Chief Eurocrat Complains Countries Treating Vaccine Development Like a ‘Space Race’

European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen addresses European lawmakers during a plenary session on the inauguration of the new President of the United States and the current political situation, at the European Parliament in Brussels on January 20, 2021. (Photo by Francisco Seco / POOL / AFP) (Photo by …
FRANCISCO SECO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Ursula von der Leyen has claimed that vaccine development is being treated like a Soviet-era “space race” fueled by confrontational mindsets.

The president of the EU’s powerful executive arm, the European Commission, told students during a webinar organised by Warwick University on Sunday: “Some countries view the search for a vaccine as a race among world powers, like the race for space in the 1960s.”

“This is not a competition between Europeans, Russians, Chinese and Americans — this is too serious,” Mrs von der Leyen said, according to The Times.

The Commission president has come under fire in recent weeks for overseeing the bloc’s vaccine programme failure. The EU27 has inoculated less than four per cent of its populations on average compared to the UK which has given the first dose to 18.4 per cent of Britons. The UK is fourth in the world behind Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and the Seychelles — all of which have far smaller populations than Britain.

Von der Leyen had admitted last week that Brexit Britain was like a “speedboat” compared to the EU. The Commission insisted it oversaw the management of pharmaceuticals contracts on behalf of its hundreds of millions of residents, with Brussels’ bloated bureaucracy later being later blamed for delays in production. However, the former German minister defended the EU’s approach, going so far as implying Britain had risked compromising safety in its rapid rollout.

During the webinar, Commission President von der Leyen also appeared to suggest that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was demonstrating that Cold War “confrontational mindset” — despite it being the EU having made direct threats to confiscate British-contracted drugs made in Europe, raided one factory in Belgium on a false suspicion it had sent EU vaccines to Britain, and demanded that doses made in the UK under British government contract be sent to the EU to make up for Brussels’ shortfall.

In fact, rather than hoarding all of the vaccines it commissions and produces — like how the EU had sought to bar exports of drugs made in the bloc — the UK has already said that it will help other countries to vaccinate its citizens.

Free from the EU’s European Medicines Agency, Brexit Britain was able to take risks on vaccine development early on; the bet appears to have paid off, with the UK being the first country in the Western World to authorise a vaccine for public use. The UK is so confident in its vaccine supply that it is already making orders for 2022 stockpiles, and is investing in a German company developing vaccines for different strains of the Chinese coronavirus.

Mr Johnson’s leadership was hailed by German media, with one newspaper calling “Brexit Boris” a “vaccine master”. Newspapers from Germany also criticised the EU and its president. Bild called the bloc’s vaccine fiasco the “best advertisement for Brexit”, with its political editor later condemning the drama as “the biggest confidence-destroying programme in its history”.

Politicians have also weighed in on the scenario, with one Brussels diplomat calling for von der Leyen to resign after she imposed, then revoked, an internal border on the island of Ireland in a bid to stop vaccines travelling from the EU to the UK.

Germany’s Vice-Chancellor Olaf Scholz, described as a generally mild-mannered man, reportedly called the EU vaccine programme “really shit”, adding he did not want “the shit to be repeated now” in Germany.

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