Commission vice-president admits mistakes were made over coronavirus vaccines

Commission vice-president admits mistakes were made over coronavirus vaccines
Frans Timmermans. Credit: European Union 2021

The European Commission made mistakes in its ordering of vaccines, its vice-president Frans Timmermans has admitted in an interview with the German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel.

The European Commission took over the business of negotiating prices for vaccines and ordering the required quantities after it appeared that four member states – Germany, France, Italy, and the Netherlands – were prepared to arrange vaccinations independently.

"It is true that mistakes were made when ordering the vaccines both in Brussels and in the member states," Timmermans told the paper.

Allowing these four countries to go it alone, the Commission reasoned, would leave other member states, including the smaller ones, disadvantaged in the marketplace, and unable to compete on price when other countries were ordering millions of additional doses.

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That decision, he said, had been the right one, and it had also worked in the interest of larger member states like Germany.

But while admitting mistakes were made, Timmermans declined to go into detail on what mistakes those were and on what subject.

One that immediately springs to mind is the debacle over orders of the AstraZeneca vaccine. When the supplier said orders would be lower than expected, the Commission threatened legal action, there was an inelegant dispute over contract terms and the Commission narrowly avoided a diplomatic incident over the Brexit agreement’s codicil on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

“I am ready to take stock at the end of the pandemic, Timmermans said. “Then we can see what we did wrong and what we did right.”

In the current situation, however, the important thing is “that all of Europe gets vaccines,” he said, and “the public’s need for us to deliver the vaccine as quickly as possible.”

Alan Hope

The Brussels Times

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