Von der Leyen blasts “confrontational” space-race mentality over vaccines

Ursula von der Leyen has hit out at the perceived mentality of some governments regarding the vaccination roll-out as a competition akin to the space-race of the 1960s.

The under-pressure boss of the European Commission has faced fierce criticism of the bloc’s initial procurement of vaccines, and its subsequent attempt to roll-out vaccinations across member states.

Speaking to the Warwick Economics Summit via video-link, von der Leyen insisted the scramble for vaccines was not a competition.

“When I was your age the world was still divided into two blocs. The superpowers fought to expand or maintain their sphere of influence. Well, this world is long gone. And yet the old confrontational mindset is back”, said the Commission President.

“Think of Covid-19 vaccines. Some countries view the search for a vaccine as a race among world powers, like the race for space in the 1960s.”

“This is not a competition between Europeans, Russians, Chinese and Americans — this is too serious”, she added.

The Commission insisted on a joint procurement policy among member states run by the EU executive and prohibited national governments from ordering vaccines on the side.

The European Union’s medicines regulator took three weeks longer than Britain to authorise use of the BioNTech/Pfizer jab and a month longer to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine, resulting in a significant lag in its vaccination roll-out.

549,000 were vaccinated in United Kingdom on Saturday, bringing the total of those who have received their first dose of a Covid-19 jab to over 12 million, almost 18 per cent of the population.

Meanwhile, the European Union has only just surpassed 16 million in total, less than 4 per cent of those living within the bloc.

Just last week, von der Leyen admitted that countries going it alone could act quicker like a “speedboat”, whilst the European Union is “more of a tanker”.