So skupne nabave v EU krive za sedanji dizaster glede dobav cepiva?

Takšen sklep naredi Wolfgang Munchau (glejte spodaj), ki pravi, da se je v želji po nizki ceni cepiv Evropska komisija (EK) odpovedala hitrejšim dobavam cepiva. EK je namreč vsaj dve cepivi nabavila za 24% do 45% ceneje kot ZDA. Munchau špekulira, da zaradi tega EU države dobivajo cepiva počasneje, ker pač farmacevti hitreje dobavljajo tistim, ki so si z višjo ceno zagotovili prioritetne dobave.

Čeprav podatki načeloma potrjujejo, da je obseg cepljenja v Britaniji za faktor 5 (5-krat več oziroma za ca. 400% več) večji kot v EU državah, v ZDA pa za faktor 3 večji (glejte spodnjo sliko), pa se ne strinjam nujno s samo poanto Munchaua, da so za to krive prevsem skupne nabave v EU. Lahko da skupne nabave cepiva imajo določen vpliv na počasnejši potek cepljenja, vendar pa menim, da je še bolj pomemben dejavnik bila pozna odobritev cepiva za uporabo s strani Evropske agencije za zdravila (EMA). Nekatere ne-EU države, kot so ZDA in V. Britanija ter predvsem rekorder Izrael, so pač cepiva prej odobrile in tudi nekaj tednov prej začele s cepljenjem. Je pa res, da se razlike v času glede na Britanijo in ZDA močno povečujejo, kar govori v prid relativno manjšim dobavam cepiva EU državam.

Vaccinations-25012020-2Na drugi strani imate Madžarsko, ki je izbrala svojo pot in samostojno naročila cepiva tudi izven EU dobav (nakup ruskega in kitajskega cepiva), vendar pa potek cepljenja tam ni nič hitrejši.  Madžarska je celo na spodnji meji EU držav po stopnji cepljenja na 100 tisoč prebivalcev.

EK se je torej v trilemi med hitrostjo, ceno in varnostjo cepiva odločila za stranico trikotnika, ki jo definirata nizka cena in večja varnost cepiva (kasnejša odobritev). Bo zaradi te odločitve, kot pravi Munchau, po nepotrebnem umrlo nekaj deset tisoč ljudi več? O tem bo povedala več zgodovina, čeprav je tovrstne stvari težko dokazovati, saj nimamo counterfactual (dobre kontrolne skupine).

As of January 22, the EU had vaccinated only 1.89% of its population, whereas the UK vaccinated 9.32%. Moreover, the daily rate of increase is faster in the UK. UK vaccinations not only started earlier, the gap is still widening. 

You can’t blame logistical errors. What happened is that the EU did not secure enough vaccines. That, in turn, slowed down the pass-through. The Commission’s headline numbers are not deliveries. Already in November, the head of Moderna warned that the EU was dragging out negotiations. AstraZeneca, which is distributing the Oxford vaccine, said deliveries to the EU will take longer than previously anticipated. Pfizer, which distributes the German BioNTech vaccine, is now warning the EU of supply bottlenecks because of problems with a production site in Belgium.

What happened here is that the EU did a Brexit trade deal with the pharma industry: it tried to lock in a perceived short-term price advantage at the expense of everything else. Instead of prioritising the speed and security of supplies at any price, the EU prioritised the price. The EU paid 24% less for the Pfizer vaccine than the US, for example. For the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, the price gap is 45%. The UK almost certainly paid a lot more. It is no wonder that the manufacturers are prioritising orders on a first-come, first-serve basis, and from countries that pay the full price. The price difference is macroeconomically irrelevant. But if vaccine shortages lead to longer lockdowns, the indirect effect of that short-sighted policy will be massive.

At one point, the cost of this policy error will also be measurable in terms of human lives. This is not possible now because we don’t know the future spread of the virus. We know that the UK mutant has arrived on the continent, but has not yet unleashed its full pandemic force. In the most benign scenario, the current lockdown might prevent the worst. In the worst case scenario, the vaccination delay would be a calamity that could costs tens of thousands of lives.

So why did EU governments shift responsibility for vaccination procurement to the EU in the first place? Angela Merkel reasoned that it would have strained EU cohesion if Germany had procured privileged supplies of the BioNTech vaccine. What she did not consider is that the EU is ill-equipped for this task. To this day, the EU’s DNA is that of a producers’ cartel. Its priority is not to secure supplies, but reduce costs and achieve some balance between French and German interests. Triangulation is what Brussels does for a living. Whatever-it-takes is not part of its culture.

On a broader perspective, the vaccine disaster is the culmination of a trend that started with the Maastricht Treaty. Until then, the EU did only a few things well: the customs union, the Schengen travel zone, and to a lesser extent, the single market. The EU’s competencies have progressively widened since, but the results are mostly disappointing. In the early 2000s, the EU obsessed about the Lisbon Agenda for structural reforms, which brought few concrete benefits. Nor did the Juncker investment programme a decade later. The vaccination disaster differs in only one respect: it will be blamed for the loss of human lives.

There will undoubtedly be calls for resignations. But for me, the more important issue is the conclusions EU citizens will draw from it. For starters, the EU has just provided a hindsight argument in favour of Brexit. The UK would not have proceeded with vaccinations as quickly if it had subjected itself to the same policy. The last thing the EU ever wants to do is give people a rational, non-ideological reason for euroscepticism. 

It has just done that.

Vir: Wolfgang Munchau, Eurointelligence

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