EU leaders hold virtual summit to address Covid vaccine delays

25 February 2021, 12:18

Pharmacies in France prepare to give AstraZeneca vaccines
Pharmacies in France prepare to give AstraZeneca vaccines. Picture: PA

By Megan White

EU leaders will hold a virtual summit this afternoon to address delays in the rollout of coronavirus vaccines, with just four percent of the bloc's residents having received at least one jab.

Its key focus will be how European nations can accelerate their rollout of the jab, especially in Germany, France and Italy, who are lagging behind nations including Denmark, Estonia and Lithuania.

Germany has vaccinated less than five per cent of its population, and despite having 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca jab, has delivered just 135,000 of them.

Denmark and Sweden hope to fully vaccinate their adult populations by the end of June, but Germany and France are working towards the EU target of vaccinating 70 per cent of adults by September.

Officials are expecting supplies of new vaccines to surge in the coming months, with around 300 million doses expected to be ready then.

But there are fears capacity could be the problem, with a shortage of facilities and staff to speed up the rollout.

French President Emmanuel Macron was challenged by fellow leaders over his inaccurate claims that the Oxford vaccine was “quasi-ineffectual, ” with the comments reportedly linked to a reluctance in some European countries to take that jab. 

But European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said on Tuesday that the EU was “catching up” with Britain on vaccinations.

Responding to criticism, she said: "We're catching up. Britain has administered 17 million first doses. There are 27 million in the EU.

"In Italy, with a population similar to that of Great Britain, twice as many citizens received full vaccination protection with the second dose as in the UK."