MEP takes aim at UK’s Coronavirus vaccination policy; says it will ‘come at a price’

The UK is seen as having stolen a march on the rest of Europe by vaccinating tens of thousands of citizens after approving two types of vaccine.

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

12 Jan 2021

By Tuesday, the UK had vaccinated nearly 2.5m citizens and aims to give the jab to 2m people per week.

The EU, by comparison, has been regularly questioned about its policy and what some see as a relatively slow rollout of vaccines.

But French MEP Pascal Canfin, the chair of Parliament’s environment committee, told this website that it is the British approach that should be questioned, and not the EU’s.

He said, “The cooperation strategy of the Member States was the best to protect European citizens. If the 27 EU countries had tried to do it on their own, they would probably have been much less successful.”

“In addition, the EU has made better deals than the USA or Great Britain, for example, in terms of prices. The issue that is raised today is more about the delivery process that has to be clarified.”

“In July 2020, the Member States chose to let the European Commission negotiate contracts with pharmaceutical companies on their behalf. This framework is relevant because it strengthens our negotiating position.”

“Boris Johnson declared an emergency license for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. This allowed him to start the vaccination process before the EU countries. But this comes at a price: the state takes full legal responsibility in case of a problem” Pascal Canfin, Renew Europe

“It avoids having 27 different negotiations with different dates and supply rhythms and different prices which would have made the process even more chaotic than it is today, as it happened in 2009 during the H1N1 crisis.”

Canfin added, “Negotiating strong and robust contracts with pharma industries takes time and this should reinforce trust in the process. The United Kingdom is for me a counterexample. Boris Johnson declared an emergency license for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.”

The MEP went on, “This allowed him to start the vaccination process before the EU countries. But this comes at a price: the state takes full legal responsibility in case of a problem, while the laboratory is relieved of all responsibility. It will be the opposite within the EU, fortunately.”

“I started to ask for more transparency on contracts, with many other MEPs, last September because it’s an absolute priority to fight against fake news and generate trust among citizens. We still have questions about the delivery timing which is one of the most sensitive issue for citizens.”

However, Romanian ECR MEP Cristian Terheș is critical of the EU, telling this site, “Germany decided to purchase more vaccines for its people by negotiating bilaterally with biotech firms, totally disregarding the Commission’s vaccination strategy that the EU would buy anti-Covid vaccines and allocate them to Member States by population.”

He added, “Germany showed, once again, that ‘EU solidarity’ is an empty slogan used just to impose more obligations on Member States. When it comes to protecting or promoting its own national or economic interests, Germany proved that every country is for itself.  Or, as they used to say in Germany, and is still the case in the EU, ‘Deutschland Uber Alles’.”

“In July 2020, the Member States chose to let the European Commission negotiate contracts with pharmaceutical companies on their behalf. This framework is relevant because it strengthens our negotiating position”

Pascal Canfin, Renew Europe

“With Germany doing its own thing, it’s inevitable that Commission hegemony would break and now countries can look after the interests of their own citizens.”

Elsewhere, the Commission has again defended itself from criticism in some quarters about its vaccination policy, insisting it is up to Member States to vaccinate their own citizens.

On Monday, a spokesman told reporters, “The Commission helps the Member States with the rollout of vaccines and offers support. But this is an enormous challenge and I hope Member States can start with the rollout as soon as possible.”

He also revealed that the Commission has this week written to the health ministries in each Member State, asking them to provide details on how they are complying with the EU’s vaccine strategy.

He said, “Of course, Member States vary in size and population and in terms of their health services, but we are asking Member States to ensure they have enough skilled staff for the rollout and to also inform citizens about their vaccination campaigns.”

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