EU vaccine rebellion: Austria, Denmark, Poland and Slovakia abandon Brussels – ‘too slow’

EU made ‘mistake’ on Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine says expert

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The failures of the European Commission on the procurement of vaccine doses for European citizens have proven too hard to swallow for some EU leaders, who are now looking at China, Russia and Israel for alternatives.

Austria and Denmark announced on Monday they will make a deal with the Israeli government for the delivery and production of vaccines.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he discussed the new vaccine venture with the two European leaders who will meet him in person this week.

Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen are expected in Israel this week to see Israel’s rapid vaccine rollout up close.

Mr Netanyahu said the leaders will also talk about the idea of “an international corporation for manufacturing vaccines”.

Mr Kurz told German newspaper Bild the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is “too slow” to approve vaccines.

He said: “We should no longer be dependent only on the EU for the production of second-generation vaccines.”

Slovakia is also breaking away from the bloc’s vaccine strategy and joined Hungary in its partnership with Russia’s Vladimir Putin to buy his Sputnik V vaccine.

The Eastern European country’s health minister said the government purchased two million doses of the vaccine, making it the second country in the EU to go ahead and purchase the jab which is yet to be approved by the EMA.

Slovakian Prime Minister Igor Matovič held a press conference on Monday at the Košice Airport, where the first delivery of the vaccine arrived.

He claimed the Russian vaccine will allow the country to speed up its vaccination program by 40 percent.

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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also received another blow when the Polish president Andrezej Duda announced he would buy vaccines from China.

Mr Duda had a phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping yesterday.

The Polish leader congratulated the Communist President on his handling of the pandemic and pledged more bilateral cooperation between the two countries.

Talks will continue but President Duda welcomed the declaration of the Chinese leader on Beijing’s readiness to make vaccines against COVID-19 produced by Chinese companies a global public good.

The Czech Republic, which has the world’s highest one-week per-capita infection rate, has also looked at using Russia’s vaccine after earlier saying it would wait for approval from the EU’s EMA drugs agency, which has not been requested yet.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said on Sunday the country could not wait.

In another blow to the bloc’s chiefs, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban also announced he would change his vaccination strategy to give as many first shots as possible in the face of fast-spreading infections widening immunisation by providing at least some protection to recipients.

Following a British approach to vaccinations, Surgeon General Cecilia Muller said she expected new coronavirus cases to surge in the coming weeks, and so Hungary would try to stretch supplies by extending the period between the two jabs, while maintaining safety.

Hungary is the first country in the European Union to authorise and use vaccines from Russia and China, causing unease among Western peers but contributing to a rapid rise in vaccinations as supplies now come from five manufacturers.

Western procurement has also increased, with Hungary upping its order of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to 10.87 million from an earlier order of 6.5 million.

The country also has orders from Moderna and AstraZeneca and expects to order supplies of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine once it becomes available in the EU.

The new approach to vaccination means a 12-week gap between AstraZeneca shots and 35 days between Pfizer shots, just like in the UK.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi also urged EU leaders to follow Britain’s approach at last week’s EU Council summit.

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