Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz described the EU vaccination rollout as “too slow” when he announced that his country and Denmark would work with Israel to protect their citizens against new variants of the coronavirus.
The move by the two member states to form a vaccine manufacturing association comes as the latest figures show that 7.5% of the EU population has received one dose of vaccine compared to 52% in Israel and the 31% in the UK.
“We must prepare for new mutations and we should no longer rely solely on the EU for the production of second-generation vaccines,” Kurz said.
He added that Austria and Denmark “will no longer depend on the EU in the future and in the coming years will produce doses of second-generation vaccine for new coronavirus mutations together with Israel, in addition to jointly investigating treatment possibilities.”
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said unilateral action was needed in light of difficulties in recent months in terms of vaccine supply.
“I don `t believe [the EU strategy] it can be alone, because we need to increase capacity, ”he said. “That is why we are now fortunate to start a partnership with Israel.”
The EU vaccination strategy has suffered from uneven supply due to production problems and public perceptions of the Oxford / AstraZeneca coup.
French President Emmanuel Macron described the unsubstantiated jab as “almost ineffective,” while several national authorities recommended its use only among younger age groups due to a lack of data on its efficacy for older people.
In recent weeks, several EU member states have expressed interest in using vaccines that have not yet been approved by the European Medicines Agency. The Hungarian government has already started vaccinating its population with blows from Russia and China.
A spokesman for the European Commission denied suggestions that EU solidarity was crumbling amid frustrations over difficulties faced in recent weeks among the 27 member states.
“It’s not that the strategy fell apart,” the spokesman said. “For our vaccines, we go through the European Medicines Agency because we want to guarantee efficacy and safety. What the member states do in addition to that is their responsibility ”.
A spokesperson added that member states were free to find additional vaccines as long as they did not seek to negotiate side deals with major EU suppliers, namely AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer.
He said: “The fact is that none of them have indicated in any way that they want to receive fewer doses based on our vaccination strategy.
“Everyone wants to be a part of this. [What] some member states are studying how to prepare [for] the future. That is what I understand that the leaders have said, in preparation for the variants ”.
Meanwhile, the French government confirmed that it would allow people under the age of 75 with existing health problems to receive the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, in a reversal of its previous policy of providing it only to those under 65.
French health minister Olivier Véran told France 2 television that raising the age limit would allow another 2.5 million people to be vaccinated in the coming weeks.
Officials justified the change in position after a Scottish study of 5.4 million people showed that both Pfizer / BioNTech and Oxford / AstraZeneca injections were highly effective in preventing serious infections.