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After the vaccine euphoria it could be back to square one with Covid ‘escape’ variants


The BMA accuses the Government of “undermining public and the profession’s trust in the vaccination programme” by denying people the second dose that they had expected. One might retort that the BMA itself is undermining confidence with rule-book procedural arguments that are almost fatuous in the current emergency.

We now have the makings of an ugly situation in Europe. The Commission muscled into health policy – beyond its treaty mandate or technical competence – and made a royal hash of the EU’s vaccine strategy. It haggled over prices. It dug in its heels over legal liability, unlike the British and US governments that took the political decision to waive normal requirements. It put up trivial sums in advance to pull forward vaccine production.

The mixture of bureaucracy and the unanimity rule among 27 states led to paralysis. The centralist model has once again been shown to be unworkable in a fast-moving crisis, but this time people will die as a result.

Needless to say, there has never been a word of apology from any EU official, nor the hint of admission that something has gone wrong. There never is. The Commission is always right. It handled the eurozone debt crisis eight years ago magnificently by its own account.

Brussels has instead switched to a scapegoat strategy: blame the vaccine companies, with a chorus of support from some of the Opera Buffa figures in EU politics, led by Italy’s soprano Giuseppe Conte.

Belgium’s premier Alexander de Croo gamely tried to head off this scientifically illiterate witch hunt by reminding EU colleagues that making vaccines is not as easy as “making bread”. To little avail. The saviours have become villains overnight. The brilliant achievement of cracking a coronavirus vaccine in less than a year is almost forgotten.

We do not yet know exactly why AstraZeneca is unable to meet its intended doses for Europe. The facts will come out soon enough. What we do know is that the EU is preparing to activate political force majeure allowing it – in extremis – to restrict exports of the Pfizer vaccine and potentially to restrict supply-chain components of the AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured in the UK itself.

Might we wake up to find that the UK is subject to a de facto blockade of critical medical components in the middle of a pandemic? It is not out of the question. Politics have come a long way since Wuhan.

Read more: The vaccine blame game at the centre of Europe


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