France and Germany’s leaders defended the European Union’s approach to delivering vaccines to member states despite its sluggish start.
Anger is building in the bloc and it lags behind inoculation campaigns in Israel, the UK and US. The EU is charged with procuring the vaccine and distributing it to its 27 countries, which then carry out their own national vaccination programmes.
“I fully support the European approach,” French President Emmanuel Macron said after virtual talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“What would people say if countries like France and Germany were competing with each other on vaccines? It would be a mess and counterproductive,” he added.
Ms Merkel, who has repeatedly defended sticking with the EU approach, conceded that “production capacities are not as large as we had imagined”.
But she insisted “the basic decision to order together as the European Union was and is right”.
The German leader said vaccine makers and the EU were doing all they could to speed up the process.
“But producing vaccines is not something that can be done from one day to the next,” Ms Merkel added. “These are complicated processes.”
Mr Macron said the EU had been surprised by how quickly vaccines were developed.
“Nobody could have known that we were going to have safe vaccines so quickly,” he said.
On Friday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also defended the EU’s response, saying countries operating on their own could move more quickly, like a “speedboat”.
“I’m aware that a country might be a speedboat and the EU more a tanker. But this is the strength of the EU,” she said.
“If we conclude a contract, we need another five days for the member states to say, ‘yes’ – and these are five days, five working days,” Ms von der Leyen added.