A leaked letter has shown Mrs Merkel personally intervened in the vaccine debate, by stopping German, French, Italian and Dutch health ministers from ordering more stocks of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine last summer. The EU now faces a shortage in the supply of COVID-19 vaccines, with European leaders under pressure to speed up the mass vaccination programme.
German newspaper Bild published a leaked letter from the four European health ministers to Ursula von der Leyen where they agreed to hand over control of vaccine orders to the European Commission.
In doing so, they stopped attempting to order more stocks of vaccine, despite having already secured 400million doses of Oxford University’ Astra-Zeneca vaccine.
The four ministers had tried to get enough vaccine doses for all Europeans.
The newspaper claims the letter was written under pressure from Mrs Merkel, who wanted to send a signal of solidarity at the start of Germany’s six-month EU presidency, which started in July 2020.
The four ministers wrote: “We believe that it is of utmost importance to have a common joint and single approach towards the various pharmaceutical companies.
“We also consider that speed is of the essence in this case. So we deem it very useful if the Commission takes the lead in this process.”
But now the EU is failing to secure sufficient stocks of the vaccine and is being criticised over the slow pace of national vaccination programmes.
Mrs Merkel is now facing a mounting backlash over Germany’s vaccination strategy.
He commented on the offers for more vaccination doses in the summer, and in the late summer from Biontech.
Mr Zipp added: “We would now have them available.”
Bild has also written a damning editorial where the newspaper demands Mrs Merkel explains herself regarding the letter and the vaccine strategy.
The paper writes: “People will die because they are not vaccinated even though they could have already been vaccinated. They won’t get vaccinated because there aren’t enough vaccine doses.
“Not in Germany, not in Europe. In other places there is though, imported from Germany.
“It was Chancellor Merkel who decided by herself and against other councils to leave the procurement of the vaccine to the EU.
“She overlooked the fact that the EU administration is not efficient enough to transfer responsibility for countless human lives in Germany and Europe.
“In an international comparison, the EU has failed in this historic task.
“It manages the shortage in solidarity. Instead of organising help pragmatically and quickly.”
Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg