Angela Merkel faced a barrage of criticism Monday after it was revealed she had personally intervened to rein in a motion by European health authorities to secure larger stocks of the coronavirus vaccine back in summer, The Telegraph reported.
The newspaper Bild published a leaked letter from the German, French, Italian, and Dutch health ministers to President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, whereby they agreed to ditch their individual initiatives and delegate full control over vaccine orders to the central EU authorities. As per the newspaper, the letter was initiated by Merkel, who sought to indicate her solidarity at the start of Germany's six-month EU presidency.
"We believe that it is of utmost importance to have a common joint and single approach towards the various pharmaceutical companies", the four ministers wrote, further welcoming the Commission to spearhead activity with regard to coronavirus vaccinations:
"We also consider that speed is of the essence in this case. So we deem it very useful if the Commission takes the lead in this process", the ministers went on.
EU Lagging Behind
Europe has since begun to fall behind in the race to secure sufficient stocks, The Telegraph stated, citing the European Union's failure to order sufficient doses of, for instance, the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, which the US developed jointly with a German pharmaceutical lab and manufactured in Belgium.
Several days ago, Markus Söder, the leader of Germany's Christian Social Union, fumed that the European Commission had bungled the procurement of enough vaccine doses and the approval of their use across the bloc.
"Obviously, the European purchasing procedure was inadequate", asserted Söder, who leads the state of Bavaria, in an interview with Bild am Sonntag.
"It is difficult to explain that a very good vaccine is developed in Germany but is vaccinated more quickly elsewhere".
The worrisome trend has also been widely discussed in France, where President Emmanuel Macron has faced growing pressure to step up France's COVID-19 vaccination campaign.
Only a few hundred people in the country have so far been inoculated against the novel virus, with the French president reportedly infuriated at the slow pace of the vaccine roll-out. Critics also pointed to the measly 200,000 people who have been inoculated in Germany since mass vaccination officially kicked off across Europe a week ago.
The Commission has moved to defend its record, pointing to the huge global demand for a vaccine.
"The bottleneck at the moment is not the volume of orders but the worldwide shortage of production capacity", Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides told AFP, as the Commission also remains locked in lengthy negotiations over supplies of the British-Swedish AstraZeneca inoculation. Separately, the European Medicine Agency (EMA) is reportedly poised to greenlight the American Moderna vaccine this week.
The post-Brexit UK, meanwhile, has full-on embarked on a massive-scale vaccination campaign, with PM Boris Johnson saying Sunday he hoped to have tens of millions of vaccinations carried out in the first few months of the new year. A day later, he announced an upcoming third lockdown across the country, which has been taking stepped-up measures to beat back the galloping new - and more infectious - strain of coronavirus.