Global race for the vaccine


Israel is the clear leader. In no country is vaccination against the coronavirus so comprehensive so quickly. More than a million citizens in the nine-million-inhabitant state have already received the first dose of the vaccine. This means that Israel has already vaccinated ten times as many people per capita as Great Britain, which is the fastest and most vaccinated in Europe.

From the beginning, both countries spared no expense or effort to get vaccines. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly called the major pharmaceutical companies personally – and according to his own account, he agreed to deliver eight million doses with Biontech-Pfizer and six million with Moderna.

It has also paid off for the vaccination companies. Israel is said to pay a higher price for the serum than other countries for fast, comprehensive delivery, according to media reports. In addition, manufacturers can speculate that the effects of a high vaccination rate will quickly become apparent in that country and that the willingness to vaccinate will increase in other countries as well.

Slow union

According to surveys, vaccination skepticism is lower in the UK than in many other European countries. There, however, the government has changed its vaccination strategy due to the still high number of infections – most recently around 50,000 new infections per day. She now wants to wait three months instead of three weeks before giving the second dose in order to reach more people with the vaccinations.

According to official information, the island has a lot of vaccines: On Monday, in addition to that from Biontech-Pfizer, the vaccine from Astrazeneca was also used for the first time – and Great Britain has secured 100 million doses of this alone, although it will of course take some time until these are delivered and can be administered.

Compared to Israel and Great Britain, the vaccination rate in the European Union appears to be much slower. And the differences across the community are great: while a quarter of a million people in Germany and more than 40,000 people in Denmark, which is much smaller, are vaccinated, in France there are just a few hundred people.
The -Netherlands, on the other hand, has not even started the campaign.

In Germany in particular, the debate is now taking place, fueled not least by the “ Bild” newspaper, as to whether there are enough vaccine doses and whether these are not being distributed too slowly. Health Minister Jens Spahn is therefore pushing for the vaccine to be made available more quickly. According to his concept, six instead of the previous five vaccine doses could be taken from Biontech’s bottles. That could “increase the number of available vaccine doses by up to 20 percent,” quoted the Reuters news agency from the paper. However, the EU Medicines Agency EMA would have to agree to this.

But it is precisely the EU procedure that is once again the focus of criticism. Has the EU Commission waited too long with the orders? Why didn’t she secure more vaccination doses from one manufacturer or another? Why is UK faster with approvals?
The -Commission has been increasingly confronted with these questions in recent days.

Praise to solidarity

The -answers, which she delivers via the short message service Twitter, among other things, are both a defense and praise of solidarity. On the one hand, she assures that the number of vaccines is sufficient. After all, she has ordered almost two billion cans from six manufacturers. Biontech-Pfizer has already received approval, and further deliveries are already being negotiated. Another approval is expected for the Moderna product in the next few days. But the funds would have to be produced and distributed one day, explains the commission.

Whether she could have secured more vaccine doses in the summer when the first contracts were initiated is difficult to answer in retrospect. At the time, it was not yet clear which company could deliver when. And the process for entering the market is also different from that in Great Britain. On the island, it was an emergency license that circumvented important liability issues.

On the other hand, the EU institution wanted to prevent member states from competing for the vaccine. Therefore, they urged joint action, both for procurement and for proportionate distribution, depending on the size of the population. Scenes from the spring should not be repeated when, for example, Germany annoyed other countries with a ban on the export of medical aids, which in some cases led to trucks getting stuck at border crossings.

Africa has to wait

In any case, other countries can only dream of vaccines that are available to Europeans. Around 40 percent of the comparatively cheap Astrazeneca substance is said to go to developing and emerging countries, which means that India, for example, can get its vaccination campaign going. Until now, however, African countries have clearly been left behind, and in many countries it is still impossible to foresee when vaccination can even begin.

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