For vaccines to be successful in overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic they must be widely available across the globe. The EU made a firm commitment by pledging over €2.2 billion to COVAX, as a means to ensuring equitable access worldwide with its COVID-19 vaccines. However, across the EU itself, there has been an issue with the lack of supply of vaccines which has resulted in significant delays in mass vaccination in member states. On the continent of Europe, only Malta and the United Kingdom have vaccinated over 50% of the citizens.
Critics of the EU argue that authorities were slow to secure contracts for vaccines with AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Political tensions have been running high in the EU and between the EU and the UK over the supply of vaccines. In addition, the EMA was slower to approve the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine and 13 EU members paused its rollout in March following the reports that a small number of people developed blood clots after receiving the jab. They restarted it and a safety review but in April there were further concerns leading to many member states restricting its use among people under 60.
Meanwhile, Hungary and Slovakia have taken a step in another direction, confirming that they will be purchasing doses of Russia's Sputnik vaccine. In addition to this. Austria and Denmark have found yet another solution and partnered up with Israel on producing second-generation vaccines against mutations of coronavirus.
The transmission of COVID-19 across Europe remains high, with more than 1.29 million new cases reported during the last two weeks on May 19th. The coming weeks will see a redoubling of efforts to widen distribution in the hope that substantial numbers of the EU’s population will be vaccinated coming into summer.