Monday, October 25

Chaotic vaccine management puts Von der Leyen in the spotlight

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, It has been in the spotlight for weeks due to delays in the arrival of vaccines against the coronavirus negotiated by his team on behalf of the Twenty-seven that have forced in some places to put the brake on the vaccination campaign. A pressure that reached its most difficult moment last week when a The leak revealed that the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca would not fulfill the contract either since it would only deliver this first quarter of the year a quarter of the promised antidotes (more than 100 million).

Fearing a vaccine leak to third countries such as the United Kingdom, Brussels’ reaction was to put in place a mechanism to control the export of antidotes made by the drug companies with whom the Twenty-Seven have signed advance purchase agreements. An instrument that ultimately could allow member states to prevent the export of vaccines if they consider that the company was not complying with its contractual obligations.

The shot, however, backfired due to a major political mistake made by his closest team. And, the mechanism was launched with collateral damage that directly affected another dossier just as explosive as the vaccination strategy such as Brexit. In its first version, the transparency mechanism included the suspension of the application of the protocol between Ireland and Northern Ireland, created to prevent the return of a hard border to the island and protect the Good Friday peace accords.

Article 16 of the same allows it in case of “serious economic, social or environmental difficulties” and this is what Von der Leyen’s team decided to do out of fear that European vaccines could sneak into the Kingdom via Northern Ireland. The problem is that the decision was made extremely quickly, without consulting either London or DublinNor, apparently, to the European negotiator, Michel Barnier, or the Irish commissioner Mairead McGuinnes, who this past Sunday recognized that “this was a mistake.”

Withdrawal of the text

Von der Leyen was almost immediately forced to withdraw the text, try to put out the fire unleashed in London, Belfast and Dublin and review the content of the regulation until already guaranteeing on Saturday that the new instrument, which will be in force until March 31, will not affect the Irish protocol. Since then, the German has not hung up the phone to try to redeem herself although criticism of her management has not stopped surfacing in the community capital. To the point that the liberal group in the European Parliament has asked for his public appearance to give explanations around the fiasco last week.

The mess occurs after one of the most complicated weeks experienced by the European Commission in the management of the coronavirus pandemic due to the drastic reduction in the number of vaccines committed by some pharmaceutical companies in their contracts with the EU, particularly the Anglo-Swedish AstraZeneca. This past Sunday, after a teleconference with the CEOs of the pharmaceutical companies with which they have signed contracts, Von der Leyen announced the company’s commitment to deliver 9 million more doses. This means that will distribute during the first quarter of 2021 a total of 40 million doses compared to the 31 million announced two weeks ago, still 50% less than the 80 million promised in December, and also below the more than 100 million doses foreseen in the initial contract signed on August 27.

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