Support for EU takes a battering amid vaccine-rollout car crash

Jimmy Nsubuga
·3 min read
COLOGNE, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 08: Senior citizens queue up for a vaccination against COVID-19 at a vaccine center built in a hall of the Koeln Messe trade fair grounds during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic on February 08, 2021 in Cologne, Germany. The 53 vaccine centers across North Rhine-Westphalia are opening their doors today to administer vaccines, mostly against people over 80 years old. Germany has experienced a hampered vaccine rollout due to production setbacks for all three of the vaccine so far approved in the European Union. (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)
A vaccination centre in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany (Getty)

The fallout among the public from the EU's botched COVID vaccine rollout has been laid bare by new polling.

Figures show people in European countries think Brussels has mishandled the issue, and overall approval for the EU's pandemic response has tumbled.

The bloc's institutions have seen a fall in their performance ratings across Sweden (down 7 points), France (down 8 points) and Germany (down 24 points).

In total, 51% of Germans thought the EU had done a bad job with vaccines, while the figure was 35% for France and 24% for Sweden, data from Kekst CNC showed.

EU institutions had previously maintained reasonable public approval rates since the beginning of the pandemic.

COLOGNE, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 08:  A senior citizen queues up to register and following up with a vaccination against COVID-19 at a vaccine center built in a hall of the Koeln Messe trade fair grounds during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic on February 08, 2021 in Cologne, Germany. The 53 vaccine centers across North Rhine-Westphalia are opening their doors today to administer vaccines, mostly against people over 80 years old. Germany has experienced a hampered vaccine rollout due to production setbacks for all three of the vaccine so far approved in the European Union. (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)
There has been vaccination hesitancy in Germany. (Getty)

The report says: “Amongst criticism of the vaccine rollout, Europeans are pointing the finger of blame at the EU – especially in Germany, where more than half of people say the European Union has handled the vaccine rollout badly.

“Approval of the EU's performance in the pandemic has also fallen, and in Germany more people now disapprove of the EU than approve of its pandemic response for the first time.”

The European Commission and EU countries have come under fire for missteps in their joint inoculation programme and a rollout of shots that has lagged badly behind Israel, Britain and the United States.

The bloc was criticised for being slower to negotiate contracts with vaccine manufacturers, and the EU's executive and drug regulator have come under increasing pressure for what some consider slow vaccine approvals.

The UK avoided some of the vaccine supply problems the 27-nation EU had faced — as when AstraZeneca said it hit a production issue – because it struck deals earlier, and has also shown speed and agility in other areas.

Its regulatory agency has authorised vaccines more quickly than the EU's, and its government has experimented with stretching out the time between shots, allowing it to roll out first doses faster so more people can have some protection quickly.

The EU has been more cautious on both counts, but its commission said on Tuesday it was considering emergency approvals for COVID vaccines as a faster alternative to the more rigorous conditional marketing authorisations that have been used so far.

Watch: EU president admits mistakes were made

Vaccine hesitancy has also been a problem in EU nations, especially regarding the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab.

The EU medical regulator approved the vaccine for use in all age groups but some nations, including France, Germany and Italy, only allowed its use in under-65s, citing a lack of data.

French president Emmanuel Macron also described the Oxford vaccine as “quasi-ineffective” for older people.

Belgian public health chief Steven Van Gucht later said Macron was wrong but that “the damage has been done” in regards to people taking up the jab.

Read more:

UK COVID cases drop by third – map shows rate of new infections in your area

Have your say: Should the end of lockdown be brought forward?

The EU was also widely criticised for invoking Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol on 29 January to prevent vaccines from leaving the bloc.

The EU backtracked on the decision, but not before it caused massive political fallout in the UK.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has admitted “mistakes were made” over the rollout.

BARRY, WALES - MARCH 02: A health worker administers the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine to a man at a mass vaccination centre at Holm View Leisure Centre on March 2, 2021 in Barry, Wales. One million doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been administered across Wales and more than one in three of the Welsh adult population have received at least one dose. Wales aims to have offered vaccinations to every eligible adult by July 31. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)
The UK's vaccination rollout has been successful. (Getty)

In the UK, where more than 20 million people have had their first jab and every adult is expected to get at least one dose by June, 77% of people thought the government had done a good job on vaccines.

On Monday, England’s deputy chief medical officer Prof Van-Tam also set out key findings from Public Health England that showed both Oxford/AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech COVID jabs were effective in the real world.

The data showed they had 60% effectiveness in preventing illness 28 to 34 days after the jab and reduced the likelihood of hospitalisation by 80%. 

The Pfizer vaccine also reduced the possibility of death by 85%, but this data wasn’t available for the Oxford jab.

Watch: How England will leave lockdown