The UK has made good progress with its vaccine rollout, as the country surpassed 20 million people jabbed this week. But this has contrasted greatly to the state of affairs in Europe, where leaders have come under fire for a comparatively slow rollout of the vaccine. The bloc encountered supply problems after signing a deal for 300 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in December. The rollout in some countries was delayed because of a temporary reduction in deliveries, to enable Pfizer to increase capacity at its processing plant in Belgium.
As for the Moderna vaccine, Italy and France have both said that they received fewer jabs than they had anticipated.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has also proven problematic for Brussels after the pharmaceutical company said that EU contracts were signed later than with the UK left less time to resolve problems in the EU supply chain.
This has led to criticism of French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and EU chief Ursula von der Leyen.
Bavarian Premier Markus Soeder, head of the Christian Social Union, sister party of Merkel’s Christian Democrats, blamed Brussels.
He said in January: “The situation is more than unsatisfactory. Operational responsibility lay in Europe.
“The fundamental importance of this situation has been completely underestimated.”
German newspaper Bild also hit out at the EU.
Columnist Peter Tiede claimed the contract signed with AstraZeneca was “a declaration of bankruptcy for Brussels, an indictment of the 27 member states. An insult to Europe and all of us”.
French newspaper Le Figaro ran with the headline: “Vaccination: Brexit 1, Brussels 0”.
The story underneath warned of “geopolitical” consequences.
It added: “Unfortunately, the doses are arriving in drops in Europe since other countries of the world have better locked in their supply.
“Our only way out of the health crisis is thus several months away.”
In January, Mr Macron received criticism for claiming that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was “quasi-ineffective” for over-65s, hours before it was approved by regulators for use on all adults in the EU.
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This week, France approved the jab, but the President’s previous comments could prove detrimental to the rollout.
Only 273,000 AstraZeneca doses have been administered in France out of 1.7 million received as of the end of February, according to Paris health ministry figures.
In an interview with the Financial Times this, Ms von der Leyen defended the EU’s strategy but conceded that the bloc underestimated the challenge of vaccinating Europe’s population.
She added: “We will have quite a lot more doses that will have to be administered.
“The problem will, slowly but surely, change from too little supply of vaccine doses into ensuring we administer the doses we have properly and speedily.
“For the member states there are several logistical challenges to master.”
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Historian David Marsh told Express.co.uk last year that the pandemic could lead to increased euroscepticism.
He said: “It will make it more difficult to rein in euroscepticism, which is why the Germans don’t really want to go down that route.
“The Germans are in quite a difficult position at the moment because on the one hand the monetary union has been hugely beneficial to Germany, on the other hand it isn’t popular to give away money to states who some feel haven’t been working hard enough.
“That’s why the Merkel governments have always been happy that the European Central Bank does all of the heavy lifting.
“If there was to be a transfer of assets or wealth through the front door from the north to the south, it would be politically very sensitive.
“This is why the German government on the whole has preferred to operate in rather stealthy fashion.
“The AfD (Alternative for Germany party) would no doubt profit on an upsurge in euroscepticism were that to happen, so it’s a really difficult political and economic balancing act.”