Belgium criticises vaccine buying solo-run. Belgium’s health minister Maggie De Block (Open VLD) has said she considers it “unreasonable” that four EU member states are negotiating to buy some 400 million of doses of a British-Swedish COVID-19 vaccine outside of the joint procurement initiative launched by the European Commission.
On Saturday, the German Ministry of Health announced that Germany, France, the Netherlands and Italy have signed an agreement guaranteeing the supply to the EU of 300 million doses of a vaccine developed by the University of Oxford, whose CEO is a Belgian, and the company AstraZeneca, as soon as it is ready.
“Many countries in the world have already secured vaccines, Europe has not done that yet”, Germany’s health minister Jens Spahn said at the press conference.
“The commitment involves that the experimentation path, already in advanced state, will end in the autumn with the distribution of the first dose tranche before the end of the year,” Italy’s health minister Roberto Speranza wrote on Facebook.
“By doing this you are weakening everyone: both the Commission’s overall initiative and your own position,” De Block retorted according to Le Soir.
According to De Block, the four countries’ action will weaken an EU effort to encourage research into other vaccine possibilities, which when it produces a successful vaccine will then be supported by purchases from all 27 member states.
That effort is less likely to be successful if four of the EU’s main economies defect to another project, De Block said.
The joint EU effort, she said, will continue to enjoy Belgium’s support “because we believe that is the best way to achieve maximum results for our citizens”.
“This is why Belgium has always rallied to the overall initiative of the European Commission without still negotiating apart with a few countries,” she added.
While the four member states behind the agreement have decided to collaborate with a single pharmaceutical company, “the Commission’s initiative goes much further by favouring different companies. This will be necessary, moreover, because it is still impossible to predict who will find a vaccine first or whether this company can produce this vaccine in sufficient quantities,” De Block concluded.
(Alexandra Brzozowski | EURACTIV.com)