Chaos as EU’s ‘bungling bureaucracy’ blamed for ‘delays’ to Covid vaccine roll out

Vaccine: First jabs rolled out in Germany, Slovakia and Hungary

Alexander Von Schoenburg, Bild’s editor-at-large, has said the UK’s European neighbours are “looking across the Channel with envy”. In a colourful comment piece for the Daily Mail, Mr Schoenburg suggests the EU “machine” is “sclerotic and sluggish”.

His remarks come as a bitter battle rages in Germany over the coronavirus vaccination programme involving contenders to succeed Angela Merkel in September.

Germany, the world’s fourth largest economy, has inoculated less people than the UK, US and Israel – despite vaccine producer BioNTech being based in Mainz.

Ms Merkel has argued Germany and the EU are taking the right approach in response to critics.

She told a press conference on Tuesday having high numbers of vaccinated people in Germany without the same in neighbouring countries would not be beneficial.

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Possible successors of Ms Merkel have become embroiled in a row.

Jens Spahn, CDU health minister and potential candidate in the 2021 election, has been criticised by finance Minister Olaf Scholz, candidate of the centre-left Social Democrats.

Markus Söder, leader of Christian Social Union, told Bild am Sonntag: “It is difficult to explain that a very good vaccine is developed in Germany but is vaccinated more quickly elsewhere.”

He added: “The European Commission has probably planned too bureaucratically: too few of the right ones have been ordered and price debates have gone on for too long.”

Mr Schoenburg, in his comment piece, wrote: “The pandemic is almost a year old and EU leaders could have and should have seen the need for a swift, effective vaccine policy a mile off.

“Now a growing fury is spreading as we watch independent countries — particularly Britain, Israel and America — ramping up their vaccine distribution with tremendous efficiency in comparison to our efforts, saving lives, protecting the vulnerable and moving towards ending this terrible crisis.”

He described the fact BioNTech is located in Germany as a “bitter irony”.

Ms Merkel is set to stand down from her position as chancellor after 16 years.

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During a press conference on Tuesday, she defended the joint EU vaccination programme and Mr Spahn.

Ms Merkel said she supported Mr Spahn “in every phase”, adding that the process was “quite right”.

An extended lockdown and tightened restrictions are in place until the end of January in Germany.

This includes the closure of schools and strict social distancing rules, such as individuals being allowed to meet only one other person outside of their home.

On Tuesday, the Kremlin released a statement which said Ms Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the possibility of their two nations co-operating on vaccine production.

The statement said: “It was agreed to continue contacts on this topic between ministries of health and other relevant structures of the two countries.”

In the UK, 1.3 million have now received the Pfizer/BioNTech jab or the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccination.

In Germany, around 317,000 people had been vaccinated as of Tuesday.

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