Mr Soder, who is tipped to replace Ms Merkel as German Chancellor when she steps down later this year, laid the blame for the vaccines fiasco squarely at the EU’s door as he tore into the bloc’s leaders for making too many mistakes in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. The CSU party leader and Bavarian Prime Minister accused Brussels of relying on too few manufacturers and waiting too long to order supplies.
He said: “The result has so far been unsatisfactory.
“The operational responsibility lay in Europe. The fundamental importance was underestimated.
“Now, a few weeks after the start of vaccination, one is at a point in this country where the ordered quantities do not arrive and vaccinations are therefore postponed.
“It’s a very, very uncertain situation for such an important topic.
“And I think that in Germany it was underestimated in some places at the beginning.”
The eurosceptic politician said the EU now had to provide “maximum transparency” when dealing with future vaccine supply problems.
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He said: “It cannot be that such a large continent, which is so economically strong and has so many large pharmaceutical companies, cannot make more production possible than just one plant that is about to start up in Marburg.”
Brussels is refusing to back down in its vaccine row with AstraZeneca and is pressing the Anglo-Swedish pharma giant to deliver the doses as promised in its contract.
The EU is scrambling to get supplies just as the West’s biggest drugmakers slow deliveries to the bloc due to production problems.
Under a contract agreed in August, the company should have supplied at least 80 million doses to the EU in that period.
EU Commission head Ursula von der Leyen urged AstraZeneca to fulfil its obligations and said it had paid the company in advance.
German health minister Jens Spahn warned of “tough weeks” ahead but insisted the country’s vaccination campaign was “on the right track”.
He said all residents of nursing homes should receive a vaccination offer by the middle of next month and all over-80s by the end of March.
(Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg)