Wed. Oct 27th, 2021

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen urges members to increase vaccinations as the Delta coronavirus variant spreads across the bloc.

The European Union has delivered enough coronavirus vaccine doses to member states to reach a target to fully vaccinate at least 70 percent of adults in the bloc, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen has said.

Von der Leyen, who had tweeted on May 9 that the EU was on track to meet its goal of inoculating 70 percent of adults by summer, urged EU countries to increase vaccinations and said about 500 million doses would be distributed across the union by Sunday.

“The European Union has kept its word. This weekend we have delivered enough vaccines to member states to be in a position to vaccinate fully at least 70 percent of the EU adults this month,” von der Leyen said in a video statement on Saturday.

“But COVID-19 is not yet defeated. We are prepared to deliver more vaccines, including against new variants,” said von der Leyen, who faced sharp criticism at the start of 2021 for failing to ensure companies delivered contracted vaccines.

The EU joint vaccine purchasing scheme, run by the European Commission, has delivered 330 million BioNTech-Pfizer shots, 100 million AstraZeneca doses, 50 million from Moderna and 20 million Johnson & Johnson shots.

The bloc’s longer-term goal is to have enough vaccines to immunise its entire eligible population by the end of September.

Von der Leyen added in her latest statement that the EU was prepared to deliver more doses, including vaccines that act against new variants.

Al Jazeera’s Sonia Gallegos, reporting from London, said that despite the success of the EU’s vaccine rollout, there were still real concerns over the highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus, first recorded in India.

“There is a very contagious Delta variant, which could sweep all over the continent, that’s why they are urging the member states to really get on and really drive their own vaccination programmes forward,” Gallegos said.

The EU was criticised at first by some for having been slow to negotiate contracts with drug suppliers, and the plan was hampered later when some firms – notably UK-based AstraZeneca – fell short in deliveries.

But, as industry raced to boost production of the newly developed vaccines, purchases started flowing in.

The Commission said last week EU countries had ordered nearly 40 million additional doses of the vaccine produced by Johnson & Johnson.

The Commission previously warned that it expected the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus to become dominant in Europe this summer, citing estimates from the EU disease prevention agency.

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