Group leaders and cross-party MEPs join forces to demand faster EU vaccine rollout

The plea comes with the rollout in all EU countries woefully behind others such as Israel and the United States.
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By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

15 Feb 2021

On Monday, the UK reached a key milestone in having vaccinated over 15 million people, a target set by Boris Johnson’s government.

By comparison, for example, a paltry 365,000 people in Belgium had been vaccinated as of 15 February.

Many Member States say they are receiving lower-than-expected supplies of COVID-19 vaccines and complain of uncertainty over future deliveries.

Leaders from each of Parliament’s four mainstream groups - the EPP, S&D, Renew Europe and Greens/EFA - have now united in demanding a much quicker rollout.

S&D leader, Iratxe García Pérez, said, “Let's be demanding and constructive. This is an unprecedented global challenge. Let’s focus on solving problems to increase production, in cooperation with industry and also with international organisations. We are all tired, but we see the light at the end of the tunnel and our citizens deserve a message of hope.”

The Spanish member added that those EU commissioners involved in the vaccination strategy, such as Stella Kyriakides and Thierry Breton, “should come to Parliament to inform MEPs and answer our questions.”

“The only acceptable strategy now is ‘whatever it takes’. Nothing we can do is more costly than the human and economic cost of this pandemic. We must act faster and think bigger” Manfred Weber, EPP leader

Socialist coordinator in the environment committee, Jytte Guteland, believes the Commission and Member States must “explore options on how to move forward quickly.”

This might include, she said, “closer cooperation” between the manufactures in order to increase production.

S&D coordinator in the development committee, Udo Bullmann, said, “We are in a deadly race against the clock, in Europe as well as globally. Only if we significantly boost the production now can we break the vicious circle of increasingly dangerous mutations.”

Dacian Cioloș, Renew Europe leader, agrees and has warned the Commission to “step up to regain lost trust and restore accountability.”

The Romanian deputy said, “Europe has no room for mistakes in the vaccine rollout. Supporting a collective approach to this pandemic does not mean giving a blank cheque. Each delay in this vaccine programme must be explained, justified and accompanied by solutions to remedy it.”

German member Ska Keller, co-leader of the Greens/EFA, demanded that vaccine production “must now be ramped up by a lot to save lives and avoid the tremendous costs of lockdowns.”

“Europe has no room for mistakes in the vaccine rollout. Supporting a collective approach to this pandemic does not mean giving a blank cheque. Each delay in this vaccine programme must be explained, justified and accompanied by solutions to remedy it” Dacian Cioloș, Renew Europe leader

She argues that the Commission should consider a temporary lifting of patent rights to allow more manufacturers to produce vaccines, adding, “The faster vaccination moves forward globally, the faster we will reduce global death rates and get the pandemic under control.”

Greens co-leader Philippe Lamberts also demands an “expansion” of vaccine production.

EPP leader Manfred Weber said the Commission should “turn all its efforts towards scaling up the production of vaccines in Europe.”

The German said, “This is why we have put forward a €10 billion worth proposal to increase production. The only acceptable strategy now is ‘whatever it takes’. Nothing we can do is more costly than the human and economic cost of this pandemic. We must act faster and think bigger.”

He went on, “All production sites, where this is possible and reasonable, must switch to manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines.”

Weber also told the EU to “stop being naïve about the export restrictions [of vaccines] we are seeing in the US or the UK.”

“Let’s focus on solving problems to increase production, in cooperation with industry and also with international organisations. We are all tired, but we see the light at the end of the tunnel and our citizens deserve a message of hope” Iratxe García Pérez, S&D leader

“As we speak, Johnson & Johnson are producing vaccines in Europe which will be shipped to the US for fill and finish. Considering the export ban in the US, we need guarantees from the US administration that the vaccines will be able to leave the US for Europe when they are ready.”

Weber called for a special G7 meeting to help resolve the export issue. He also said his group, Parliament’s biggest, “believes that the Commission needs to be held to account over its handling of vaccine procurement and the slow pace of vaccinations.”

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