COVID-19: Ursula von der Leyen says EU will reach vaccination targets 'without sealing itself off from the world'

·3-min read

The EU will reach its vaccination targets "without sealing itself off from the world", the EU Commission president has said - in what has been interpreted as a snipe at the UK and US.

Ursula von der Leyen said critics of the EU vaccination campaign should keep in mind that the EU had exported 220 million jabs, almost as many as it has used for its own citizens.

She added: "Others are keeping their entire vaccine production all to themselves, but the EU will reach its vaccination targets without sealing itself off from the world."

Live COVID updates from the UK and around the world

The remarks come as she said Europe's COVID-19 vaccination campaign was gaining speed and catching up with that of the UK and US.

By the end of this week, 260 million vaccine doses will have been delivered in Europe, Ms von der Leyen said.

It comes after an earlier EU threat to block vaccine exports to the UK and other countries with higher vaccine rollouts.

The dispute, which at one point saw the EU controversially threaten to override the Brexit agreement with the UK over the Irish border, came after AstraZeneca said the initial number of doses it could supply to the EU would be lower than first thought, due to manufacturing issues.

But, after Ms von der Leyen vowed she was "ready to use whatever tool we need" to ensure "Europe gets its fair share", the EU managed to accelerate its vaccination programme, reaching 100 million doses last month, and preparing to go further.

She said on Thursday: "We aim to have offered a jab to 70% of all adults by the end of July... this is almost the same target as the one the US has set."

The Commission on Thursday finalised a contract with Pfizer and BioNTech for an additional 1.8 billion doses of their COVID-19 shot to be delivered in the coming two years.

The EU's executive arm said the deal, on behalf of all 27 EU countries, will allow the buying of 900 million doses of the current shots and of a serum adapted to the virus's variants, with an option to purchase an extra 900 million shots.

Hungary is the only EU country to opt out, an EU spokesman said.

On Tuesday, an expert warned the UK is "in for a rocky time" as people head off on holiday to a Europe where vaccination levels are not as high as at home.

First dose vaccination rates in Europe vary from around 10% in Bulgaria to around 65% in Malta, according to Our World In Data (OWID), with most countries in between 20% and 40%. OWID says the EU as a whole has so far given out first doses to about 32% of its citizens.

In the UK, around 70% of people have received their first dose and the country is expecting to reach its target of vaccinating all adults by the end of July, according to the government.

On Wednesday, EU ambassadors agreed a plan to ease restrictions on foreign visitors, including Britons, who have had two doses of a coronavirus vaccine.

But there remains concern about rising rates of the Indian variant of concern across Europe.

The European Commission proposed that entry to the EU should be granted to all people fully vaccinated by Europe-approved doses.

The European Medicines Agency has so far approved the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and single shot Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccines.

While EU ambassadors approved the plan, it still has to be given the green light by ministers from member states.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting