UK may stop shipping vaccines to the EU warns expert
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Last year, European governments shifted responsibility for vaccination procurement to the EU. This is because German Chancellor Angela Merkel reasoned that it would have strained EU cohesion if Germany had procured privileged supplies of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which was funded by Berlin. It did not take long for the move to spectacularly backfire.
With nearly 40 percent of people in the UK having received at least one dose, but vaccine distribution progressing much more slowly across most EU countries, frustration is growing.
Citizens in Germany, France and Sweden are directing blame at Brussels over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic and vaccine rollouts, according to polling carried out in mid-February that also points to a drop in support for national governments and leaders.
According to the survey, which was carried out by Kekst CNC, 51 percent of German respondents said the EU has handled the vaccine rollout badly, a view shared by 35 percent of French and 24 percent of Swedish respondents.
In the UK, 45 percent said the EU has done a bad job, while 77 percent said they approved of their Government’s track record on vaccination.
By contrast, only 23 percent of Germans, 19 percent of Swedes and 18 percent of French respondents took a similarly generous view of their respective national vaccine rollouts.
As trust in the EU’s strategy continues to dwindle, a political commentator has explained why the bloc would never have been able to deliver a successful vaccination rollout on par with the one of the UK and Israel.
Head of Oxford-based think-tank Euro Intelligence Wolfgang Munchau explained in a recent report: “The EU could not have done what Israel and the UK did.
“Israel handed all health data to the manufacturers.
“That’s not possible in the data-protection-obsessed EU.
“The UK put a venture capitalist in charge of the operation.”
He added: “Inexperience plays a role. But the biggest problem in the procurement delays is the constant need in the EU to coordinate between all members.
“Policy coordination works in situations that are purely symmetric – of which there are not many.
“Vaccination is surely not in that category.”
With a population of just nine million, Israel is not a large country.
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However, its contributions to health innovation, in particular digital health, are outsized.
In 2019, Israel’s cabinet approved a one billion shekel (£276 million) investment in digital health, focusing primarily on commercialising and otherwise deriving value from the country’s medical databases.
Israel’s healthcare system has been paperless for about 20 years.
And while its hospitals are not all on the same Electronic Health Records (EHR) system, those systems do all talk to each other.
The ability to reach patients at the drop of a hat, have immediate access to their medical history, and seamless capabilities for appointment bookings have been fundamental for Israel, which is one of the countries at the top of the COVID-19 vaccine league table.
Britain’s successful vaccination rollout is another story.
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As Mr Munchau mentioned, the UK did put a venture capitalist, Kate Bingham, in charge of the operation.
Her taskforce helped the Government to secure vital agreements to have access to six different vaccines across four different formats, amounting to 357 million doses.
She invested a huge £1billion upfront, without any guarantee that any vaccine would work.
It was a risk that has paid off handsomely, and has allowed the UK to race ahead and vaccinate its population against the virus.
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