Europe won't engage in vaccine 'propaganda': EU chief

Brussels (AFP) –


EU chief Charles Michel defended Europe's much-criticised Covid-19 inoculation strategy on Tuesday by stressing Brussels will share jabs with the world and "will not use vaccines for propaganda purposes".

"We should not let ourselves be misled by China and Russia, both regimes with less desirable values than ours, as they organise highly limited but widely publicised operations to supply vaccines to others," the European Council president said.

The blunt comments came as the EU's 27 member states struggle to achieve lift-off with a plan to immunise 70 percent of adults by mid-September.

The start of it, over the first three months of this year, has been marked by severe criticism of Brussels for spearheading a collective purchase of vaccine doses that have largely failed to be delivered.

The strategy was backed by the member states and implemented by the European Commission.

Much of the initial delivery shortfall was down to Anglo-Swedish company AstraZeneca failing to meet its supply schedule to the European Union.

Some member states, among them Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, are increasingly looking to vaccines not authorised by the EU's medicine regulator, the EMA, to fill the gap, in particular Russia's Sputnik V jab and ones from China.

The EMA is reviewing how effective and safe Sputnik V is, and an Italian-Swiss pharmaceutical company, Adienne, has agreed to produce it in Italy.

But the EU executive has indicated it is unwilling to add it to its vaccines portfolio, which is projected to deliver 2.6 billion doses over this year and next.

EU officials believe Russia and China are trying to score political points and expand influence by rushing to deliver their vaccines before they were rigorously vetted by regulators.

Michel said the EU, in contrast, was "actively promoting its values" by investing early in Covid-19 vaccine development and being the prime driver of the Covax facility to deliver doses to poorer countries.

"Without Europe, it would not have been possible to develop and produce several types of vaccines in less than one year," he said.

Michel also said that, while the European Union has a mechanism to monitor -- and if necessary block -- the export of doses out of the bloc, he was "shocked when I hear the accusations of 'vaccine nationalism' against the EU".

"The EU has never stopped exporting," he said, whereas "the United Kingdom and the United States have imposed an outright ban on the export of vaccines or vaccine components produced on their territory".