Europe’s Vaccination Debacle
With under-supplied vaccination facilities and overcrowded COVID-19 wards, the European Union is reaping what it sowed last summer when it decided to put the European Commission in charge of preordering vaccines. There was neither a legal basis nor any economic justification for central planning.
MUNICH – A storm is raging over the European Union’s failure to have ordered more of the approved COVID-19 vaccines ahead of time. Stéphane Bancel, the CEO of the US pharmaceutical company Moderna, which gained approval for its vaccine shortly after Pfizer/BioNTech, claims that the EU has relied too much on “vaccines from its own laboratories.”
Did the European Commission prioritize supporting its own pharmaceutical industry over protecting human lives? In fact, matters are not as simple as that. Contrary to what Bancel wants us to believe, the EU has actually ordered too little of its own vaccine. After all, the vaccine that is being administered most widely across the West was developed by a German company, BioNTech, and thus comes from the EU (though it was tested and partly produced in partnership with Pfizer in the United States and with Fosun Pharma in China).
Far from having ordered too little of the “American” vaccine, the EU sat back while the US and other countries stocked up on doses of a vaccine that was created and produced in a German lab. The EU is guilty not of protectionism, but of institutional inflexibility. The slow vaccine rollout in many European countries is the result of the EU’s failure to coordinate the interests of the various member states. Whereas some countries balked at the price of BioNTech’s mRNA vaccine, others were skeptical about its new gene-based technological underpinnings, and still others simply did not recognize the urgency of the situation, having assumed that the worst of the pandemic had already passed.