So much for solidarity! EU leaders beg Macron to give up vaccine doses as bloc lags behind

Vaccine: Macron 'acting Trumpian' over UK rollout says Neil

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Slovakia and the Czech Republic are begging bigger EU states for a share of their Pfizer and Moderna vaccines stock, as the bloc still lags behind with its vaccination programme. Following the first day of the European Council summit, French President Emmanuel Macron has called on the EU Commission to step up in its efforts to ensure all member states are delivered an adequate number of vaccine doses.

But as member states were individually responsible to put orders through for vaccines, some countries failed to secure enough in the early stages of the process.

Speaking after the Council virtual meeting, President Macron said some countries “didn’t want to reserve their entire quota because I think they weren’t convinced that Pfizer or Moderna would be the most efficient [vaccines]”.

He added: “They under-ordered a bit, deliberately, it was a choice these countries made.

“I believe in solidarity, but it’s up to the Commission to propose a sustainable mechanism that provides clarity, visibility and transparency.”

The French Government confirmed the Czech Republic will get 100,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine from France by mid-March on Thursday.

The Czechs have been struggling with resurgent infections in recent weeks and have sought help from allies. The country has had one of the highest COVID-19 rates in the world in terms of infections and deaths per million people.

The Prague government is seeking to toughen lockdown measures and speed up inoculations to ease the strain on hospitals, many of which are operating near capacity.

France said it was examining the requests by hard-hit countries such as the Czech republic to “borrow” doses in March that would be sent back in April via a common EU vaccine procurement mechanism.

A French presidency official told Reuters: “European solidarity implies that all those who can should step in.”

Hit by supply issues, the Czech Republic is lagging the European Union average in vaccination rates according to the Our World in Data website.

With a population of 10.7 million, it has administered 600,000 vaccine doses, including 226,780 people who have received both shots, according to Health Ministry data.

Mr Babis said the central European country was reaching out to other EU states besides France for vaccines.

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The Czechs this week received several thousand doses of the Moderna vaccine from Israel, which has outpaced the world in its vaccination progress.

Neighbouring Slovakia, which has been hit just as hard by a new wave of infections, has also called on EU partners for vaccines.

The leaders of the 27 EU member nations agreed in a video conference to keep “tight restrictions” on public life and free movement as the bloc races against the emergence of new variants that are holding back an economic rebound.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: “We have to prepare for a situation where we have to continuously vaccinate for a longer period of time, maybe over years, due to new coronavirus variants, akin to the situation we know from the flu.”

President Macron said the EU “will have to live with this virus” over the long term.

Italy’s new prime minister, former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi, called for a much tougher stance from the EU towards pharmaceutical companies producing the vaccines after a stuttering start to deliveries of jabs.

The executive European Commission told the leaders that 51.5 million doses of vaccines had so far been delivered across the EU and 29.17 million administered, with about 5 percent of citizens having had their first dose.

The Commission and EU countries have come under fire for missteps in their joint inoculation programme and a slow rollout of shots that has lagged badly behind Israel, Britain and the United States.

Summit chairman Charles Michel said the bloc wanted “more predictability and transparency” from pharmaceutical companies that failed to deliver contracted vaccine volumes, putting at risk the EU’s target of inoculating 70 percent of its adult population by the end of the summer.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen voiced confidence that goal could be achieved. She said the firms exporting most COVID-19 vaccines from the EU were honouring supply contracts with Europe, but Brussels was keeping “a very close eye” on AstraZeneca because of its reduced deliveries.

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