COVID19: Today a showdown at the European Council?

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At the Extraordinary European Council of 25-26 February, Charles Michel, President of the European Council, put the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic on the agenda. It might seem routine to talk among prime ministers about the coronavirus, in reality it could be a showdown between member countries and the European Commission.

Click on the picture below for the today and tomorrow Press conference live streaming by Presidents Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen (TTBC)
Credits: EU Council

Will President Charles Michel take the defence of President Ursula von der Leyen or will he give free rein to the discontent of the member countries for the failure of the initially planned European vaccination plan?

And will the president of the European Commission defend the work of the Commission, trying to reassure the prime ministers or will he put on the table the head of the Cypriot commissioner, Stella Kyriakides responsible for health policy and therefore for the failure of the plan?



The story

Since March 2020, the EU had put in place the strategy to combat the new Coronavirus:

  1. Authorization for State aid requested by Member States
  2. Support for European research for COVID-19 cure medicines
  3. Coordination to ensure normal flow of goods between countries
  4. Liberalization of technical standards for the production of personal protective equipment (PPI)
  5. Coordination of some measure for free movement of citizens

In view of the difficulties in supplying personal protective equipment (PPI), the European Commission began negotiations with pharmaceutical companies starting in May. Today we learn that PfzierBiontech asked the EU €54.08 per dose of vaccine, then reduced to €15.50 per dose.

This commercial initiative favored the signing of a commercial agreement between the EU and the two pharmaceutical companies (not purchase contracts) for 500 million doses, which would have brought €27 billion  into their coffers.

Given the discount and the “promised” quantities, the European Commission, supported by the member countries, accepted the offer. Although the agreed price was 20 times higher than the vaccine “promised” by Astrazeneca, he was happy not to have to fund their research.

However, there has been criticism in Germany, Biontech’s country of origin. According to Euractiv, the chairman of the German medical profession’s drug commission, Wolf Dieter Ludwig, told the German media network that he considered such a price to be “dubious” and sees in it “the pursuit of profit in the current pandemic situation. in no way justified “.

According to research published by NDR, WDR and Süddeutsche Zeitung, there was also confusion over the formulation of the offer to the EU, according to which companies would develop the “fully self-financed” vaccine. But the German firm Biontech had already received hundreds of millions of euros in funding when it was founded in 2008 in Mainz, the report said.

In short, the EU was worried that it would not be able to “save us” from the virus, with all the political consequences it would have caused, and therefore it blindly relied on the promises of the pharmaceutical companies.



The situation today

The situation today is the result of a frenzied vaccine rush.

Both for those who have to produce it and for those who have to buy it.

  1. Whoever has to produce it has had to skip many clinical stages under political pressure and is faced with a question that has put the implants into havoc. Not only. It now seems that vaccines have another behavior and their effectiveness with the first administration alone changes the demand of buyers significantly, because now they want to administer them massively to the entire population. This leads to the emergence of dangerous parallel markets, with the price soaring and with few guarantees of safety and efficacy.
  2. Those who have to buy it also find their deliveries halved, in the face of administration strategies that would require massive deliveries. Result? Delays months crucial for the health of citizens and the economy.

And above all, growing criticism from member countries towards the management of the European Union, given that governments are under pressure from their citizens and many governments are in danger of jumping.

Furthermore, we learn that AstraZeneca has meanwhile announced new delays in vaccine deliveries, while the Western Balkans is now fully exposed to Russia and China.


What will happen in the next few months?

Firstly, today’s European Council has the issue of vaccines on its agenda.

There is already talk of a showdown and in the dock there are first of all the EU Commissioner for Health Stella Kyriakides. Then that of President Ursula von der Leyen, much criticized also by Angela Merkel, German Chancellor.

The president of the Commission is accused of not having been able to manage and control her European commissioners and, in some cases, of having had the negotiations managed by a small group of officials in her cabinet. We do not know if there will be a discussion on a new organization of the Commission’s structures to deal with the pandemic.

In any case, the prime ministers, meeting today and tomorrow by videoconference, will give vent to their heavy criticisms of the Commission and the pharmaceutical companies they have trusted.

And maybe they won’t even know what to suggest. Will they ask to negotiate new contracts with Russia and China? Or will they ask for a free hand?

eEuropa.Blog is aware of a letter sent by five EU leaders to the head of the EU Council Charles Michel, calling for immediate action and support to European-based vaccine manufacturers to address the ongoing vaccine shortage . The letter, signed by the Prime Ministers of Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Poland and the President of Lithuania, on the initiative of Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, was delivered to Michel on Tuesday.

But perhaps, if there is a decision to that effect, it will still be late.


What happens in the UK and the rest of the world?

According to Blumberg, 218 million doses have already been administered in 99 countries around the world.

So far 66.5 million doses have been administered in the United States. An average of 1.30 million doses per day was administered over the past week. 20.0 doses were administered for every 100 people, and 75% of the shots delivered in the states were administered.

More than 18 million people in the UK have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine – part of the biggest inoculation programme the country has ever launched.

The United Kingdom, freed from the EU legal ties since 1 January, has provided for the supply of vaccines by itself. UK currently has orders for 407 million doses of vaccines produced by seven different companies. This is likely to see a major revamp if scientists find that more jabs are needed for emerging Covid mutations, but pharmaceutical companies are still in the development stages of producing “next-generation” vaccines for new coronavirus strains. And it has invested several million euro.

The EU has so far vaccinated 29 million citizens, equal to 6.5% of the population, with a vaccination rate of 800,000 doses per day.

Globally, the latest vaccination rate is 6,141,896 doses per day, on average. At this rate, it will take an estimated 5 years to cover 75% of the population with a two-dose vaccine.


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