During the summer of 2020, there was one common refrain among elite public health experts: Europe handled COVID-19 better than the United States and the United Kingdom. It was a claim repeated among the American media, too. But then the winter came, Europe experienced as bad a surge, if not worse in some places than America did, and that argument crumbled faster than a soccer player flopping.
Polls of Europeans showed that even the public saw through this facade, with approval ratings in European countries plummeting as countries struggled to contain the virus or protect their economies. But if the argument that European technocrats were better than the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed was already on weak ground, the roll-out of the American, British, and Israeli vaccine plans has put the argument fully to bed.
If there ever was an argument for Brexit, it is the stunning vaccination rollout of Boris Johnson and the United Kingdom government. And the United States has outraced and outpaced not just European nations but all the individual component nations of the European Union combined.
According to the daily updated Bloomberg vaccination tracker, which builds off of CDC data, the United States is the clear world leader on administering doses with 98.2 million doses, with a shot at hitting 100 million doses by the end of this week. The United States has nearly 30 vaccination doses per 100 citizens. The next closest country, China, which claims to have administered a little over 50 million vaccines (a claim no one can prove), has only provided 3.75 doses per 100 citizens.
The European Union, which comprises 27 individual countries, has administered only 45 million vaccination doses across the entire continent. That’s less than half the total amount of the United States. And the EU can only offer a little over ten vaccination doses per 100 people.
To call the EU vaccination rollout a disaster understates the case. Europe hasn’t even gotten out of their car garage on the way to vaccinating their citizens. It’s a disaster of historic proportions.
Here’s a comparison to consider, the United Kingdom has, by itself, administered nearly 25 million vaccination doses, which is good for 37 doses per 100 people. Remember, the EU has 27 nations in it and has only managed to crank out 45 million doses, and the U.K. more than half of that by themselves! Would anyone like to have a Brexit debate right now?
None of this even touches the vaccination rollout of Israel, which is setting both a standard and world records at their vaccination pace. Israel has administered more than nine million doses for their tiny country, which is good for slightly more than 100 doses per 100 people. Israel is approaching the level where almost 50% of its population is fully vaccinated.
All three of these countries, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Israel, have spent their time getting maligned from this pandemic and other ways the press likes hammering them. But right now, all three are the global standard on vaccinating their citizens.
How did this happen? For multiple reasons. First, Europe messed up the rollout plan. The Wall Street Journal editorial board notes, “Rather than letting countries negotiate their own vaccine contracts, the European Commission handled procurement for the entire bloc in the name of solidarity. Brussels botched the process, and now the union’s members are lagging together.”
And then, rather than considering whether the EU method is flawed, the Europeans turned around and started blaming one of the vaccine manufacturers, AstraZeneca. Yes, you heard that right, the EU is in a contract dispute with one of the manufacturers:
“Europe at the time wanted to be supplied more or less at the same time as the U.K., even though the contract was signed three months later,” AstraZeneca chief Pascal Soriot told an Italian newspaper this week. “So we said, ‘OK, we’re going to do our best, we’re going to try, but we cannot commit contractually because we are three months behind the U.K.'”
The EU waited three months to sign a contract. Meanwhile, the United States and the United Kingdom negotiated their contracts last year before a single vaccine got approved.
The European failure doesn’t end there, however. Individual countries like Italy, now facing the prospect of a third surge of the pandemic, have started halting shipments of vaccines in their country, which are headed for places like Australia. Other countries like France, seeing this, are claiming the same powers to halt shipments of vaccines. The result is an international incident because the EU can’t get rollouts right.
And then, at the end of this week, to add to the debacle, multiple European countries have halted the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine over claims of safety concerns. They did this despite no “direct link between the vaccine and the blood clots.”
For all the talk of how great European technocrats are at running the world or how great Brussels is at its job, they failed when it mattered the most. They have countries looking at a third surge and no vaccines to help. The pandemic has given ample ammunition to the Brexit side of the debate. And it supports the contention that Operation Warp Speed was the far better way to handle the pandemic than whatever plans the Europeans can cook up.
The European belief that the EU is why no wars have broken out on the continent in a generation should probably get reconsidered under the light that the EU couldn’t properly order vaccines in a pandemic.