The resounding failure of the European Union in managing the distribution of coronavirus vaccines to citizens - a population of 446 million, the world's third-largest behind China and India - is now so outrageous and shameful that heads of state and government should emerge from the current paralysis and jointly demand accountability in Brussels before a point of no return is reached at which each country goes it alone in the search for solutions. Chancellor Angela Merkel has given a first warning in this regard, but it is clear that she is not the only one who is opening this complex issue and expresing irritation.
As this is happening in feeble old Europe, US president Joe Biden has just announced that he is doubling his bet that in his first hundred days in the White House the country would administer 100 million vaccine shots - it has done so in 58 days - and that its new challenge is 200 million doses in a country of just over 330 million people. The UK, which is no longer under the EU’s leaky umbrella, has already vaccinated more than 28.5 million citizens, at least with a first dose, the equivalent of more than half its adult population. In Spain, this percentage is drastically reduced, as only 9% of the population have received at least one dose; the figure reported by Catalonia, 8.9%, is not very different.
While this is happening, the Catalan health minister, Alba Vergés, announced this Thursday via Twitter that the Spanish government had notified her that the 148,000 vaccines from AstraZeneca that were to arrive in Catalonia at the beginning of next week would now take until at least April 5th, Easter Monday. Vergés says, rightly, that this nonsense has to stop, while the Spanish health ministry, according to Catalonia's health secretary Marc Ramentol, has not given any explanation to the CatSalut authorities. Nor is there any clear strong statement by prime minister Pedro Sánchez about what is happening, of the type he frequently makes for domestic political consumption and shuns in an international context. Perhaps because, aware of his relative lack of importance in the EU, he leaves it to Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, who continue to raise their voices on the poor handling of the matter by the European Commission, which, even if it is hard to say so, means a significant number of lives lost every day.
We must demand governments that fight for vaccines and not just from a health point of view which is obviously the priority. In the competition between countries, they must be able to defend the interests they represent, as, on the other hand, everyone must. But also, the essential economic recovery will not be possible without vaccination rates much higher than we have today, and the summer season is beginning to be jeopardised, a source of income that a country like Spain cannot do without. All efforts will be in vain without massive vaccination to prevent a new acceleration of contagion which we are already seeing in France or Germany, despite having taken much tougher measures than ours to prevent the spread of the fourth wave. And that, unfortunately, is forgotten too often.