The European Union’s mass vaccination campaign came under fire on Tuesday, after Italians accused Germany of grabbing too much vaccine, and some care-home workers were injected with five times the recommended dosage in a city 150 miles north of Berlin.
Politicians in Italy have complained that the EU’s largest member state, Germany, could be getting more than its fair share of the vaccine developed by U.S. drug company Pfizer
and its partner BioNTech
— the latter is based in the German city of Mainz.
On Sunday, the EU stage-managed the coordinated release of the vaccine in 27-member states, although Germany and Hungary jumped the gun a day before, after one care-home worker said: “Every day that we wait is one day too many.”
The EU said in a statement: “All Member States will have access to COVID-19 vaccines at the same time and the distribution will be done on a per capita basis to ensure fair access.”
The European Medicines Agency, or EMA, which approves vaccines, had been accused of acting too slowly, and eventually came under pressure from the European Commission and EU governments to move faster.
The U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency became the first regulator in the western world to approve the COVID-19 vaccine, overriding the EMA because of the emergency situation. The U.K. leaves the EMA at the end of the month as part of Brexit.
Months earlier, a group of academics, including Martin McKee of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, had claimed the U.K. faced having to wait longer to acquire a coronavirus vaccine if it left the EMA.
Separately, in Stralsund on the far northern coast of Germany, eight care-home workers were injected with five times the recommended dosage of the Pfizer–BioNTech vaccine.
Stefan Kerth, district chief, said: “I deeply regret the incident. This individual case is due to individual errors. I hope that all those affected do not experience any serious side effects.” Four people have been taken to a hospital.
A further vaccine malfunction, this time in southern Germany, saw officials transport the Pfizer–BioNTech vaccine, which needs to be stored at about -70C, in a picnic hamper cool box that failed to keep it at the required temperature. Around 1,000 doses had to be returned.
Around 12.5 million doses of the Pfizer–BioNTech vaccine are expected in the EU by Friday. A total of 200 million doses will be sent to 27 member countries by September.