European Union (EU) leaders agreed at a virtual EU summit on Thursday to increase the production of COVID-19 vaccines in Europe to improve the rollout of vaccination programs across member states, European Council President Charles Michel said at the end of the meeting.
“It’s absolutely vital, of course, that we keep on working to improve vaccine production in Europe, and improve our ability to distribute those to member states,” Michel told a press conference. The COVID-19 pandemic was high on the EU leaders’ agenda as Europe grapples with slow vaccine rollout amid a resurgence of COVID-19. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said during the press conference that the variant was now in “practically all EU countries” and was the cause of the increase in new cases. She said member states had received some 88 million doses of the vaccines and just over 4 percent of the EU population had already received both jabs.
“We could have been much faster if all pharmaceutical companies had fulfilled their contracts,” she said, with a clear reference to AstraZeneca. She warned that the Anglo-Swedish firm would have to “catch up” before it is allowed to export doses outside of the bloc.
In the first quarter of 2021, AstraZeneca was supposed to deliver 90 million doses to the EU countries. Now the projection is that AstraZeneca will deliver just 30 million doses by the end of the first quarter, according to the Commission. “Companies have to honor their contract to the European Union before they export to other regions in the world.
And this is, of course, the case with AstraZeneca,” she said. “We need to make sure that Europe gets its fair share.” Despite the delays in vaccine deliveries, von der Leyen said the EU is still confident of having 70 percent of its adult population vaccinated by the end of summer.