No way! EU rebellion as Von der Leyen’s vaccine demands cut down by new Italian rival

ECB conference: Mario Draghi discusses policy stance

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The new Italian leader lashed out at the Commission in his debut at the European Council summit last week. Mr Draghi, not a stranger to EU circles after he led the European Central Bank (ECB), was reported to have raised his voice before European counterparts.

According to Italian and French media, Mr Draghi refused to give his backing to Mrs von der Leyen’s proposal to send 13 million vaccine doses to Africa.

The proposal, which saw the backing of both French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, sought to send a share of vaccines vials bought by the EU to struggling African countries.

But Mr Draghi said no, “no ifs and no buts”, according to Le Monde.

They wrote: “The former ECB President doesn’t want to hear about it.”

Spain, Belgium and Sweden appeared more inclined to back the proposals at the condition enough doses were secured to vaccinate all EU citizens first.

But the Italian leader was reluctant to even postpone the shipments to a later date.

Director of Eunews, Lorenzo Robustelli, also claimed Mr Draghi wants to stop Covax, the cross-country initiative backed by WHO to ensure developing countries receive as many vaccine doses as possible this year.

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Draghi, according to Le Monde, seemed favourable to the idea of a ban on vaccine exports produced in the EU, sparking a row among some of his counterparts.

Countries like Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain, where production plants for vaccinations have already been built, and Ireland, which would be indirectly affected by the ban, all opposed the proposal.

Despite Mr Draghi’s disapproval of the project, some 237 million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine are expected to be delivered to 142 countries by the end of May through the Covax facility.

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Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, told a news conference that vaccine deliveries were planned on Tuesday to Angola, Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria.

Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo said his West African country, which has begun its inoculation campaign with Covax doses, aimed to vaccinate 20 million people by the end of 2021.

Ghana began its coronavirus vaccination drive on Tuesday with 600,000 AstraZeneca doses.

While western nations have secured millions of doses and launched mass vaccination drives, most poorer countries do not yet have access to any, raising concerns about equitable distribution of vaccines to fight the pandemic.

Ghana was the first country to receive vaccines as part of the World Health Organisation’s Covax sharing scheme aimed at pooling funds from wealthier nations and non-profits to deliver doses equitably around the world.

Covax aims to deliver over 1.3 billion vaccine doses to over 90 low- and middle-income countries by the end of the year, covering up to 20 percent of their populations.

Only a handful of other African countries have started inoculations, with doses purchased bilaterally or received as donations.

Ghana’s neighbour Ivory Coast launched its COVID-19 inoculation drive on Monday with doses from Covax.

Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo and his wife received the vaccine on Monday in an effort to boost public confidence ahead of the campaign, amid rumours and scepticism about vaccines. But scepticism remained.

Coronavirus infections in Ghana have surpassed 84,000 and more than 600 people have died, according to health ministry data.

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