France: Expert criticises Macron’s vaccine response
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The European Commission is negotiating the delivery of 1.8 billion Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine doses aimed at providing jabs for children in the bloc and winter boosters for adults by the end of the year. But according to German newspaper Welt, the negotiations, which require the unanimous approval of all member states representatives, are being put on hold by France.
The German government said earlier this week the contract had already been fully negotiated.
And according to the Commission, the formal transmission of the contract to the member states is imminent.
But the steering committee in Brussels has warned the final negotiated contract with the pharmaceutical company is at least one week late.
The Commission’s health director general Sandra Gallina has expressed anger at the delay, according to some close to the EU chief.
Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton, who is promoting the expansion of production capacities for vaccines at EU level, expressed concerns at the meeting, meaning unanimous approval was not possible.
Eric Mamer, the chief spokesman for the commission, denied Welt’s claims.
The contract would be approved within the Commission on Friday or Saturday of this week, he added.
But the German daily said “several people have confirmed that the French representative in the steering committee for the vaccine order has also been delaying the decision-making process for some time – apparently on purpose: with ever new concerns, technical questions and requests for clarification”.
They added EU leaders were now fearing a “French blockade” could further delay the bloc’s vaccination strategy, already lagging behind those of the UK, the US and Israel.
One diplomat told Welt: “That would be a disaster for which France would be responsible.”
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Another EU diplomat told the German newspaper Emmanuel Macron’s reluctance to approve the contracts may be driven by his ambition to secure additional advantages for France.
For Paris, the delay was due to attempts to bring production capacities for the BioNTech vaccine to France and integrating French companies more closely into production, the diplomat claimed.
European health authorities report a total of 155,248,668 does have been administered so far across the bloc.
This latest data leaves the EU with some way still to go to meet the target of vaccinating 70 percent of European residents.
Currently, around 30 percent of EU citizens have received one dose of a vaccine while only 11 percent have been fully vaccinated.
This week Michel Barnier confessed the EU’s “bureaucracy” has negatively impacted the bloc’s vaccination programme.
Mr Barnier told an interview: “It’s true that there were faults (on the EU side) at the start.
“Why? Because we wanted to decide for 27 and not alone.”
Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg
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