Despite Tight Supplies, the E.U. is Exporting Millions of Vaccine Doses

European Union flags flutter outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium

The E.U. has come under fire for what could be described as vaccine protectionism. Despite these claims, what appears to be happening is that the E.U is exporting millions of doses despite a supply crunch at home. According to the New York Times, internal E.U. documents show that the trading block has exported 34-million does of COVID-19 vaccine despite a supply crush for the own citizens. Issues with the vaccine rollout and the volumes that have been exported have the E.U. trailing far behind drives in the United States, Britain, and Israel.

What Has Been Happening

The E.U. has experienced criticism for vaccine protectionism, which intensified when Italy blocked a small shipment of COVID-19 doses to Australia. As countries worldwide battle for doses, the name-calling has increased as the demand for shots remains elevated. Despite the negative sentiment toward the E.U. export numbers, recorded in detail, reported by The New York Times, the European Union has been a vaccine exporting powerhouse.

Negative Sentiment Spreads

When this information was disseminated in the E.U., it did not go over well. The concept that E.U. officials were exporting doses of the vaccine abroad when there was a supply crunch was occurring in the E.U. was bound to outrage European citizens. Since they watched as Americans, Britons, Israelis, and others race past them into resuming a safer and more normal public life and economic activity. According to the New York Times, just 6.5% of people in the European Union have been inoculated, compared with nearly 58% percent of Israelis who have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. The figure is 33% percent for people in Britain and 18% for the United States.

J&J Could Eliviate the Bottlenecks

During the second week of March, Europe’s drug regulator recommended the approval of the one-dose coronavirus vaccine created by Johnson & Johnson. The vaccine goes to the E.U. Commission for likely approval. Some benefits can help the E.U. avoid future supply crunches and hopefully help the nation’s block accelerate the vaccines’ rollout. The J&J vaccine has the added benefit of only requiring a single dose. It can be stored in most standard refrigerators at temperatures of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius, making it easier and cheaper to transport and store.

The Distribution Remains Slow

Once supplies start to be delivered, the shot could enhance Europe’s struggling immunization program. Two-dose vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca, and the University of Oxford have also been approved, but it takes more vaccine doses to spread the wealth.

Johnson and Johnson is making its way to Europe. trading on the stock has been upbeat as the roll out picks up speed. While it’s easier to distribute, the vaccine has not been as effective as Pfizer and Moderna’s shots to prevent Covid infection. The data shows it offers robust protection offering 72% effectiveness at guarding against moderate to severe Covid compared with about 95% for the other two vaccines.

There have been reports that, like other vaccine suppliers to the E.U., supplies of the J&J vaccine to the bloc could be slower-than-expected. Johnson & Johnson has told the E.U. it is facing supply issues that may complicate plans to deliver 55 million doses of its vaccine to the bloc in the Q2 of the year. The European Commission said that it has not been informed about any delays from J&J. A further delay in vaccine supplies would exacerbate the E.U.’s already slow rollout.

Merck Will Help Ease the Distribution Issues

Last week, U.S. President Joe Biden announced that Merck would help create and produce J&J’s Covid vaccine. Under the arrangement, Merck will dedicate two facilities in the U.S. to J&J’s vaccine. One of the facilities will help make the J&J vaccine, and the other will create the doses with filling services when the vaccine is placed in vials. Joe Biden used a wartime act to help facilitate the partnership between Merck and J&J. Recall, Merck tried to produce its COVID-19 vaccine but were unsuccessful in trials that they issued.

The Bottom Line

The upshot is that the European Union is struggling to roll out a vaccine to its citizens. While they have exported millions of vaccines out of the country, they have been accused of vaccine protectionists. The E.C.’s philanthropy falls under the “no good deed goes unpunished” category. People who live in the E.C. are angry that officials have been exporting vaccines while the E.C. struggles behind the U.S., the U.K. and Israel, in providing the vaccine to its citizens. J&J is expected to begin rolling out a vaccine to the E.C. There have been problems with the J&J distribution and with Merck now coming into the frey, there should be more vaccine delivered into the E.C as well as the United States. 

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