Austria Breaks Ranks With EU to Produce Vaccines With Denmark, Israel

VIENNA (Reuters) -
A health-care worker hands over doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to a doctor at Messe Wien Congress Center, which has been set up as a coronavirus disease vaccination center, in Vienna, in February. (Reuters/Lisi Niesner)

Austria broke ranks with the European Union on Tuesday and said it would work together with Israel and Denmark to produce second-generation vaccines against mutations of the coronavirus.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Austria and Denmark, as members of the First Mover Group founded by Kurz, would work with Israel on vaccine production against mutations of the coronavirus and jointly research treatment options.

The announcement is a rebuke to the EU’s joint vaccine procurement program for member states, which has been criticized for being too slow to agree on deals with manufacturers.

Production problems and supply chain bottlenecks have also slowed deliveries to the bloc, delaying the rollout of vaccines.

While the decision to agree that the EU procures vaccines for member states was correct in principle, Kurz said the European Medicines Agency had been too slow to approve vaccines and lambasted supply bottlenecks from pharmaceutical companies.

“We must therefore prepare for further mutations and should no longer be dependent only on the EU for the production of second-generation vaccines,” he said in a statement.