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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

France and Belgium grapple with vaccine shortages

By: V4 Agency

Although the French president appears rather pleased with his government’s pandemic response, numbers tell a different story. Criticising the government, one of the most popular opposition politicians said the need to consider the procurement of Eastern vaccines is unavoidable. Belgium is in a similar situation, where authorities had to postpone the opening of the capital’s second largest vaccination point, because of a shortage of jabs.

France’s pandemic response is very satisfactory and the government chose the right strategy when it decided not to introduce a nationwide quarantine at the end of January, said the president, who praised his government’s pandemic management in a recent grandstanding speech. Emmanuel Macron said he had no sense of remorse over the decision as the expected spike in viral outbreak never occurred and, consequently, he believes that his government’s pandemic response has by no means failed.

However, the official figures show a radically different story.  According to the latest data, 4,974 patients are on ventilators, a number exceeding the peak witnessed in the second wave back in November. The situation is in fact so severe that 90 per cent of the country’s intensive care units are occupied by either coronavirus-afflicted, or other serious cases. In addition, vaccine rollout is also sluggish, with population adjusted numbers showing rates only slightly higher than the European Union average.

Although President Macron talked about the need to vaccinate on weekends and holidays in order to speed up the pace of vaccination (even though pharmacists, veterinarians and dentists are now also authorised to administer jabs), because of deficiencies in supplies, in practice acceleration is impossible. Although the government intends to set up inoculation hubs in several stadiums where mass vaccination is expected to begin in early April, this will not solve the problem because, according to press reports, vaccine supplies are running out.

Abbeville commune, situatued in Somme département in the north of the country, was faced with this challenge last Saturday. The vaccination centre located there was forced to close, as merely a total of 154 doses were available, making it pointless for it to remain open all the weekend, France Bleu reported in an article.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the right-wing National Rally, the largest opposition party, is also pessimistic about the government’s vaccination campaign. In a recent interview, she argued that Emmanuel Macron has failed in the management of the epidemic, pointing out that initially, there was a lack of protective masks, followed by a shortage of test kits, and now there are insufficient vaccine supplies. The government’s failure has dire repercussions in terms of people’s health and daily lives, the opposition politician stressed.

Speaking to France Info, Ms Le Pen stressed that the inoculation campaign must be accelerated and, if necessary, vaccines should be purchased from the East, from Russian and Chinese manufacturers, to overcome the shortage of jabs.

France’s northern neighbour, Belgium, has also fared rather unwell as it struggles with a shortage of vaccine supplies. This week the second largest vaccination centre near the capital – where health authorities had plans to launch a mass vaccine rollout – could not open due to vaccine shortages. According to press reports, the inoculation hub to be opened in the military hospital in Neder-Over-Heembeek will have a capacity to administer around 1000-1500 jabs a day, provided that enough vaccines are available.

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