The Vaccine war between the EU and the UK is ongoing. I don’t know who will be the winner, but the EU citizens are certainly the losers.
When both Angela Merkel, the long-serving German Chancellor, known to her supporters as “Mutti,” and Emmanuel Macron, the hard-pressed French President, both repeat the same untruth about AstraZeneca, contradicting their scientists, you know something is going on.

The difference between Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron could not be starker. Merkel is the long-serving and much respected German Chancellor who has led the Christian Democratic Party since 2003 and Germany uninterrupted since 2005. Merkel announced her decision to stand down this year and not seek a fifth term as Chancellor, which she would almost certainly win.

Macron was only elected President in 2017, leading a political Party called En Marche, he and his supporters formed only a year before he took up residence in the Elysee Palace. En Marche was a vehicle for the center-left in France to distance themselves from the previous incumbent, the unloved and accident-prone Francois Hollande, who was so unpopular as President that he did not even stand for re-election as his humiliating defeat in the first round was so certain. Macron is himself facing re-election next year, and his tenure has been at least as bumpy as Hollande’s, if not so personally politically damaging.

Macron and Merkel are the respective leaders of the Franco-German alliance, leading the European Union unchallenged since the UK left the EU last year. What they also have in common is that they are in deep political trouble for the mismanagement of the procurement and roll-out of the Covid 19 vaccines in their respective countries. 

It is no good trying to dodge the political bullet by saying that the procurement and distribution of vaccines were organized by the European Union when everyone knows that Germany and France effectively control the European Union. 

The great untruth is what both leaders have repeated about the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine and its efficacy for those over 65 years of age. They also spoke critically about the UK policy of rolling out the first dose of the vaccine to as many citizens as possible, with a three-month delay before administering the second dose. These policies are now supported by the WHO as enhancing the protection provided by the vaccine. 

As I wrote in my previous column about vaccine nationalism for the Pavlovic today, the European Union has mismanaged the vaccines for its members. The mismanagement is seen starkly compared to the performance of the newly independent UK, much to the chagrin of both Merkel and Macron.

The EU never intended to procure, license or use the Oxford (UK) developed vaccine. They preferred to rely on vaccines developed in France, which all failed, and as they say, the rest is history, well it’s not quite yet as this ‘debacle,’ a good French word may lead to a degree of ‘schadenfreude,’ which is a good German word. 

The EU itself is under unprecedented existential threat due to huge public dissatisfaction as the vaccine situation has exposed the EU’s supertanker compared to the UK speedboat, an analogy made by Ursula von der Leyen the EU President herself.

The facts are clear, but I will reiterate them. Due to the spectacular failure of the French vaccines, the EU is very short of vaccines and its program is falling well short of the vaccinations in the UK. 

The EU now needs the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine. The EU supply is being delayed by production problems caused by the late order placed by the EU at the plant it set up in Belgium to meet the sudden EU demand due to the failure in trials of its own vaccines. In desperation, EU inspectors raided the AstraZeneca plant in Belgium and after allegations that vaccine manufactured in the EU was being exported to the UK. The EU took the unprecedented step of activating Article16 of the Northern Ireland protocol to close the Northern Ireland border and prevent any leakage of vaccines to the UK via this route. 

Although quickly reversed due to political pressure, this decision was taken without consulting either the Republic of Ireland an EU member o rthe UK Government. The sour grapes of the EU at the UK’s successes in developing an effective vaccine quickly is there for all to see. 

The French and German leaders have sought to dampen demand for the Oxford vaccine within their populations by refusing to authorize it for use on the over 65’s despite the scientific evidence and advice.

Merkel is herself a scientist with a degree in Chemistry and therefore has no excuses. This politicking has resulted in the European Union, which is desperate for vaccines, wasting doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine. The first jab of Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine has been shown to provide up to 92% protection from serious infection from Covid 19, this evidence has come from the delivery of vaccine in Scotland to the over 65 age group, exactly the age group which Merkel and Macron claim is not protected by the vaccine. Mainly due to the comments of Merkel and Macron, these vaccines are now going to waste in the EU, because the population is refusing them. 

This adds to the higher vaccine hesitancy already seen on the European continent compared to the UK and many other countries.

This does not bode well for the EU, especially when its two leading figures, Markel and Macron are willing to repeat disinformation to play politics. The stakes are indeed high at the moment, but the clear losers from all of this will be the European Union citizens. 

The situation is so bad that many will be wishing they could persuade “Mutti” Merkel to defer her retirement and replace the beleaguered Von Der Leyen as the President. That’s not as unbelievable as it might seem, as you don’t have to win an election to be the President of the EU, which might explain why they are in the situation they now are.

Andrew Bridgen

Andrew Bridgen is a Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire.

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