Europeans think vaccine manufacturers have behaved unfairly but tend to oppose blocking exports

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
March 04, 2021, 5:38 PM GMT+0

The EU is also seen as having botched the vaccine rollout on the continent

During the spat between Britain and the EU over distribution of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, it looked briefly like the European Commission might block exports of the drug to the UK. This never came to pass, but now news has emerged that the EU has upheld a request from Italy to block shipment of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Australia due to the company’s alleged failure to honour their contract with the EU.

A YouGov EuroTrack poll conducted in mid-February shows there is a strong sense among Europeans that COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers have not behaved fairly in how they distribute their vaccines.

Fully two thirds of French people, and a majority of Germans, think manufacturers have behaved unfairly. Just 10-17% think the opposite. Britons strongly disagree, with 48% thinking they have behaved fairly, vs 14% who think they have behaved unfairly.

The poll also found that Europeans tend to be opposed to the EU blocking export of coronavirus vaccines, although they are somewhat less worried about doing so in cases like this. Asked whether or not it would be preferable to restrict exports if doing so violated contracts that non-EU countries (like Australia) had made with COVID-19 manufacturers, the French are opposed by 39% to 23%, the Swedes by 40% to 18% and the Danes by 35% to 22%. Only the Germans are split, with 29% thinking it favourable to allow export while 28% would prefer to block shipment and redistribute the vaccines within the EU.

Opposition is higher in all countries (except Sweden, where it is about the same) when the same question was posed but with potential downside being damage to relations with that country (obviously a very real risk in this particular case).

Reluctance to block exports is highest of all if it meant that poorer countries wouldn’t get the vaccine, or it meant people outside the EU would die (again, a possibility in this case).

Europeans would have preferred to copy the UK in paying slightly more to get vaccines sooner

The vaccine crisis is one of the EU’s own making, with the body having focussed on getting prices down at the expense of speed. This could have been avoided if they had a greater awareness of public priorities: asked to choose between getting the vaccines sooner at a slightly higher price, or cheaper at a slightly later date, people in all countries surveyed strongly prefer the faster option.

The EU is widely seen as having botched the vaccine rollout. Most Germans (58%), as well as around half of Britons (52%) and French people (47%) say the body has managed the rollout badly – higher numbers than say so of the United States, traditionally the poster child or bad COVID practice. (Indeed, the low figures the USA gets on this question do seem at odds with the much greater numbers of people America has vaccinated relative to the EU).

The Germans and French are hardest of all on themselves, however, with 61% of the former and 68% of the latter saying their country has handled things poorly.

Three quarters of Britons (77%) think the UK has done well on the vaccine rollout, with agreement from 49% of Germans and 45% of French people.

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