Opinion

Do vaccines against the virus have a nationality?  

¿Tienen nacionalidad las vacunas contra el virus? 

In the wake of the news of the last few days related to the global pandemic and the vaccination process, many Europeans may be struck by the idea that the United Kingdom was right to leave the European Union. We will come to believe that the British Eurosceptics who won the 2016 referendum by such a narrow margin were not out of the loop when they voted as they did for a traumatic exit from the common European project. The ongoing vaccine deal (the massive purchase of a product by a supranational institution, rather), with the European bureaucracy mired in its own sluggishness and with some vaccine companies taking advantage of the situation, shows that when push comes to shove, Brussels is not taken seriously. The problem is that there is a contract worth over three hundred million euros that is being breached, and the Commission now wants to force one of the manufacturers, AstraZeneca, to ship the vials to the continent from its factories in the UK, to which former friend Boris Johnson will not shut up and accept any meddling.   

Stella Kyriakides is one of those senior EU officials who nobody knows but has an army of advisers and staff. As European Commissioner for Health, she knows better than anyone that the EU 27 are in dire need of shipments in order to continue to provide vaccines to their populations. She "rejects the logic of first come, first served," she said. "That may work at the neighborhood butcher’s but not in contracts and not in our advanced purchase agreements.". Hes metaphor of the meat queue was very revealing, but it does not solve the problem for the Spanish communities who have had to stop the process because they only have enough vaccines for the second dose of citizens who already received the first one a month ago. The EU's policy of exemplary million-dollar sanctions could begin to be a solution to this syringe-shaped gibberish and immunising fluid.   

At this point it is worth asking whether vaccines have nationality or not. If those produced in Belgium are only for that country and by extension for the EU, or if the company that produces them can privilege its agreements with third parties, such as the United Kingdom or the United States. Unfortunately, history is repeating itself, because some European chancelleries were already up in arms before Christmas when the distribution of doses in Europe was delayed so that the UK and the US could be the first to start administering the immunisation to their citizens. The anger was of no use then, because a month and a half later we are still in the same situation. Just as we can think of this idea of "Belgian vaccines", the British believe that those produced on their territory should have priority for distribution in the islands. In London, they wrap themselves in nationalism to call for the "nationalist vaccine", the one that is born. It grows and is dispensed only within the borders of the country that abandoned the European ship in order, among other things, to do what it is now doing in this health crisis.    

With the Brussels-AstraZeneca war, European leaders such as Pedro Sánchez, who assured with his usual confidence that 70 percent of Spaniards will be vaccinated by the summer, are also being portrayed. While celebrating the health minister's departure for the Catalan election campaign, the Spanish president could clarify whether his bet is still on the table when he sees the shortage of vaccines in Europe, of which he is one of the main leaders.