Europe’s Vaccine Disaster Isn’t Lack of Supply

Europe’s Vaccine Disaster Isn’t Lack of Supply

As the EU tries to acquire more vaccines, it’s failing to effectively use the ones it already has.

The European Union is facing an accelerating health, economic, and political crisis because of the continent’s persistent failure to vaccinate its population. Amid high infection rates, hospitalizations, and deaths in many member states, the EU economy remains largely in lockdown, more infectious virus variants are spreading, and fingers are being pointed at both the European Commission, responsible for procuring vaccines for the bloc, and the pharmaceutical companies tasked with producing them. The reasons for the EU’s current disarray are, however, more complex.

Early in the pandemic, the commission was tasked with procuring COVID-19 vaccines for the entire EU. This was the most sensible political path, since the alternative would likely have been an increasingly frenzied bidding war among member states of the sort that led to national personal protective equipment export controls earlier in the pandemic. But the commission had no experience in negotiating large-scale pharmaceutical purchases—and, it turns out, learning on the job in the middle of the worst European health crisis in 100 years may not have been a good idea.