German Chancellor Angela Merkel (1st R) is seen in a televised interview with the German public broadcast ARD in Berlin, Germany, Feb. 2, 2021. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday that every COVID-19 vaccine is welcome in the European Union (EU) as the bloc is facing vaccine delivery difficulties. Merkel made the remarks in a televised interview with the German public broadcast ARD program "Farbe bekennen." (Xinhua/Shan Yuqi)
BERLIN, Feb. 3 (Xinhua) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday that every COVID-19 vaccine is welcome in the European Union (EU) as the bloc is facing vaccine delivery difficulties.
Merkel made the remarks in a televised interview with the German public broadcast ARD program "Farbe bekennen."
"Serbia is vaccinating faster. Serbia is vaccinating with the Chinese vaccine. We have always said that every vaccine trying to obtain approval from the European Medicines Agency is very welcome," said Merkel.
"I have spoken to the Russian president about this. Today we read good data from the Russian vaccine," said Merkel, referring to the Russian Sputnik V corona vaccine with an efficacy rate of 91.6 percent, according to the data published on Tuesday in the medical journal The Lancet.
The German chancellor affirmed that by the end of summer, everyone in Germany could be able to get at least the first of the two necessary vaccinations. So far nothing has gone wrong with the national vaccination campaign.
The vaccines approved so far by the EU are from U.S.-Germany joint venture Pfizer and BioNTech, British-Swedish multinational AstraZeneca, and Moderna from the United States.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn said Sunday that he is open to the use of vaccines from Russia or China in Germany, while Markus Soeder, minister-president of Germany's Bavaria State on Sunday called on the European supervision body to test Russian and Chinese vaccines "as soon as possible."
Europe is now facing a vaccine shortage as pharmacies including AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech are supplying vaccines less than anticipated, drawing public criticism and prompting demands for alternatives.
Pfizer and BioNTech said on Monday they would deliver more than 2 billion doses globally this year rather than 1.3 billion as previously announced, including an extra 75 million doses for European countries between April and June. AstraZeneca said it would supply an extra 9 million doses of its vaccine by March, though this will still leave the company well below its original target. Neither increase is expected to have a big impact in the short term.
Spain and France said on Friday that they would have to delay new first-dose injections for as long as two weeks to ensure that those who received their first dose can get the second, and Portugal said last week that the completion of its first-dose vaccinations could be delayed by up to two months.
Health sector analysts said the delays create serious problems on multiple fronts.
"The most immediate impact comes from the thousands of European Union residents dying each day and the tens of thousands infected each day due to the coronavirus," Silvio Garattini, a research scientist and former director of Italy's Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research, told Xinhua. "But even more problematic is that the longer the virus is in circulation the more variants will evolve."
In an e-mailed response to questions from Xinhua, a senior European Commission official said the slowdown showed the need to have access to vaccines beyond the three already in the pipeline.
"Europe needs a broad portfolio of vaccine candidates based on different technological approaches in order to maximize the chances of quickly developing, manufacturing and deploying a vaccine for all Europeans," said the official, who preferred to remain anonymous.
For now, Hungary is the only EU member state that has authorized the use of China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine and the Russian vaccine.