Again every man for himself in European approach monkey pox virus

This weekend there was a long queue at the vaccination center in Lille, where many Belgians also had themselves vaccinated against the monkey pox virus. They do meet the French conditions for eligibility for an injection, but not the Belgian one. These are forced to be stricter due to a shortage of vaccines in our own country. However, the intention was to work together at European level in order to avoid differences.

Koen Baumers

There were only slightly more than three thousand vaccines against the monkeypox virus in stock in Belgium, making it impossible to call up all risk groups. In France they do – people can even drop by without an appointment.

This led to long queues in Lille, just across the border with West Flanders. It was up to 100 meters queuing on the sidewalk. Also in line are a lot of Belgians who comply with the French, but not the Belgian rules. France has “enough to vaccinate the entire target audience – some 250,000 people,” said French Health Minister François Braun.

The 30,000 doses ordered for Belgium are not due until the autumn. However, the European Union had decided to cooperate more closely. “The coronavirus pandemic has made it clear that EU-wide coordinated action is needed in health emergencies,” the European Commission said at the beginning of last year. “Gaps have emerged in terms of supply and demand, preparedness and response.”

HERA had to provide the solution. The Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority went on to provide “better preparedness” and “better response to serious cross-border threats”. And that by “quickly making the necessary facilities available, accessible and distributed”.

The queue in Lille Saturday morning.

The queue in Lille Saturday morning. ©  AFP

But the response seems slow and uncoordinated. The first cases of monkeypox appeared in May, but HERA did not order the first doses until mid-June. Germany and Spain had already placed orders on their own by then. The World Health Organization urged the EU to take the virus more seriously in early July, as 90 percent of cases were on that continent.

HERA increased the order to a total of 163,620 in mid-July. In the meantime, 13,000 cases have been confirmed in Europe, of which about 500 in Belgium. By comparison, Australia, where 57 cases have been counted, immediately ordered 450,000 doses. Last week, President Joe Biden declared a public health emergency in the United States.

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