Revealed: EU vaccine target ‘impossible’ say ambassadors

Revealed: EU vaccine target ‘impossible’ say ambassadors
The deadline for vaccinating the over-80s has already been missed. © Belga

The EU’s target of having 70% of all adults vaccinated by the end of the second quarter is ‘impossible’ to reach, according to a confidential document drawn up by EU ambassadors and leaked to Bloomberg.

EU ambassadors or their representatives sit on the Committee of Permanent Representatives, known as Coreper. Their job is to prepare the ground for regular meetings of EU ministers as well as summits. Their deliberations are considered to take part in confidence. 

According to the latest prognoses, the document says, only 55% of adults will have been vaccinated by the end of June, with wide variations among countries. Malta tops the list, with 93.1% forecast to be reached by end June. Denmark comes next with 79.88%.

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Belgium’s neighbours all score higher: the Netherlands 64.59%, Germany 61.04% and France 58.16%. Belgium itself has a forecast of 57.45%, just behind France, but a long way behind the EU target.

A large part of the difference between countries concerns the proportion of their vaccinations carried out using the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine compared to the AstraZeneca (AZ). The AZ vaccine has been plagued with delivery difficulties, made worse by a string of companies suspending use of the vaccine because of fears over side-effects.

Belgium’s vaccination programme is built almost entirely on Pfizer, to the tune of 99.3%, which could explain why Belgium took no part in the recent brief boycott.

The Coreper evaluation is not exactly soothsayer work: the target set for today has already been missed. The EU has set a target for having all people over the age of 80 vaccinated by the end of the first quarter, which arrived yesterday.

In fact, the European Centre for Disease Control reports, the average rate for that cohort is still only 59.8%. Malta, Ireland, Sweden and Finland have achieved the goal. Belgium trails behind on 50.6%.

Coreper was discussing how to share a shipment of ten million extra doses of the Pfizer vaccine, intended to compensate countries who had bet on AZ instead. The worst affected: Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia and Slovakia. The proposal is to give seven million doses to them, leaving three million to be divided up among all 27 member states.

The meeting broke up with no agreement.

Alan Hope

The Brussels Times

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