EU vaccine crisis hits new low as Bangladesh steps in to offer spare jabs

Bangladesh, one of the world’s poorest countries has offered 5,000 doses of Covid vaccine to EU member state Hungary. However, Viktor Orbán’s government has declined the gesture.

Hungary has been far more independent than its European peers in reaching out to foreign governments asking for life-saving vaccine. Budapest has looked into China’s Sinopharm and Russia’s Sputnik jabs. Neither has been approved by the EU European Medicines Agency.

Bangladesh’s stunning offer of the highly regarded AstraZeneca vaccine developed at Oxford University was in response to Hungary’s request to the rest of the world for 5,000 doses.

According to Orbán’s government, the wheels were greased by the successful separation of Bangladeshi conjoined twins by Hungarian doctors.

However, Hungary decided to reject the vaccines from the world’s 141st poorest country, per capita. Bangladesh itself received two million doses from the Indian government. The country’s population is more than 160 million.

Nevertheless, the mere prospect of such an underdeveloped nation helping out an EU state with vital jabs illustrates the seriousness of Brussels’ vaccine crisis. PR advisers were having such a difficult time trying to put a positive spin on the inoculation scheme’s poor performance last week that Africa was used as a favourable comparison.

The situation is so bad the EU is preparing to trigger emergency powers “if severe difficulties arise in the supply of certain products” to effectively take over Europe’s vaccine industry.

It appears the bloc is imminently approaching the “severe difficulties” stage with even pro-business voices like Angela Merkel ally, Peter Altmaier saying he is open to a waiver of intellectual property rights that would enable governments to thieve details about vaccines and how they are manufactured, a major breach of the free market principles that are supposed to underpin the European project.  

Altmaier aired his views on German television after Italy passed a resolution to waive IP rights first inspired by developing countries in the WTO. The The UK, the US and Switzerland all oppose the soviet-style proposal.

Greece’s hard-left prime minister, Alexis Tsipras said the EU’s current conventional strategy of vaccine procurement from the private sector is “weak” suggesting he would strongly favour an industry takeover.