Matt Hancock gives update on EU vaccine row
Olaf Scholz, who is also Angela Merkel’s vice-chancellor, criticised the Commission’s President by name during a cabinet meeting on Monday, according to German media. He said Berlin could not “let this s**t repeat itself” and criticised the EU’s vaccine rollout as “a disgrace”.
A report by German newspaper Bild read: “Vice-Chancellor Scholz goes on Von der Leyen because of the vaccination debacle – ‘Really screwed up!”
Mr Scholz is the most senior cabinet member from Germany’s Social Democratic party (SPD), which is in a coalition with Angela Merkel’s leading Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
The SPD has previously opposed Ms Von der Leyen’s appointment as European Commission President in 2019.
They said she was an “inadequate and inappropriate candidate”.
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The EU has been heavily criticised over its slow coronavirus vaccine rollout compared to other countries outside of the bloc.
Brussels set up a scheme in June 2020 to negotiate the purchase of vaccines on behalf of its 27 member states.
Supply problems of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab have led to difficulties in vaccination populations in the EU.
The company which produces the Pfizer vaccine was also unable to supply 12.5 million doses to the EU it had promised by the end of 2020.
According to reports, EU countries have so far given first doses to only about three percent of their populations.
By contrast Britain has vaccinated more than 15 percent and the US has inoculated almost 10 percent with a first dose.
On Tuesday, the UK surpassed the huge 10 million vaccination milestone less than two months after its programme began.
However, Germany has only managed to vaccinate 3.2 percent of its population so far.
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Chancellor Merkel defended the EU this week, insisting the bloc’s slower process was the right way to go.
She said: “A virus that affects us all cannot be defeated by one country alone.”
With German federal elections expected to take place in September, Ms Merkel is facing growing pressure over the country’s vaccination pace.
Ms Merkel is said to have defended her party colleague Ms Von der Leyen at Monday’s meeting.
On Thursday, speaking to reporters the European Commission President admitted Brussels underestimated the challenges of a mass vaccination programme.
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.”
She added: “Yes, we should have warned that this goes not seamless and smooth and in a straight upward movement at the very beginning.”
Ms Von der Leyen said the Commission now expects to receive about 100 million doses in the first three months of this year.
She continued: “It shows the direction of the delivery is the right one. It’s going up but we have now learned that there will always be ups and downs.”
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