Five European Union country leaders on Saturday called for high-level EU talks on the equitable distribution of coronavirus vaccine doses, saying that the current system would create “huge disparities” among member states by the summer.
The leaders of Austria, Bulgaria, Latvia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic said in a letter to EU officials that the current system “would continue creating and exacerbating huge disparities among member states by this summer, whereby some would be able to reach herd immunity in a few weeks while others would lag far behind.”
The letter, addressed to EU Council President Charles Michel and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, called on EU officials “to hold a discussion on this important matter among leaders as soon as possible.”
The five heads of government criticized the current practice for contradicting the EU’s pro-rata distribution agreement.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Friday that vaccination doses were not being divided proportionally among EU member states, and that additional supply contracts were being agreed as the result of non-transparent negotiations in an EU steering group.
According to Kurz, the Netherlands and Denmark have access to significantly more vaccine doses per capita than countries like Bulgaria or Croatia.
Later on Saturday, the Netherlands rejected Austria’s allegations that it had procured additional vaccination doses outside the scope of EU agreements.
The country receives vaccines through the designated EU mechanism, but makes use of leeway granted by the bloc, a Health Ministry told dpa.
If a country waives its right to its full allocation, other countries can gain access to it, as the Netherlands had done, the spokesman pointed out.
Around 1.4 million residents of the Netherlands have received at least one vaccine dose so far. More than 400,000 have already received both jabs, which corresponds to about 2.5 per cent of the population.