Vaccine row: David Davis says EU has been ‘very emotional’
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As the bloc’s jabs programme falters, the European Commission, Council and Parliament plan to open their own vaccination centres on March 22. This is when the Brussels region will make coronavirus vaccines available to younger people with underlying health conditions. So far the Belgium health authorities have only made jabs available to healthcare workers and care home residents.
The EU vaccination centres will technically be classified as Belgian facilities but will only be accessible to politicians and officials.
Staff from the bloc’s foreign affairs arm, the European External Action Service, and the European Economic and Social Committee will also be allowed to get a jab from the special centres.
The vaccines will be supplied by the local Belgian authorities and roll out will depend on whether sufficient doses are delivered from the EU’s joint procurement scheme
Alain Maron, the Brussels region minister overhang the vaccine rollout, told the Politico website: “Provided that we get the vaccines delivered according to plan, the EU institutions’ vaccination centres will open on March 22.”
Belgium’s vaccine rollout has been at a snail’s pace, with only 618,000 people having received at least one dose – just 5.4 percent of the population.
In contract, Britain has administered more than 22 million jabs, with one in three adults now having received their first shot.
Belgium has shifted its vaccine strategy to Phase 1B this week, meaning people over the age of 75 can now come forward for a jab.
Next week they are expected to start vaccinating over-65s, before targeting “vulnerable” people on March 22.
That category includes all adults with serious health conditions, such as blood cancer, or people over 45 who suffer from issues such as obesity or chronic respiratory problems.
The European Commission has estimated that nearly 10 percent of its Brussels staff – around 2,000 people – qualify for the vulnerable category.
A spokesman said: “The Commission staff will get vaccinated in line with the vaccination campaigns adopted by our respective hosting states.
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“The staff members concerned have been requests to substantiate their vulnerable status with adequate documentation earlier this year.”
The Parliament and Council are still holding discussions with local authorities to also begin jabbing on March 22.
The EU centres could soon be mobilised for a larger group of staff if Belgian authorities allow the vaccination of “essential workers”.
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Eurocrats and MEPs will argue that they should be featured in this category, which is likely to start receiving vaccine in April.
Nato will also set up its own vaccination centre in its Brussels-based headquarters, but has yet to confirm when it will start offering jabs.
A spokesman for the transatlantic alliance said: “Our preparations continue, and we remain in close touch with the Belgian authorities.”
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