COVID-19 Resurgence: EU Faced with ‚Big Challenge‘ to Fight Both Virus and Vaccine Misinformation

Written by | Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

National authorities across the European Union have warned citizens about “difficult” weeks ahead, as more than a quarter of EU countries are seeing strained health systems – amid a blame-game over the slow rollout of the vaccine in some member states. As of last week, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Lithuania, Slovenia and the United Kingdom have registered the highest infection rates in Europe – triggering a reintroduction or extension of emergency measures, aimed at reducing the transmission totals. Besides fighting the coronavirus, another major – and closely related – challenge ahead for the bloc will be fighting the spread of vaccine misinformation and disinformation, because “distrust among citizens against vaccines is a key challenge we have to confront in the next months,” said MEP Manfred Weber.
Meanwhile, the EU’s top negotiator on vaccine contracts, Sandra Gallina, has defended the EU’s collective approach on vaccines, arguing that doses collectively purchased will “come first”, ahead of those secured under bilateral deals. During a hearing in the European Parliament’s environment and public health committee, where she fielded a raft of questions from MEPs about the EU vaccine policy and rollout, Gallina said she was “confused” by recent reports of bilateral deals because the EU’s overall strategy forbids member states from negotiating individually. She revealed that a third vaccine, from AstraZeneca, may be approved by the EMA by the end of January, bringing to three the number authorised for use by the EU. “The good news is that we now have two vaccines authorised and their efficacy is much higher than everyone expected,“ she also said, adding that „quantities of these vaccines are now starting to be delivered although the schedule will be much better from April.”
Brussels has also sought Monday (18 January) to ease concerns that EU citizens might be obliged to get shots against the coronavirus before they’re allowed to travel, as debate revolves around the use of vaccination certificates to help reopen tourism across the 27-nation bloc. The European Commission has been weighing a proposal presented by Greece, which plans to issue digital vaccination certificates to its own citizens inoculated against COVID-19, for other EU states to do the same to help get travellers to their vacation destinations more quickly and avoid another disastrous summer for continent’s tourism sector. EU heads of state and government are due to discuss the proposal at a video-summit on Thursday (21 January). However, the EU executive‘s Vice-President Maros Sefcovic insisted that “vaccination is voluntary”, noting that some people cannot be inoculated for health reasons while others might simply object.
While EU countries has started their vaccination programs, French government has announced an extention of a 6pm-to-6am curfew to the whole of the country that will last for “at least” 15 days. The measure is “graduated and proportionate”, French Prime Minister Jean Castex argued, as the current epidemiological situation “does not justify a new lockdown”. He stressed, however, that a third national lockdown could be imposed if a “strong epidemic degradation” is observed. Also Germany, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands indicated strict COVID-19 curbs would last at least into early February, and Italy said it would extend its state of emergency to the end of April. The announcement of these tighter and longer coronavirus restrictions have in turn dented back-to-normal hopes and sparking worries about further economic damage in 2021. “An additional wave of COVID-19 is among the key risks to be monitored this year,” said Vincent Manuel, global CIO at Indosuez Wealth Management.

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