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EU's slow vaccine rollout 'could cost the bloc €90billion'

·3-min read
President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen has criticised how the UK has handled the vaccine roll out. (Getty)
President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen has criticised how the UK has handled the vaccine rollout. (Getty)

The European Union faces a potential 90 billion euro hit to its economy this year if it doesn’t speed up its COVID vaccination process, a study has found.

EU governments are under fire over a slow start to vaccinations in the bloc, with critics pointing to progress made in the UK, Israel and the United States as evidence of a planning failure in Brussels.

To reach its goal of 70% immunity in adults by the summer, the EU would need a sixfold increase in the rate of vaccinations, according to the study by insurance group Allianz and credit insurer Euler Hermes.

At the current pace, herd immunity would not be achieved before 2022, the study said, adding that the longer it takes to vaccinate Europe's population, the longer the economy will be hampered by restrictions and lockdowns.

"One euro that is spent on speeding up vaccinations could avert four times as many euros in losses," it said.

EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday said that the EU had lagged rivals by three to four weeks because of a more rigorous approvals process.

Read more: How strict are the UK's border controls compared to everyone else?

Vaccines administer per 100 people. (Our World in Data)
Vaccines administer per 100 people. (Our World in Data)

Read more: Government not recording how many have refused COVID vaccine ‘because uptake has been so high’

The UK has vaccinated 15.5 per 100 people compared to the EU’s 3.16.

Supply problems should ease in the second quarter of 2021, but increasing production remained a challenge, von der Leyen said.

The EU has been rocked by several vaccine suppliers saying they could not deliver their previous commitments.

Pfizer had to lower its expected delivery due to the need to close parts of its manufacturing infrastructure to ramp up production for later in the year.

Watch: Covid Vaccine Alternating Dose Study Launches in the UK

AstraZeneca recently caused a huge row with the bloc after it said it could not deliver on its previous commitments.

It had to cut its supply by up to 60% until March after the yields from one its plants turned out to be much lower than expected.

The delivery problems have infuriated member state leaders and populations.

The EU has set up a new vaccine task force after the executive branch came under fire for the delays.

The new group is led be Thierry Breton, a former French finance minister, will head the new task force in cooperation with EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides, to identify and eliminate bottlenecks in vaccine production plants and adjust output to new variants.

Although France has publicly defended the decision to entrust the Commission with negotiating vaccine contracts, President Emmanuel Macron has been "driven mad" by the "slowness and lack of imagination" of EU institutions on vaccines.

In an attempt to get access to more vaccines last week the EU moved to ban exports of any jabs produced in its borders.

This threatened the export of the Belgian made Pfizer vaccine to the UK.

In an attempt to stop vaccines from entering the UK the EU almost triggered article 16 of the new protocol which would have banned some exports from the EU to Northern Ireland.

The move blindsided the UK and Ireland which immediately triggered a major diplomatic row.

The EU backtracked from its move after universal condemnation from London, Dublin and Belfast.

As the EU has fallen behind the UK in the vaccine race several leading members of the bloc have moved to criticise Britain’s approach.

French Europe minister Clement Beaune said on Monday that Britain was taking “many risks” with its vaccine campaign.

Von der Leyen suggested Britain had been able to roll it out ahead of the EU because it had adopted “emergency, 24-hour marketing authorisation procedures.”

Watch: What UK government COVID-19 support is available?

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