Europe’s vaccine supply crisis has seen a number of European Union member states look to strike out and seek alternative supplies of doses. Hungary and others have brokered deals to import vaccines from outside the Eurozone such as with Russia’s Sputnik V. Amid concerns that EU solidarity is breaking down, France’s Europe Minister Clement Beaune has spoken out and insisted that continued cooperation within the EU on vaccination “benefits everyone.”
Mr Beaune told RTL that member states must not leave the European framework.
He said: “I am thinking in particular of the countries you have mentioned because I would first remind them that benefit greatly from this European solidarity.
“I am saying this factually, they are often countries with limited populations, small markets,
“If they negotiate the entire purchase of vaccines themselves, I think that will be an extremely difficult situation.
He continued: “European solidarity benefits everyone,
“Small market countries must not break this framework,
“Every man for himself is not possible.”
It comes as France confirmed it could block shipments of coronavirus vaccine abroad after Italy denied 250,000 doses of AstraZeneca jabs to Australia.
French Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Friday France could block shipments of COVID-19 vaccines to non-EU countries, similar to moves by Italy. Asked by BFM TV if France could follow Italy’s move on this, Mr Veran replied: “We could”.
Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters in Melbourne: “Australia has raised the issue with the European Commission through multiple channels, and in particular we have asked the European Commission to review this decision.”
Mr Hunt said Australia had already received 300,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which would last until local production of the vaccine ramps up.
Australia began its inoculation programme two weeks ago, vaccinating frontline health staff and senior citizens with Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine though doses of that vaccine are limited amid tight global supplies.
EU countries started inoculations at the end of December, but are moving at a far slower pace than many other nations, with officials blaming the slow progress in part on supply problems with key manufacturers.