchase of vaccines. Lidové noviny rejects the criticism:

“Less than a year after Covid-19 first emerged, it's a miracle that we're already able to start vaccination. We are benefiting from the fact that other governments have spent billions on vaccine development. Germany could have acted on its own and got more doses. We're used to accusing Angela Merkel of all kinds of things. But if the Czech Republic has achieved something in Europe, it has always been thanks to support from Germany. Few of us seem to realise how lucky we are that the most powerful state on the continent is willing to stand by the smaller ones. If Germany had only thought of itself and not acted on behalf of the EU, we would only have got vaccines left over by others - and for more money.”

Delfi (LT) /

Unrealistic promises are harmful

Delfi criticizes illusory statements about the pace of vaccination:

“Governments must choose between making clear statements about vaccination doses and vaccination dates or propaganda. But propaganda no longer works. It only works in a manoeuvre war. ... This war, however, is a static war. In 70 days we will have been sitting in the trenches for a year. As we know from the history of the First World War, static wars such as this one demoralise both the army and society. ... Vaccinations are the tanks of this war. They can break the frontllines of the pandemic and get us out of the trenches. It will be better if the army knows exactly which divisions and battalions and how many soldiers will get this new weapon, and when. ... Or if they won't get it. Mirages destroy the fighting spirit.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Italy in particular should be faster

Milan-based writer Antonio Scurati denounces in Corriere della Sera the inefficiency of Italy and especially his region, Lombardy, when it comes to vaccination:

“I demand answers. And 60 million Italians and above all 10 million Lombards do the same. How is it that Italy, the first country in the West to be hit by the pandemic, has only received half a million doses of the vaccine so far? ... And why is there still no national vaccination plan? President Fontana, how do you justify the fact that after shamefully messing up the flu vaccination campaign, the Lombardy region which you govern, a region tortured by the pandemic, seems to be on the way to botching the Covid vaccination campaign as well?”

De Standaard (BE) /

Dithering is gross negligence

Critics in Belgium are lamenting the slow rate of vaccination in the country. Those in charge reject the criticism on the grounds that vaccinating the population is not a competition. De Standaard disagrees:

“Of course there is a race to vaccinate as many people as possible as quickly as possible. Otherwise one could speak of negligence. Any dithering means more avoidable deaths and hospitalisations. The concern that the complexity of our country could also stand in our way in this crisis is justified. The past nine months have proven this. At the moment the new infection figures are encouraging. However, we must not lose sight of the urgency of the situation or risk losing our good starting position.”

The Irish Independent (IE) /

Just get the first dose out

In view of the vaccine shortages the EU member states should change their strategy, The Irish Independent demands:

“Pfizer has said the vaccine is designed on the basis of two doses 21 days apart, but data suggest a single dose could give as much as 90pc protection against severe illness due to Covid-19. ... Given supply is likely to be ramped up, it seems the better choice would be to get the first dose into as many arms of those who need it as we can. If we were to follow countries such as Israel that has already 15pc of its population vaccinated, we could be looking forward to a significant opening up of society in late February.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

Europe is not to blame

The taz defends the EU against mounting criticism of the EU's joint vaccination strategy in Germany:

“The fact is that in the autumn, when the orders were placed, no one could know which vaccine would be the first to receive approval. ... Secondly, it was the right decision for most of the vaccine to be ordered centrally by the European Commission. ... Just imagine the wave of nationalist sentiment that would have welled up in Warsaw if richer Germany had snatched up the vaccine from under poorer Poland's nose. ... Europe already has enough problems with narrow-minded nationalism; the last thing we need now is coronavirus chauvinism.”

Blick (CH) /

A little patience, dear complainers

Just a few months ago, few would have thought it possible that vaccination would begin before Christmas, Blick points out:

“And now, a few days later? Complaining everywhere you look. ... Every little hiccup becomes a major issue. A 'debacle' here, a 'failure' there. ... Criticism and suggestions for improvement are legitimate. After all, this is a question of life and death. Nonetheless, the cantons are now in the process of rolling out their vaccination campaigns - much faster than planned. ... Dear complainers: thousands of people are working hard every day to ensure that all of us can soon lead a life without restrictions once more. Dear researchers, factory workers, logistics specialists: Thank you for making that possible! Hopefully we are in the final stage of this wretched crisis. ... What we need now is a last big helping of patience.”