Cleaning Up Europe’s Vaccine Mess
The success of the US government’s efforts to develop, produce, and distribute COVID-19 vaccines reflects several factors. If the European Union wants to reproduce a similar initiative in Europe, mobilizing sufficient financial resources will be a significant obstacle – though perhaps not the biggest one.
BRUSSELS – COVID-19 has caused vast suffering across Europe, and the European Union’s slow vaccine rollout threatens to prolong the agony. If the region’s leaders do not take decisive action soon, the pandemic could cause irreversible damage to the EU itself.
When the coronavirus hit the region in 2020, EU member states were unable to agree on vaccine deployment – their main line of defense against it. National governments entrusted vaccine procurement to the European Commission, but then failed to harmonize their production and distribution strategies, or reach a consensus on which groups should be vaccinated first. More recently, 13 European countries suspended use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine after a small number of people who had received it developed atypical vascular thrombosis.
The European Medicines Agency’s subsequent conclusion that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is “safe and effective” has not reassured everyone. While several EU countries have continued or resumed their rollout of the vaccine, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Sweden have maintained their suspensions, while France has limited its use to people over 55. These continued differences are fueling increasing public mistrust, not only of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine but of the entire COVID-19 vaccination campaign.