‘Italy should follow’ EU set for more vaccine chaos – MEPs hail rebels Denmark and Austria

EU vaccine rollout shortcomings addressed by von der Leyen

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League MEPs signed a parliamentary note on Tuesday denouncing the EU’s chaotic handling of the coronavirus pandemic and its vaccine procurement strategy. The Italian politicians, led by Matteo Salvini, congratulated Austria and Denmark after the two EU rebel countries agreed to get more vaccine doses from Israel in a blow to the EU Commission.

The note read: “The announcement by Austria and Denmark that they will no longer rely on the EU and want to proceed independently to procure vaccines, followed by the statements of the European Commission on the legitimacy of this decision, represents yet another and sensational confirmation of the failure of the strategy carried out so far from Brussels.

“To the detriment of the few vaccines distributed so far, this adds the mockery of a U-turn compared to what was claimed until yesterday.

“Vienna did well, as well as other EU countries, to seek vaccines independently, without waiting for delays and European bureaucracies.

“Italy should follow suit, carrying out the vaccine production plans proposed by Matteo Salvini and the League and intensifying every effort to obtain as many vaccines as possible, to protect the health of citizens.”

Austria and Denmark announced on Monday they will make a deal with the Israeli government for the delivery and production of vaccines.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he discussed the new vaccine venture with the two European leaders who will meet him in person this week.

Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen are expected in Israel this week to see Israel’s rapid vaccine rollout up close.

Mr Netanyahu said the leaders will also talk about the idea of “an international corporation for manufacturing vaccines”.

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Mr Kurz told German newspaper Bild the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is “too slow” to approve vaccines.

He said: “We should no longer be dependent only on the EU for the production of second-generation vaccines.”

Slovakia is also breaking away from the bloc’s vaccine strategy and joined Hungary in its partnership with Russia’s Vladimir Putin to buy his Sputnik V vaccine.

The Eastern European country’s health minister said the government purchased two million doses of the vaccine, making it the second country in the EU to go ahead and purchase the jab which is yet to be approved by the EMA.

Slovakian Prime Minister Igor Matovič held a press conference on Monday at the Košice Airport, where the first delivery of the vaccine arrived.

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He claimed the Russian vaccine will allow the country to speed up its vaccination program by 40 percent.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also received another blow when the Polish president Andrezej Duda announced he would buy vaccines from China.

Mr Duda had a phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday.

The Czech Republic, which has the world’s highest one-week per-capita infection rate, has also looked at using Russia’s vaccine after earlier saying it would wait for approval from the EU’s EMA drugs agency, which has not been requested yet.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said on Sunday the country could not wait.

They all followed Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the first to break away from the EU united approach on vaccines by buying and administering Russian and Chinese vaccines before they are approved by EU regulators.

Western procurement has also increased, with Hungary upping its order of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to 10.87 million from an earlier order of 6.5 million.

The country also has orders from Moderna and AstraZeneca and expects to order supplies of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine once it becomes available in the EU.

Following a British approach to vaccinations, Hungarian Surgeon General Cecilia Muller said she expected new coronavirus cases to surge in the coming weeks, and so Hungary would try to stretch supplies by extending the period between the two jabs, while maintaining safety.

The new approach to vaccination means a 12-week gap between AstraZeneca shots and 35 days between Pfizer shots, just like in the UK.

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