EU: Austrian Chancellor criticises vaccine delivery strategy
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The leaders of Austria, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Croatia and Latvia have written to the European Union calling for a discussion on COVID-19 vaccine distribution within the bloc after Austria complained it was uneven.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Friday that vaccine doses were not being spread evenly among member states despite an agreement within the bloc to do so according to population. He blamed separate deals struck between the EU’s vaccination steering board and drug companies.
Mr Kurz said on Twitter on Saturday that he and his four counterparts had called for discussions to find “a European solution” in a joint letter.
The letter, to the European Commission President and European Council President Charles Michel, was published by Austrian media.
It read: “In recent days we have discovered that deliveries of vaccine doses by pharma companies to individual EU member states are not being implemented on an equal basis following the pro-rata population key.
“We, therefore, call on you, Charles, to hold a discussion on this important matter among leaders as soon as possible.”
Malta is on course to have three times more vaccine doses relative to its population by the end of June than Bulgaria, Mr Kurz has said.
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis confirmed on Sunday that he joined the initiative led by Mr Kurz.
He said: “It seems that some countries will be able to vaccinate by June a much higher share of the adult population than the others.”
According to the Czech leader, the EU should stick with the principle of solidarity and distribute vaccines among member states on a pro-rata basis, until 70 percent of European citizens are vaccinated.
The letter did not mention the steering group, which has long been known to be part of a mechanism by which member states share excess doses among themselves. The deputy head of the steering board is Austrian.
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Opposition parties have accused Mr Kurz of trying to deflect blame for the slow pace of vaccinations away from himself.
The Social Democrats said he was seeking “scapegoats for his failure”.
An EU official said Mr Michel had received the letter and a leaders’ summit was already planned for March 25 and 26.
The Commission responded that doses have been distributed in proportion with the population of each country and taking into account epidemiological data, adding that was up to member state governments to decide how to share them.
A flexible policy agreed by EU governments meant countries facing a more acute phase of the epidemic could access more doses if some governments opted for not taking up their pro-rata allocation, the EU executive said in a statement.
It said: “It would be up to the Member States to find an agreement if they wished to return to the pro-rata basis.”
The statement added that the Commission backed an allocation method based exclusively on a pro-rata of the population of each EU nation.
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