Slovak president Zuzana Čaputová has praised the EU’s joint vaccination procurement programme, arguing without it, small countries like hers would have struggled to source their own jabs.
Čaputová said though negotiations could have started earlier, member states made the right decision in pooling their resources.
The president told POLITICO it was a “good thing, that we had a joint European approach to procurement of the vaccines”.
She added: “I think that for a country like Slovakia, chances of securing or procuring a vaccine are much better in this way than if we had gone it alone.”
Though the European Commission’s vaccine strategy has faced criticism in large countries like Germany for its delays, leaders of small countries are relieved the bloc chose to jointly negotiate with pharmaceutical companies.
But, Čaputová acknowledged, “all of us now are facing this lack of supply of vaccines”.
“I would say that maybe the negotiations could have started a bit earlier, and maybe they could have reflected also the question of production capacities,” she said while praising the Commission for investing in the development of vaccines.
Slovakia has one of the worst Covid death rates in Europe. Its latest 14-day death rate was just over 239 per million inhabitants, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Its neighbour, the Czech Republic, is at 187 and Germany is at 75.
Prime minister Igor Matovič recently infuriated Brussels when he advocated for Slovakia to begin vaccine procurement discussion with Russia – an approach already adopted by neighbouring Hungary, which has also sourced the Chinese jab.
Opposition from a junior coalition partner forced talks to collapse. The EU has not yet authorized Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.
“We should offer to our citizens vaccines which are both efficient, but also safe,” Čaputová said. “And for me, this means registration by the European Medicines Agency.”