Fighting pandemics – a solution to the vaccine dispute close at hand?

Sebastian Kurz is optimistic. If Austria’s Chancellor had railed against injustices in the distribution of corona vaccines in the EU the previous week, he found a way to resolve the dispute on Wednesday. “I am glad that we are close to a solution,” he said. Before that, he and some EU counterparts had called for a “correction mechanism” that would fix the deviations from the distribution key.

The background to this is the inconsistencies in the vaccination plans, which result from the fact that the member states had concluded additional agreements with the vaccine manufacturers – depending on their assessment of which product would be available. The EU Commission was responsible for the framework agreements, according to which the quotas were calculated, but not later called up in full by all countries.

These quotas were based on the population of a country, but since the states did not claim their share in all companies, the delivered tranches of vaccines were calculated according to the order quantity and no longer according to inhabitants. This now results in differences in vaccination rates.

According to Kurz, this would lead to increasing inequalities in the EU over the course of the months. While some countries could vaccinate their populations by summer, others would still be busy with immunization until autumn.

Ten million cans extra

The correction requested by the Chancellor should now enable an extra delivery from Biontech / Pfizer. The commission had agreed with the group on Tuesday that it would make an additional ten million vaccine doses available in the second quarter. It would be an early delivery from the option of 100 million cans that the EU should receive in the third and fourth quarters. This could “possibly” also fill gaps, stated Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Kurz also relies on this. Countries that are lagging behind due to delivery problems with vaccination – such as Bulgaria and Latvia – could therefore receive more than before from the 10 million dose tranche to compensate. But Austria would not be harmed either, emphasized the Chancellor. According to reports, the country could receive 200,000 to 400,000 doses of vaccine from this shipment.

Kurz praised the fact that von der Leyen and Council President Charles Michel are open to such a solution. In the previous week he had already held talks with numerous heads of state and government and made his counterparts aware of the deviations. Kurz found that “a system that is not good” has been built at European level because it contradicts the agreements of the top politicians.

But that cannot be blamed on the Commission. The authority had recommended the distribution of the vaccination doses according to a population key “right from the start”, emphasized von der Leyen. However, the member states had opted for a different route.

Briefly renewed criticism

In the “Zib2” on Wednesday evening, Kurz renewed his criticism that numerous European heads of state and government did not know that some countries had ordered additional vaccines. The heads of government with whom he spoke “fell from the clouds” when they heard about the ordering mechanism. Kurz also denied that Austria knew in January that more vaccine could have been ordered at that time.

Visit to Berlin

How the pandemic is to be further combated at EU level, Kurz will be able to discuss with his counterparts at an EU summit next week. But already today, Thursday, he is a guest in Berlin, even if not with Chancellor Angela Merkel – because of scheduling conflicts. The conversation partners of the Austrian politician will, however, include Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and CDU Chairman Armin Laschet.

The evening program includes an award ceremony for the Biontech founders. The laudation will be held briefly.(czar)

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