“It is the home stretch because we know that to overcome this pandemic, there is only one solution: to be vaccinated. The vaccines are coming, they will be there”, hammered on Sunday the European Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton.
It is also necessary that they be in sufficient number and accepted by all.
However, the AstraZeneca vaccine, on which Europe relies to achieve its vaccination goals, is perceived as more dangerous than safe in Germany, France, Spain and Italy, according to an opinion study carried out between March 12 and 18.
Its use had been suspended in several countries for fear that it could cause blood clots, sometimes fatal. On Thursday, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) deemed it “safe and effective” and use of the vaccine resumed in several countries, but the impact on public opinion has been felt, stresses the YouGov institute.
“Not only have we seen a dramatic increase in the number of people who consider it unsafe over the past two weeks in Europe, but the AstraZeneca vaccine continues to be viewed as significantly less safe than those from Pfizer and Moderna,” commented Matt. Smith, data journalist at YouGov, in a statement.
However, the European Union (EU) continues to have an urgent need for it, if it intends, as desired, to accelerate the vaccination campaigns, in order to achieve collective immunity by the summer, as indicated by Mr. Breton. On Sunday, the tone rose between the EU and the United Kingdom where the AstraZeneca vaccine of British origin is partly manufactured.
British Defense Minister Ben Wallace warned on Sunday that it would be “counterproductive” to block AstraZeneca’s exports as the European Commission threatened the day before if the EU did not receive its deliveries first.
A source in the entourage of the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen reacted on Sunday evening: “The Commission has its own contract with AstraZeneca. We are simply trying to enforce it. The laboratory has delivered less than 10% of the doses foreseen for the year by the contract. It is therefore normal that we ask that these doses be delivered as planned to the Europeans, “she said.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is produced on European territory, in particular in two factories in Belgium and the Netherlands, two countries which have called for caution on a hardening of exports while other European countries, such as France, support it.
But time is running out, especially in Germany. The Berlin government is preparing on Monday to extend or even tighten the restrictions in the face of an ever more virulent third wave, at the risk of fueling the already growing discontent of public opinion.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and the German regions meet in the afternoon for a new meeting on the anti-pandemic strategy.
But while it was to be devoted a few weeks ago to releasing the pressure, the agenda has completely changed in the face of the spread of the British variant of the virus, considered to be more infectious and dangerous. The partial confinement already in place in Germany since the end of 2020, and scheduled until March 28, could be extended at least until April 18, according to a government plan.
A cold shower for German opinion, worn as elsewhere by a year of pandemic.
the health restrictions fuel the anger of some who assimilate them to a form of “dictatorship”. By the thousands, they made it known on Saturday during demonstrations in Austria, Bulgaria, Great Britain, Switzerland or Germany.
“Stop the Corona terror” or “The Covid is a hoax”, could one read on certain signs brandished by the demonstrators, from Montreal to Belgrade.
In Cassel, a city in central Germany, clashes occurred on Saturday and the police used pepper spray, batons and water cannons.
In London, at least 36 people were arrested on Saturday and several police officers injured during a similar protest.
Lassitude also pushes part of the population to neglect barrier and social distancing gestures. Some 6,500 people without masks gathered to celebrate carnival in Marseille, in the South of France. This unauthorized gathering was described as “irresponsible” by the police who intervened to disperse the revelers.
Elsewhere in the world, vaccinations are also stepping up in the hope of stemming the epidemic which has already claimed more than 2.7 million lives worldwide.
In Brazil, where the epidemic is out of control, the government on Sunday lifted the obligation for local authorities to reserve stocks of vaccines for the 2nd injection, in order to speed up vaccination.
In the United States, three million doses of vaccines per day were administered for the first time on two consecutive days, further illustration of a vaccination campaign that continues to gain momentum, according to official figures released on Sunday.
And in Geneva, the World Health Organization (WHO) is preparing to publish, probably this week, the eagerly awaited report of its experts dispatched in January to China to study the origins of the pandemic.