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A health care worker hands over doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to a doctor at Messe Wien Congress Center, in Vienna, Austria, on Feb. 7, 2021.LISI NIESNER/Reuters

The European Union’s vaccine unity has shattered as shortages push a few desperate countries to seek outside supplies and create foreign partnerships.

Frustrated by the vaccine shortages, at least four EU countries – Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland – have struck deals to buy Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, or are considering doing so. The Chinese vaccine is also a contender. The Russian and Chinese products have not been approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

The EU’s vaccine rollout remains stubbornly slow, although the pace has picked up somewhat in recent days. By Tuesday, the 27-country EU – population 450 million – had administered only 33.5 million doses, equivalent to 7.5 per 100 citizens.

Cumulative COVID-19 vaccination

doses administered

Per 100 people. This is counted as a single dose, and

may not equal the total number of people vaccinated,

depending on the specific dose regime

100

Israel

80

60

40

Britain

U.S.

20

EU

Canada

0

Jan. 1

15

25

Feb. 4

14

March 1

the globe and mail, Source: Official data

collated by Our World in Data –

Last updated March 2

Cumulative COVID-19 vaccination

doses administered

Per 100 people. This is counted as a single dose, and may not equal

the total number of people vaccinated, depending on the

specific dose regime

100

Israel

80

60

40

Britain

U.S.

20

EU

Canada

0

Jan. 1

15

25

Feb. 4

14

March 1

the globe and mail, Source: Official data collated

by Our World in Data – Last updated March 2

Cumulative COVID-19 vaccination doses administered

Per 100 people. This is counted as a single dose, and may not equal the total

number of people vaccinated, depending on the specific dose regime

100

Israel

80

60

40

Britain

U.S.

20

EU

Canada

0

Jan. 1

15

25

Feb. 4

14

March 1

the globe and mail, Source: Official data collated by Our World

in Data – Last updated March 2

The equivalent figure in Britain was 32; in the U.S., 23; and Israel, the world leader, at almost 95.

This week, Denmark and Austria announced their intention to form a partnership with Israel to develop second-generation vaccines as the COVID-19 virus mutates into highly contagious – and possibly more lethal – forms, threatening to keep European lockdowns in place.

Unless the lockdowns and other restrictions are lifted soon, weaker, tourist-dependent countries such as Italy, Spain and Greece face an economic crisis as their governments run out of financial firepower.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, among other EU leaders, has been critical of the European vaccine strategy, which saw the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, install itself last summer as the sole buying agent for the bloc. The EC moved slowly in negotiating purchase agreements with big pharmaceutical companies (allowing Britain to nail down the early supplies), and got bogged down in legal negotiations over liability and contract-enforcement clauses.

Manufacturing capacity shortfalls compounded the problems, putting the EU well behind many other countries and regions in the vaccination race.

Mr. Kurz and Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen are travelling to Israel later this week to see its rapid vaccine rollout in action and discuss plans to collaborate on creating and manufacturing vaccines, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday.

In a blow to the EC vaccine strategy, which is overseen by EC president Ursula von der Leyen, Slovakia and Hungary granted emergency approval of the Sputnik vaccine. Slovakia, which currently has the highest number of pandemic deaths per capita over a seven-day period, is to receive two million doses of the Sputnik vaccine.

The question is whether one of the EU’s big countries will also break ranks and order outside vaccine supplies. Francesco Galietti, chief executive of the Rome political consultancy Policy Sonar, said that Mario Draghi, Italy’s new prime minister, might be forced to buy the Russian vaccine if Italy’s campaign doesn’t pick up momentum soon. “Draghi will have to carefully assess whether the Western vaccines are enough,” he said in an interview. “He seems to have realized that Italy cannot survive economically if the vaccine is not rolled out before the summer. He knows the importance of tourism to Italy.”

Large and producing nations are cutting strategic deals for vaccines across the globe, which critics say threatens fair distribution.

Reuters

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