Behind the scenes

EU under fire amid warnings of ‘no major breakthroughs’ on jabs

European leaders holding emergency meeting as calls for urgent action grow

The European Council is meeting for a virtual summit today as governments across the continent face growing anger over the EU’s slow Covid vaccine rollout.

European leaders are “looking to the European Commission for answers” amid demands for a show of “concrete progress in managing the pandemic”, says Politico. But senior officials and diplomats say Brussels has “no major breakthroughs to report”, according to the news site.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is expected to tell the 27 heads of state or government that a new task force has identified potential manufacturing sites that could be used to ramp up production of the jabs - but that increases in supplies of doses are not expected for months.

The EU has administered around 28 million doses to the bloc’s total population of 444 million, according to latest tracking data. Meanwhile, around 18.5 million jabs have been administered among the UK’s 67 million people.

The speed of the UK rollout has been “hailed” by German newspaper Bild, says Sky News. With just 5.37 million vaccine doses administered so far in Germany, the tabloid’s front-page headline yesterday proclaiming: “Dear British, we envy you.”

“While the British are already planning their summer vacation, Germany is stuck in lockdown,” the paper said.

The rollout in Germany has been hampered by public suspicion of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, with many people refusing to have the jab. The Times reports that the findings of a recent poll “suggested half the population would rather wait than receive what an eminent virologist called a second-class vaccine”.

The country has used just 15% of a total stock of 1.4 million doses of the Oxford jab, and “the backlog in Berlin is so large that the city government is contemplating administering surplus shots to homeless people”, the paper adds.

Conflicting claims about the efficacy of the Oxford jab have also caused major problems in France. Sources are claiming that Emmanuel Macron has been challenged by European leaders over his inaccurate assertion in late January that the vaccine was “quasi-ineffectual”, The Telegraph reports.

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