Austria promises 30,000 vaccine doses to Czechs

Austria promises 30,000 vaccine doses to Czechs
A health worker handles boxes with AstraZeneca's vaccines against the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 in Vienna, Austria. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)
Austria and Slovenia have promised thousands of coronavirus vaccine doses for the Czech Republic after being criticised by Brussels for refusing to help EU partners in greater need of jabs.

“We will help the Czech Republic bilaterally with 30,000 doses,” Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said in a statement sent to AFP on Friday.

Later his Slovenian counterpart Janez Janša also pledged 10,000 doses for the Czech Republic.

“A year ago, at the beginning of the epidemic when we had no protection gear, the Czech Republic was the first to help us and sent us 1.5 million masks and other gear,” Janša said in a tweet, adding: “We said we will never forget it and we have not.”

On Thursday, Kurz had been accused of showing “a lack of solidarity” by other EU countries for insisting that Austria receives its full quota of vaccines out of a shipment of 10 million extra Pfizer-BioNTech doses for the 27-nation bloc as a whole.

These were an advance delivery of an order of 100 million doses scheduled for the third quarter of this year.

A group of 19 states including Germany, France, Italy and Spain had decided to show solidarity with Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia and Slovakia – considered to be most in need – who would get their full quotas of 2.85 million doses.

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But Austria, Slovenia and the Czech Republic had all dug their heels in and insisted on their full quotas.

Chancellor Kurz had “abandoned” the five partner countries, one European diplomat said, while another accused him of being “egoistic”.

The centre-right leader also faced a backlash at home, with opposition Social Democrat lawmaker Jörg Leichtfried saying he had damaged Austria’s reputation abroad.

Czech PM Andrej Babiš thanked Austria and Slovenia for the donations on Twitter, saying they were “from friends who are also in need of more vaccines, but they understand how difficult our situation is”.

The announcement comes after an “unacceptably slow” vaccine rollout across Europe with accusations from the World Health Organization on Thursday that this is causing an unnecessary prolonging to the pandemic.

So far, only 10 percent of the bloc’s total population have received one vaccine dose, and four percent are fully vaccinated with two shots, the organisation said.


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