COVID-19: EU chief Ursula von der Leyen admits UK ‘speedboat’ can act faster than bloc over vaccines

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has admitted a country on its own – such as the UK – can act as a “speedboat” compared to the EU’s “tanker” in the delivery of COVID vaccines.

EU countries, who have decided to co-ordinate their vaccine efforts, have been markedly slower in their roll-out of coronavirus jabs compared to the UK, where one in five adults have now had their first vaccine dose.

But, despite her admission that acting as a bloc of 27 countries – rather than one – made decision-making slower, Ms von der Leyen defended the EU’s decision to act together.

In an interview with 10 European news organisations, including Politico, the German politician said: “I’m aware that a country might be a speedboat and the EU more a tanker.

“But this is the strength of the EU.”

She added: “If we conclude a contract, we need another five days for the member states to say, ‘yes’ – and these are five days, five working days.

“So, obviously, of course a decision taken by 27 lasts longer than if you just go by yourself, but I am deeply convinced that the European approach is the right one.”

Ms von der Leyen has come under pressure over the EU’s handling of the bloc’s vaccination programme, with Brussels having recently engaged in a bitter row with drugmaker AstraZeneca, which helped develop the Oxford University vaccine.

The dispute, which at one point saw the EU controversially threaten to override the Brexit agreement with the UK over the Irish border, came after AstraZeneca said the initial number of doses it could supply to the EU would be lower than first thought, due to manufacturing issues.

In the interview, Ms von der Leyen said there had been a “bitter learning” process during the bloc’s vaccination programme.

“A start of vaccination does not mean a seamless flow of vaccine doses coming from the industry,” said the European Commission president, whose former role as Germany’s defence minister was marked by rows over her handling of public procurement.

“This is a bitter learning part, and this we certainly have underestimated.”

She added: “Had I known what difficulties we have now with the Schwankungen [fluctuations]… in the beginning period: Yes, we should have warned that this goes not seamless and smooth and in a straight upward movement at the very beginning.”

Subscribe to the Daily podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker

Ms von der Leyen also reiterated her defence of the EU’s decision not to approve vaccines on an emergency basis, as the UK’s regulator – the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) – had done.

“With a new vaccine, you inject a biologically active substance in a healthy person,” she said.

“So that’s an enormous responsibility.”

The MHRA has previously said it “rigorously assessed the data in the shortest time possible, without compromising the thoroughness of our review”.

America’s chief immunologist, Dr Anthony Fauci, apologised last year for his suggestion the UK’s vaccine approval process had been “less deep” than others.

Source: Read Full Article