Edleff Joachim should have been among the first to receive a blow when Germany launched its mass vaccination program against Covid-19 on December 27. A month later, the 84-year-old is still waiting.
“It’s just chaos,” said Joachim, who lives in the town of Görlitz on the Polish border. “No one seems to know what’s going on.”
His frustration is a testament to a German vaccination campaign in disarray – a mess now reproduced across much of the EU due to a shortage of doses. Those over 80 were to be vaccinated first, along with residents of nursing homes, but tens of thousands of eligible Germans have yet to be vaccinated.
Residents of Görlitz learned a few weeks ago that they could book a time slot for a vaccination online or by phone. However, when he called the hotline, Mr Joachim was told that no appointment was made because there simply weren’t enough vaccines available.
Europe’s supply problems started biting seriously this week, putting great pressure on political leaders and EU officials who oversee procurement. The shortages fueled an extraordinary row between the European Commission and AstraZeneca, with Brussels accusing the pharmaceutical group of renouncing an agreement to provide 100 million doses of a vaccine developed with the University of Oxford.
Health authorities in several countries have canceled appointments, delayed first injections or cut plans to increase vaccination rates, as the UK was able to do after the first weeks of its vaccination program.
“The lack of available vaccines is currently the number one political problem in Europe,” said Guntram Wolff, director of the Bruegel think tank in Brussels. “It affects all families. People wonder why the vaccines don’t come. The pressure is enormous. “
After being criticized for a slow start to their vaccination campaigns, EU health authorities quickly increased their capacity to administer injections – only to run into a shortage of doses.
For example, the Baden-Württemberg region in southwestern Germany has set up 10 huge vaccination centers and 49 smaller ones capable of vaccinating 54,200 people per day. But due to the lack of a vaccine, the state can only offer 585 appointments per week – a figure that includes beatings given by mobile teams to residents of local care homes. Baden-Württemberg’s Ministry of Social Affairs said the state had received 42% fewer vaccines this week than expected and would receive 15% less next week.
Three French regions covering a third of the national population have ordered hospitals to delay new first dose injections for two to four weeks in order to guarantee the supply of doses for second boosters.
Madrid’s regional government has also halted almost all new first injections to prioritize second doses amid uncertainty over deliveries. A regional health official described how a shipment of the BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine to the Spanish capital 10 days ago was half of what was expected – 25 trays instead of 50, each containing 975 doses.
“As soon as we learned about the agreements at EU level to purchase vaccines, we worried about their complexity, given that some of the production facilities were outside the EU and the huge international competition for vaccines. vaccines, ”she said.
Denmark, one of the best performing countries in the EU, will administer fewer doses of the vaccine in the first half of February than in the second half of January. He has stopped giving the first doses to health workers and cannot expand his program to new categories.
“There is a lot of frustration because the logistics side [of the vaccine rollout] works pretty well, ”said Camilla Noelle Rathcke, director of the Danish Medical Association. “But it’s like that. No one can do anything about it yet.
Jens Spahn, Germany’s health minister, said it would take “at least another 10 difficult weeks” before vaccine shortages abated.
Europe’s vaccination campaign has failed amid growing frustration – and, in the Netherlands, several nights of riots and street violence – on prolonged foreclosure measures. This undermined the credibility of the commission, which took on the task of procuring vaccines for the entire block, but was slower than the UK or US to sign contracts and approve vaccines. use.
German politicians and part of the German media have been particularly ruthless.
“I have the impression that they [the commission] ordered too late, and betting only on a few companies, they agreed on a price in a typically bureaucratic European procedure and completely underestimated the fundamental importance of the situation, ”ZDF told TV on Friday Markus Söder, the Bavarian Prime Minister and possible future Chancellor. .
“We have a situation. . . where the grandchildren in Israel are already vaccinated but the grandparents here are still waiting. This is completely wrong.
Emmanuel Macron, French President, defended the EU’s vaccination strategy, saying it made sense to ensure the entire continent was protected together because of connections between countries.
“Suppose France, Italy and Germany have a very ambitious and rapid vaccination plan – it would be doomed if their neighbors did not have the same policy, because our economies are integrated”, a- he declared.
The same goes for the UK, which vaccinates its population much faster than the EU. “What are they going to do, prevent European trucks from entering? . . . There is a total dependence on the continent. And we also need the British to succeed because we are connected and we need to make progress in areas such as defense and immigration.
Mr Wolff, from the Bruegel think tank, said that while Brussels had serious questions to answer, Member States also shared the responsibility as they were involved in decision-making at many levels.
“Every country wants the vaccine and no country is better suited than others to receive it,” said Dr Rathcke of the Danish Medical Association. “The blame game can continue, but it cannot provide solutions.”