European Union (EU) leaders meet on Thursday to discuss a coordinated path out of the COVID-19 pandemic as infections surge again in many of their countries, seeking agreement on how to ramp up supplies of vaccines after a feeble start to inoculation.
Ahead of the summit, French President Emmanuel Macron spelt out the frustration over vaccine rollouts that are far behind those of Britain and the United States, acknowledging that European leaders had been too timid.
“We didn’t shoot for the stars. That should be a lesson for all of us. We were wrong to lack ambition, to lack the madness, I would say, to say: It’s possible, let’s do it,” he told Greek television channel ERT.
As of March 23, Britain had administered nearly 46 vaccines for every 100 people, whereas the 27-nation bloc it left last year had administered 13.8 shots per 100 people, according to public data compiled by Our World In Data website.
Europe’s painfully slow rollout has led to a quarrel with Britain, which has imported at least 11 million doses made in the EU. Britain says it did a better job negotiating with manufacturers and arranging supply chains. The EU says it should share more.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, under pressure at home after making a U-turn on plans for an extended Easter holiday to break a third wave of COVID-19, defended the EU’s decision to procure vaccines jointly for all member states.
“Now that we see that even small differences in the distribution of vaccines cause big discussions, I would not like to imagine if some member states had vaccines and others did not,” she told German lawmakers ahead of the summit. “That would shake the internal market to its core.”
Several countries have complained that vaccines are not being distributed evenly across the bloc.
WTO Director-General in talks with EU over EU vaccine export restrictions: