The European Commission has rejected criticism that the number of vaccine doses it procured has contributed to sluggish deployment of Covid-19 jabs as the European Union begins its inoculation campaign.
"The number of vaccines that we have is sufficient," spokesperson Eric Mamer told reporters in Brussels on Monday, pointing instead to difficulties in production and distribution. Both should speed up in the coming weeks, he said.
"We are all judging this as if this campaign is over, in fact the campaign is just starting," Mamer said.
The United States and Britain have each managed over 1 million jabs since starting in early December, a few weeks ahead of the EU.
France has started vaccinating 500 people so far, despite having received 500,000 doses. Germany has fared better, at 240,000 first jabs in the past seven days, but domestic critics have slammed the government and the commission.
Complaints in Finland
The slowness in vaccinating has generated criticism against the government of Prime Minister Sanna Marin, who said in an interview on Monday that the process of immunizing the population will be a "marathon" and not a "sprint."
Finnish Health and Welfare Ministry official Kirsi Varhila said she was disappointed with the size of the first 10,000-dose batch it received, saying it was much smaller than expected.
The EU executive branch has negotiated contracts for some 2 billion doses with six producers pending their approval in the EU. From the start, the emphasis has been on a diverse portfolio, Eric Mamer stressed.
Only the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been green-lighted for use in the European Union so far, with a decision on a second candidate - from Moderna - postponed on Monday until Wednesday.
The Commission has ordered 300 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and 80 million of Moderna's so far. Both vaccinations require two shots, and there are 450 million people in the EU.