Austria is threatening to block the European Commission’s purchase of another 100 million doses of BioNTech / Pfizer vaccines if Vienna does not receive more vaccines.
This is reported by Politico with reference to diplomats from three EU countries.
The move is the latest escalation tactic by Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who has campaigned for his country to get a bigger share of vaccines in the EU, even though data suggests Austria is not among the countries most in need.
The EU may receive 10 million doses of BioNTech / Pfizer in the coming months as part of a second contract with the German-American manufacturer to purchase an additional 100 million vaccines — in addition to the 500 million already ordered.
The 100 million doses were originally expected to be delivered by the end of 2021, but the company said it could deliver 10 million doses by June 30. The announcement started a fight between EU countries over the distribution of vaccines based on population size.
That fight dominated a summit of EU leaders on Thursday, and Kurz repeated his demand for more doses. While the summit ended with the leaders confirming the distribution based on population size, the leaders also instructed the EU ambassadors to address the issue of 10 million doses, leaving open the possibility that the countries most in need of vaccines will receive more.
Austria did not wait for the ambassadors to hold a discussion before stepping up the pressure.
At a meeting of the EU’s vaccine steering committee on Friday morning, Austria again demanded additional doses, this time with a threat: it will block the European Commission’s purchase of 100 million doses if Vienna does not get what it wants.
Diplomats from several EU countries have expressed outrage at the threat to Austria — and the possibility of losing 100 million doses if the purchase option is not used by mid-April.
One EU diplomat expressed anger that Austria was blocking 10 million doses to member states “ in dire need of them, such as Latvia and Bulgaria.”
“This shows that Kurz is willing to put the lives of 50 million Europeans at risk in order to get something that he doesn’t even need,” the diplomat said.
Another diplomat said that Austria has little respect for the needs of other countries.
In terms of the total number of coronavirus cases per capita since March 2020, Austria is in the bottom half of the list of EU countries, while the number of daily cases in the country is slightly below the EU average.