COVID-19 Vaccine Privilege: ‚Nationalistic‘ EU Gets Jab Boost Amid Fears Over Uneven Global Supply

Written by | Friday, February 5th, 2021

More vaccines will be arriving in EU member states after two pharmaceutical companies agreed to increase their supply to the EU with millions of additional doses. Following a heated dispute over delayed deliveries, after Pfizer-BioNTech announced it expected to supply 75 million extra doses in the second quarter, also UK-Swedish vaccine developer AstraZeneca has now committed to delivering nine million additional vaccine doses before March. 12 million people in Europe have so far been vaccinated against coronavirus, according to the latest figures published by the European Commission on Tuesday (2 February).
But in the meantime, government ministers from Japan, Korea and Indonesia have attacked the so-called vaccine nationalism of the European Union, urging the bloc not to adopt export controls on COVID-19 vaccines and urging international cooperation. This open criticism came after the EU executive adopted, on Friday (29 January), an export control mechanism on vaccines produced in EU countries, in response to the shortfall of vaccines suddenly announced by the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca earlier this month. “The aim is to provide greater clarity on vaccine production in the EU and their exports – this transparency has been lacking and is vital at this time,” said EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis. But Taro Kono, Japan’s minister in charge of COVID-19 response, and Kang Kyung-Wha, South Korea’s foreign minister, both expressed concerns over about growing vaccine nationalism during a panel at the.
“We are concerned that two types of those vaccines may be blocked in Europe,” Kono said. “We never suspected that. I’m very concerned some government may try to be more nationalistic.” South Korea’s foreign minister stressed that vaccine nationalism was fuelling “global disunity” and leaving many developing nations out in the cold. Many developed countries preordered hundreds of millions of doses of vaccines while they were still in development stages. A large number have proved successful, leaving many countries oversupplied. But other poorer countries, including on EU’s fringes, are yet to receive any jabs. More than a month after the EU started its vaccination campaign against COVID-19 and amid recriminations about its slow rollout, Ukraine, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and the Republic of North Macedonia are among the countries still empty-handed.
Some of the poorer countries are relying on the COVAX scheme, which aims to ensure poorer countries get access to a COVID-19 vaccine. The initiative has yet to deliver any vaccines. The EU has pledged €870 million to COVAX and a further €70 million to help “Western Balkans partners” secure doses. But despite this, Brussels has come under heavy criticism for its perceived lack of help for countries neighbouring the bloc. A similar situation is on EU’s southern flank, in Africa, which has been largely left to scramble for COVID-19 vaccines. Having developed the coronavirus vaccines in under a year and making them available has granted Europe and the US a certain “vaccine privilege.” The EU, for example, has outstripped Africa in buying up coronavirus vaccines, despite being home to a small fraction compared to Africa’s population. But while the early development of COVID-19 vaccines may have helped the EU gain more influence over Africa, now the bloc is widely seen as leaving the neighboring continent out in the cold.

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