Following Wednesday’s decision of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to approve Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine, Hungarian business daily Világgazdaság looks at how countries used the supply that has been available so far. The stark conclusion is that with the exception of Israel, most countries have done a poor job of getting vaccines to their citizens. The EU’s vaccine rollout is not going well Moderna’s will be the second vaccine authorized in the European Union. The company promises to produce 20 percent more than previously planned, at least 600 million doses this year, but with the help of investments and borrowing, capacity could be expanded to as much as 1 billion doses.
On Dec. 21, the EMA approved a vaccine developed by the US pharmaceutical company Pfizer and the German BioNTech, which has been used in the member states since last week, but vaccination is progressing very slowly. The German government and the European Commission are being increasingly criticized for delays in procuring and using vaccines. In the European Union, barely a few hundred thousand people have been vaccinated, but even the best-off Germany is far behind its target. Only 265,000 people were vaccinated by Monday while it has 1.3 million doses of the vaccine. In France, the situation is even worse. By the end of the week, barely a few hundred people had been vaccinated, and a few thousand on Monday. In Italy, only 178,000 people, the vast majority of them healthcare workers, have been vaccinated so far, even though they have 950,000 doses, and another 470,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arrived yesterday. In Poland, a scandal broke out after several public figures who would not be entitled to do so were vaccinated out of turn, including MEP Leszek Miller, a former head of government, as well as several actors. An investigation is underway.
The US only has a 1-percent vaccination rate The situation is similar in the United States, where more than two-thirds of the 15 million doses of vaccine distributed by the federal government have not yet been used. The governors of two federal states — New York and Florida -— have therefore taken a drastic step, with the prospect of fines and cuts in additional supplies for hospitals that are not vaccinated fast enough. In New York, Andrew Cuomo gave a week to use existing stocks, which is especially important because a much more contagious English variant of the coronavirus has also appeared in the state. Hospitals managed by the municipality used only 31 percent of the available vaccines, compared to 99 percent at private health care facilities. In the United States, the delay is partly explained by the lack of a unified federal health care system that could coordinate the campaign, and the federal government and Donald Trump are still busy with the November presidential election, leaving all further work to states after vaccinations are distributed. Israel pulls ahead, receives $500 million in aid from US coronavirus bill In contrast, there are countries where the vaccination campaign is successful. In Israel, where the Moderna vaccine was approved on Monday, 14 percent of the population has already been vaccinated, and in Bahrain, the rate is 3.5 percent, while in the US it is only 1 percent. Israel reportedly paid approximately double for the vaccine than the US and the EU. The US woes getting vaccines to its population follows the country providing $500 million in aid to Israel as a part of the massive coronavirus relief bill passed by the US Congress, which was only one foreign country that received aid in the bill from US taxpayers, with the others including Cambodia and Pakistan. Israel, however, was by far the wealthiest country to receive funding in the bill.
The payment in the coronavirus bill actually goes towards Israel’s missile defense program and is a part of the $38 billion in military funding former President Barack Obama promised in an agreement with the country in 2016. President Donald Trump had demanded that the foreign aid and other “pork” — a term referring to unrelated special projects politicians typically insert into spending bills — be stripped from the bill, and that US citizens be given $2,000 checks instead of the original $600 proposed in the bill. Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell appears to have killed the idea when he inserted bind a vote on the $2,000 checks with a bill to end Section 230 protections which shield social media companies from liability lawsuits, which is a proposal that Democrats refused to support. Title image: In this file photo dated Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020, a bottle of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine on a table before being utilized in Topeka, USA. The European Union’s medicines agency on Wednesday Jan. 6, 2021, gave the green light to Moderna Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine, a decision that gives the 27-nation bloc a second vaccine to use to fight the virus rampaging across the continent.(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, FILE)