A major new impact study by insurance group Allianz and credit insurer Euler Hermes showed the EU risked a £79billion hit to its economy this year
A major new impact study by insurance group Allianz and credit insurer Euler Hermes showed the EU risked a £79billion hit to its economy this year unless it catches up with the pace of roll-outs in other parts of the world. EU leaders have come under fire over the the slow start to vaccinations with critics pointing to progress made in Britain, Israel and the US as evidence of a planning failure by Brussels.
Member states have so far given first doses to about 3 percent of their populations, compared with the 14 percent in the UK and 9 percent in the USA.
The report said the EU would need a six-fold increase in the rate of vaccinations to reach its goal of 70 percent immunity in adults by the summer.
According to the study, EU countries are currently five weeks behind their schedule.
And it warned the delays were leading to further restrictions on public life, which in turn affects service providers, industry and ultiumately the economy.
At the current pace, herd immunity would not be achieved before 2022 and the longer it takes to vaccinate Europe’s population, the longer the economy will be hampered by restrictions and lockdowns.
The study said: “One euro that is spent on speeding up vaccinations though infrastructure, increased vaccine production could avert four times as many euros in losses.”
EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said the EU had lagged rivals by three to four weeks because it had a more rigorous approvals process.
She insisted supply problems should ease in the second quarter of 2021 but admitted increasing production would be a challenge.
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The EU vaccine crisis, which came to a head last Friday night when Brussels tried to impose restrictions on exports, came after Anglo-Swedish drug giant AstraZeneca said it was cutting its supply of vaccines to the bloc by 60 percent due to production problems.
Questions still surround the Commission’s swiftly-reversed decision to invoke Article 16 of the Brexit agreement’s Northern Ireland protocol.
The move, part of the EU’s effort to boost vaccine supply for its member states, would have meant the introduction of border checks in Ireland.
Ms Von der Leyen said she accepted responsibility for Commission acts and decisions but sought to defuse criticism over the slow start to the vaccine programme and outrage over the border checks issue.
She said she regretted that Article 16 was in a “provisional version” of the decision but said the EU executive had been “quick on its feet” to find another solution.
Dacian Ciolos, president of the liberal Renew Europe group in the European Parliament, warned mistakes could have grave consequences.
He said: “We have no margin for error in this process. Not only does the credibility of the EU and in particular the European Commission depend on it but also the health and wellbeing of our citizens.”
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Dutch MEP Sophie in’t Veld said Ms von der Leyen was relying on too narrow a circle of advisers.
She said: “She’s made a couple of big fat mistakes.
“Article 16 was one. Her tendency to speak only to German media is another.”
(Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg)