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In a vicious attack on Brussels, the outspoken MEP and staunch EU supporter questioned how Europe has fallen behind its competitors and allowed the UK to surge ahead in its vaccine rollout. The EU launched its own vaccination programme last month but has still struggled to vaccinate member states, while the UK has now administered jabs to 10,490,487 people. Such is the dire situation in the bloc, Mr Verhofstadt has pointed to the purchase of the Russian and Chinese vaccines by some Balkan states.
In a bitter attack against the bloc, Mr Verhofstadt said: “This shouldn’t be happening.
“The EU is world leader in the production of vaccines.
“76% of the total annual production of vaccines worldwide nearly 3 billion doses comes from within the EU.
“How is it possible that today, more than one month after the launch of the vaccination programmes, Europe is lagging behind?
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“We haven’t nearly the roll-out of the US or the UK. Some countries are halting before they even gained traction.
“We even see a diplomatic disaster in the Balkans where countries are looking to China and Russia for help.”
As a bloc, the EU is reporting 3.22 vaccines per 100 people while the UK is recording 15.5, according to figures from Our World in Data.
Such is the dire need for vaccines, Hungary has now broken ranks to approve the Chinese drug Sinophram.
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Last month Hungary also granted six-month authorisation to Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine in a further move to diverge from the EU.
Although the powerhouse of the EU, Germany even moved to agree a bilateral deal with Pfizer-BioNTech for 30 million extra doses.
Germany has also moved to buy up any unused vaccines from other member states.
Serbia had hoped to receive the vaccine from the EU but has now also turned to China’s vaccine.
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Due to the state pushing forward with the Chinese vaccine, it has now achieved the highest per capita inoculation rate on the continent.
The EU has provided €70million (£61million) to the six Balkan states to purchase vaccines but due to the issues over procurement none have received doses of the vaccines approved by Brussels.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said last week: “The world has hit an iceberg, like the Titanic, and the rich and the richest only save themselves and their loved ones.
“We’re drowning together with the Titanic.
“It may not be their intention, but it is not particularly important to them.”
Although the bitter row with AstraZeneca has now been resolved, Ms von der Leyen has admitted she underestimated the vaccine rollout.
Despite the European Medicines Agency approving four vaccines, Ms von der Leyen claimed there will still be hurdles ahead for the bloc.
She said: “A start of vaccination does not mean a seamless flow of vaccine doses coming from the industry.
“This is a bitter learning part, and this we certainly have underestimated.”
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