United Kingdom

DR GUNNAR BECK on France and Germany's denigration of the Oxford jab

Two contrasting public statements in the past few days tell you everything you need to know about the vaccination crisis engulfing the European Union.

In Britain, the Queen took a clear lead by declaring that anyone hesitant to take the jab should think of others and not themselves.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, meanwhile, told 83 million Germans that she would not be taking the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine – so adding to the fuel to the fire – and caused further concerns by raising the prospect of a compulsory EU vaccination passport in the spring.

I think you can guess which nation has so far vaccinated 20 million people and has set out a road map for normal life by June 21.

It is small wonder German newspaper Bild last week printed a Union Flag on its front page with the headline 'Dear British, We Envy You'

And which, on the other hand, has vaccinated just four million people amid huge public resistance to the AstraZeneca vaccine and an ominous warning of a third wave of infection.

Small wonder that the popular German newspaper Bild last week printed a Union Flag on its front page with the headline 'Dear British, We Envy You'.

Suspicion of the AstraZeneca jab is not restricted to Germany, of course. It is shared across the EU.

So deep is the distrust, that 80 per cent of the 6.1 million doses delivered to the bloc so far lie unused in hospital refrigerators.

In Berlin, the vaccination centre at the former Tegel Airport– which only offers the AstraZeneca jab – reports that only 200 people have been turning up for the 3,800 daily appointments.

80 per cent of the 6.1 million doses delivered to the bloc so far lie unused in hospital refrigerators

In France, Le Quotidien du Medecin, the GP's daily newspaper writes about a Paris surgery where half the patients with serious underlying health issues – those most at risk – have turned down the Oxford jab.

In an empty Belgian vaccination centre, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was said to have been dismissed as a 'low-budget Aldi' alternative.

This state of affairs has nothing to do with the actual merit of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab – or even the virtues of the vaccination programme itself as a treatment for coronavirus - and everything to do with the political posturing of the EU elite as it tries to cover up its failures by pointing the finger of blame elsewhere.

While Britain used its Brexit freedoms to obtain a range of different vaccines and organise a national roll-out, the EU went into its default mode of mutual back scratching, bickering and failure.

It is small wonder German newspaper Bild last week printed a Union Flag on its front page with the headline 'Dear British, We Envy You'

The roots of the problem go back to early last summer when it was slow to secure vaccine supplies, particularly in comparison with Britain.

By July 20 last year, the UK was able to announce it had signed a deal with AstraZeneca for 90 million doses of its vaccine. This was a calculated gamble, but one which the British government hedged by buying small numbers of additional doses from other suppliers.

It seems to have paid off – and in spades.

The EU approach was haphazard. Worse, it acted as if it were sharing out the potential spoils of a war among its member states.

In theory, the European Commission could use its buying power to ensure the rapid delivery of hundreds of millions of doses at rock bottom prices. But that ignored the dead hand of the EU bureaucracy, which is the last thing you need in a crisis.

Valuable weeks and months were lost amid furious horse-trading in Brussels. Many orders were not made until September which, despite its financial clout, put Europe at the back of the queue.

And those orders were badly flawed. In particular, they included an agreement to buy 300 million vaccine doses from the French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi – the same quantity as from Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca – even though Sanofi was trailing in development. The arrival of its vaccine has now been put back to the end of this year at the earliest.

In Berlin there are reports that only 200 people have been turning up for the 3,800 daily appointments.

The truth, of course, is that the EU had simply prioritised EU manufacturers.

Then came the blame game as leaders including Chancellor Merkel and President Macron started a furious row with AstraZeneca over vaccine allocation.

The last thing the EU needed was growing public opposition to the Oxford jab. Yet this is precisely what its leaders have brought about to deflect attention from their own failings and incompetence.

The damage seemed to start with erroneous reports in the German press that the AstraZeneca vaccine was only eight per cent effective for those aged over 65. The claim was immediately refuted by both Oxford University and the German Health Ministry.

But the EU gave the impression that it is more than happy for these negative reports to circulate – an attitude which is petty, protectionist and vindictive.

Leaders including Chancellor Merkel (pictured) and President Macron started a furious row with AstraZeneca over vaccine allocation

Doubts grew when the German authorities announced they would not allow the AstraZeneca jab to be used in people over 65 because there was insufficient data in the trials.

Results from Scotland have shown that the Oxford jab cuts the risk of hospitalisation by as much as 94 per cent.

And evidence from Public Health England revealed in today's Mail on Sunday suggests it might be even more effective than the Pfizer-Biontech rival.

The real hammer blow, however came from Macron, who claimed – without scientific justification – that the early results were not encouraging for 60 to 65 year old people. Later, he even said the vaccine was quasi-ineffective for people over 65.

True, the European Medical Agency has approved the vaccine, but that has made little difference to the public mood.

Last month, the British government made a second calculated gamble, which again drew sneers from across the English Channel.

By delaying second doses, the UK allowed many more people to receive the initial jab.

So we are now in the situation where a third of the British population has been vaccinated, with infection and mortality rates in decline.

Germany meanwhile has vaccinated just five per cent of its population. France has vaccinated only four per cent.

Faced with this, the EU leaders have finally started to make the right noises.

Macron has claimed that he would take the Oxford jab if he were offered it – a radical change of stance.

Just a few days ago, Angela Merkel's spokesman pleaded with Germans to take 'the safe and highly effective' Oxford vaccine – although the message was clouded when 66-year-old Merkel then announced to the world that she would not be taking it because it is not appropriate for people her age!

Germans have also been concerned to hear her talk about the prospects of a vaccine passport in the spring, amid widespread fears that jabs will become compulsory.

Now, the political point scoring has left many people so confused that they're turning down appointments.

I'm not a medical doctor or an expert. I'm not even qualified to take a view on whether or not a vaccine programme is the right way forward or not. But I am certain of this: the vaccine chaos has crystallised the true nature the EU. It is in crisis or, rather, it is in state of perpetual crisis.

It is quite clear that Germany could have done so much better on its own, without the dead hand of the EU.

The Brussels true believers are hell-bent on sticking to their project, the construction of a centralised super-state. And in doing so, they manipulate the democratic and legal process left, right and centre – even if that means spreading damaging rumours about a life-saving vaccine in the middle of a public health crisis with catastrophic economic consequences. Germany's political elite is so convinced the EU can do no wrong that last year it criminalised the vilification of the EU flag, now punishable with up to three years in prison.

It is a perfect illustration of why all-too-often, harmonisation means levelling down to the lowest common denominator.

And why Britain, now freed of its chains, can finally take decisions in its own national interest.

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