Vaccination strategy: what is blocking progress?

EU leaders backed the European Commission's vaccination targets at their summit on Thursday: the goal is to vaccinate at least 80 percent of the over-80s as well as all care workers by the end of March, and 70 percent of the EU's total population by the end of the summer. Commentators question the initiative - and not just in view of the slow progress of the vaccination campaign in many places.

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L'Opinion (FR) /

EU could have made better use of its billions

The EU has made a mess of the past weeks, L'Opinion complains:

“Firstly regarding how long it took to approve the vaccine. Of all western institutions, the European Medicines Agency was the body that took the longest to give the green light for Pfizer and Moderna's products, wasting valuable weeks for the entire continent. Then, with the deals with the pharma companies. ... Would it not have been better if Europe had reflected on how much money it could save on rescue packages and aid funds and invest in quicker mass deliveries of vaccines instead? As other countries opted to do, which are now making faster progress in combating this epidemic.”

Financial Times (GB) /

Egotism comes at a price

The race to secure vaccines threatens to backfire, warns the Financial Times:

“If rich countries look after themselves, cutting out the world's poor in their scramble to secure vaccines, they will not only be guilty of selfishness. They will also be damaging themselves. If the virus is allowed to rage unchecked in one part of the world, it will kill more people. It will also be likely to mutate faster, possibly into strains against which existing vaccines offer no protection. Both morality and self-interest, then, dictate that vaccines - as well as diagnostics and therapeutics - should be treated as global public goods.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Hotels and airlines will pick and choose anyway

The politicians failed to reach an agreement on the introduction of an EU vaccine passport at their summit. Die Presse is in favour of the document:

“Antivaxxers, coronavirus deniers and Eurosceptics are not taking into account that there will be a dynamic that has nothing to do with the EU. ... Many airline, hotel and cruise ship operators will have a vested interest in ensuring that the risk to their guests is reduced. ... Since they have no obligation to admit people who pose a health risk they will do everything they can to keep them away. ... Yes, this is about data collection. But vaccination data will be collected anyway - so it might as well be recorded in an electronic passport. Yes, this puts pressure on people: but that pressure has already existed for a long time for certain journeys, for example those who want to go on an African safari have to have vaccinations for tropical diseases.”

Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

Vaccines are the new oil

Radio Kommersant FM sees the coronavirus vaccines as the new economic and geopolitical focus:

“Vaccines are the new oil this year. If a country develops its own one, that's already a sign of superpower status. And in those countries where there is no access to the life-saving vials, people should start wondering whether their politicians are doing their job properly. But as with 'black gold', the vaccine alone is not enough. Covid-19 vaccines need a designated infrastructure with complex logistics for delivery, storage and the vaccination process - the equivalent of building pipelines, refineries and filling stations. The analogy also applies on an international level: vaccine manufacturing countries are battling over new markets and consolidating friendly relations thanks to deliveries of these little vials.”

VTimes (RU) /

No run-of-the mill innovation

According to surveys less than 50 percent of Russia's population wants to be vaccinated with Sputnik V. Economist Alexei Sakharov explains in VTimes that this would not normally be a cause for concern, but in this case it is: "As the number of vaccinations grows, confidence will increase - all innovations go through this kind of diffusion: first just a few people try the new product, then the number of users grows. But in this case, the state will either have to resort to compulsory vaccination or find ways to speed up the process. After all, every month wasted is measured in thousands of lives. Confidence in the vaccine must be restored - primarily by making the results of clinical trials known to the general public. Openness and honesty are not our state's strong points, but they are precisely the qualities we need in the current situation. (DE) /

Inform people, don't tell them what to do

To react to the tense situation with compulsory vaccination for care workers, as Bavaria's Prime Minister Söder has suggested, would be completely misguided, warns:

“So of all people care workers, who are bearing the brunt of the coronavirus crisis, are now to be told what to do by the Bavarian prime minister. ... This would only validate all the people in online forums, on the streets, in conspiracy theory bubbles who have been shouting about compulsory vaccination being introduced through the back or front door. People who are hesitating because they are not sure whether they want to be vaccinated or not, because it is not yet known because it cannot yet be known whether there will be long-term consequences, will also be frightened off. ... It is up to scientists and politicians to assuage these doubts ... This is what we need to be hearing more of now, not about coercion and duty.”

RFI România (RO) /

Non-EU neighbours are less fortunate

Being able to debate about whether or not to get vaccinated is a privilege, journalist Ovidiu Nahoi notes in his blog with RFI România:

“Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia - which taken together have a population of about 20 million - will lag far behind the 27 EU countries and the UK when it comes to achieving mass vaccination. ... The agencies quote the bitter observation by North Macedonian epidemiologist Dragan Danilovski, who compares the current situation to that on the Titanic: 'The rich are taking all the available lifeboats and leaving the less fortunate behind.' Many of the Balkan countries are pinning their hopes on Covax [the WHO's global vaccine programme] and aid organisations.”

Kurier (AT) /

Race against mutations

Due to the new, even more contagious virus mutations, the vaccination process must speed up considerably, the Kurier notes:

“As things look now, the worst weeks of the pandemic could still be ahead. ... Vaccination is becoming a race against time. ... The infection rate will pick up and overtake the vaccination rate. ... This will mean lockdown until enough people have been vaccinated, if we are to prevent the hospitals from getting too full. ... In the face of the new developments, the only thing to hold onto now is the fact that vaccines have been developed. Bring them on - as quickly as possible.”