Unfair distribution of vaccines in the EU?
First came criticism of the EU's procurement programme, now vaccine distribution is also under fire. In a letter to the Commission, Austria, Bulgaria, Latvia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Croatia complained that the procurement system was creating huge disparities in the allocation of vaccines between member states. EU Budget Commissioner Johannes Hahn pointed to unused quotas and problems with Astrazeneca. Commentators are also not entirely convinced by the criticism.
Brussels the scapegoat
The EU is not to blame for the poor crisis management of some states that opted for the cheapest vaccine from Astrazeneca, says columnist Goranko Fižulić in Telegram.hr:
“ I fear that the letter from the six prime ministers, including Andrej Plenković, is just an attempt to shift the blame for their own bad decisions onto someone else and serve as an alibi for their own public. ... The EU Commission is certainly not responsible for the erroneous structure of the Croatian, Dutch [sic], Latvian or Bulgarian vaccine orders, where the price and the storage and distribution conditions were clearly the decisive factors, rather than the success of the clinical trials.”
Exports to rich countries a sign of incompetence
The Irish Examiner is outraged that the EU has exported 34 million vaccine doses all over the world - including to Britain - despite the shortages:
“Had those 34m vaccines gone to the world's poor countries, then it might be a moment to concede to greater needs, but that they have gone to rich countries just confirms the monkey-big-stick law of economics. ... In a global programme like this, there are bound to be difficulties, inequities, and occasional dishonesties, and there will be more. Nevertheless, we should expect much more from the EU than a shrug of the shoulders and the news that enough vaccines to meet our needs by a factor of six have been exported from the EU while we are asked, time and time again, to be patient.”
Bureaucracy not helpful
At the very least, the approval process could be sped up, Krónika admonishes:
“The goodwill manifest in the joint procurement of vaccines by the EU can hardly be called into question. Nevertheless, the current situation makes it increasingly clear that goodwill alone does not guarantee sufficient determination and professionalism. What's more, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is incredibly slow in approving the vaccines. And when its efficiency was questioned, it replied in the typically bureaucratic, phlegmatic tone of the EU authorities that it would look into the possibility of speeding up the process.”
Strengthen capacities and facilitate trade
In the event of future pandemics both Sweden and the EU should adopt a two-fold strategy, Expressen comments:
“Italy's decision to block the export of a quarter of a million doses to Australia does represent a dangerous escalation. ... Because such behavior could reduce EU access to vaccines in the long run. ... Nevertheless, the belief that essential goods can flow freely even in times of crisis has proven naive. ... New factories that can quickly produce the best licensed variants could be part of the solution in future pandemics. Without international trade, compliance with agreements, and competition between different vaccine manufacturers, the fight against the next virus is guaranteed to be more expensive, harder, and longer.”