New needs-based COVID vaccine distribution scheme needed, say Baltics

The countries say that this new system would improve the efficiency of the EU’s joint vaccination efforts and “further foster solidarity between the member states". [SHUTTERSTOCK]

Three Baltic states have written to the European Commission asking for a new system of COVID-19 vaccine distributions based on need, which they say will improve the efficiency of the EU’s vaccination programme. 

The letter, signed by the health ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, was sent to EU health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides on Wednesday (10 March).

Praising its “continuous efforts” to increase the production and deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines, the signatories call on the Commission to “act proactively” to set up a system for exceptions to the pro-rata distribution system currently in place.

“While we support the general principle of pro rata distribution, we believe that creation of such a transparent mechanism for a temporary re-distribution of deliveries taking into account the extraordinary situations and actual use of vaccines would allow us to more efficiently use the vaccines produced and delivered at the EU level,” the letter said.

Decisions on distribution should instead be based on “clear and transparent criteria, such as availability of vaccines, vaccination rate, incident rate, mortality rate and spread of new variants,” it stated.

Estonia enters month-long lockdown, asks for fairer vaccine distribution

Estonia has suggested that countries experiencing a faster spread of the virus should receive their pre-ordered vaccines first, Estonian broadcaster ERR news reported.

This comes as Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas described the country’s pandemic situation as “extraordinarily critical” on social …

In this way, they said, the envisaged plan would “advance the delivery to the member states in most urgent need”, helping to improve the efficiency of the EU’s joint vaccination efforts and to “further foster solidarity between the member states”.

This is particularly needed for situations where an unused surplus of delivered vaccines accumulates in any given member state, it contends, and especially in the case that these unused vaccines have an expiry date. 

Asked about the letter, a Commission spokesperson said they were aware and were currently looking into the letter.

The spokesperson stressed that the European Commission is working very closely with member states to monitor the delivery of the vaccines, as well as any obstacles and issues that EU countries are being confronted with.

The spokesperson added that they are currently in discussions as to how the current system can be improved. 

While the Baltic states were largely spared during the first wave of the pandemic last year, they have been badly affected in recent weeks and have been forced to impose partial lockdowns.

Estonia currently has the second-highest per capita infection rate in the world, according to an AFP tally based on official data over the past 14 days, while Latvia has the second-lowest vaccination rate in the EU after Bulgaria.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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