Covid-19. Vaccines: a test of credibility for the European Union

While in the rest of the world most countries have dealt directly with pharmaceutical companies that are developing vaccines, the Member States ofEuropean Union decided last spring that the EU would negotiate on their behalf. A committed choice, intended to avoid a price war and inequalities between the twenty-seven member countries.

Have there been enough orders?

Yes, they did take place, and in large numbers. Just with the three vaccines already produced and authorized in the EU – Pfizer / BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca -, orders exceed the 900 million doses needed to deliver two injections to each of the 447.7 million inhabitants of the EU.

What is the problem ?

In quick succession the first three laboratories whose vaccines have been approved in the EU have announced that there will be delays for EU orders. While countries like the United States and especially the United Kingdom, which have negotiated directly with pharmaceutical groups and at higher prices, will have their doses on time.

What would be the extent of the announced delay in delivery?

Pfizer-BioNTech has announced a one-month delay in its delivery schedule to Europe. For Moderna, the reduction in delivery would, for example, be 25% for France compared to estimates in the first quarter. AstraZeneca first announced a 60% drop in expected deliveries, before indicating that it would try to do a little better. The EU published the contract with this lab on Friday, now in the crosshairs, to remind it of its obligations.

What are the causes invoked?

Pharmaceutical groups invoke the industrial tool. Once the vaccines are developed, they have to be produced in huge numbers. Factories all over the world are involved. For the European Union, these laboratories indicate that the contracts were concluded later with the countries which negotiated directly and that, as a result, the production capacity problems arose, also late.

How is the European Union reacting?

After having challenged the labs’ arguments step by step, through the voice of the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, the Union has taken action. Brussels on Friday adopted a mechanism allowing it to control exports outside the EU Covid vaccines that will be produced there. This will, if necessary, prevent the release of doses intended for Europeans.

What is at stake for the EU?

Its credibility is at stake vis-à-vis the Member States which have agreed to delegate their sovereignty to it for such an issue. The speed of the vaccination campaigns will depend on the capacity of each country to rebuild its economy. If some lose confidence, behaviors like that of Hungary which approved only the Chinese vaccine Sinopharm after having done the same with the Russian Souptnik V, are likely to multiply.


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