Marc MacSharry: It’s time to ask Uncle Boris for some vaccines

A notable tweet here, and from a notable source: Marc MacSharry would not, it’s fair to say, be known as a member of the vanishingly small west-brit wing of Fianna Fáil. If someone like him is urging the country to go cap in hand to the hated blonde ruffian in downing street asking for aid, things must be bad indeed:

“A short term loan” of vaccines is an interesting idea, though – how do you “borrow” a vaccine? Do they send us ten doses, and we send them back twelve in six months time, as payment of the principle and the interest? Or is it that MacSharry is brave enough to identify the only realistic source of faster supply, but not quite brave enough to phrase it in a way that might make it seem like what it would be – a bailout?

There’s good news, though, for the Deputy, and the increasing number of politicians who see the basic sense in what he’s saying: We probably don’t need to go to London to get more vaccines.

We could, for example, just buy some straight from the source. There is not now, nor has there ever been, anything preventing the Irish Government from doing its own deal with Astrazenica, or any other supplier, to buy the vaccines directly. Sticking with the EU’s disastrous common purchasing scheme is, and remains, a political choice.

The Israelis, for example, who are the world’s pace-setters on vaccination, bought their doses direct from Pfizer, and paid well over the odds for them. But what does that matter? Cost genuinely isn’t an issue when it comes to vaccines, because the economic windfall from an early return to normalcy will comfortably offset the extra price you pay up front.

But then, that’s looking at this issue entirely the wrong way: As a journalist friend noted to me at the weekend, if the Government had all the vaccines it needed tomorrow, it would then have to actually deliver them to people. Having vaccines is one thing, getting them into arms is quite another.

At the moment, the lack of supply can be blamed entirely on the European Union. And, you’ll have noticed, our politicians, usually very precious about defending the EU from any criticism whatever, haven’t exactly been rushing to defend the honour of our friends in Brussels.

That’s because a little bit of Euroscepticism does no harm, if the alternative is anger with the Irish Government. If people are going to be furious about the vaccine cock-up, then it’s entirely preferable that anger be directed at the EU, and not the Irish Government.

There’s another option, though: Because of the row between the EU and Astrazeneca, some EU politicians have, very unwisely, hyped up baseless concerns about the efficacy of the British vaccine. Meaning, unbelievably, that while we in Ireland face a shortfall, this is the situation in Germany:

Doctors and public health officials pleaded with Germans Thursday to take up AstraZeneca vaccines against the coronavirus after muddled communication about the efficacy of the British-made jabs hit demand.

Despite a raging debate about a sluggish EU rollout of vaccines, German healthcare facilities have reported several hundred thousand AstraZeneca vials sitting unused and rampant no-shows at scheduled appointments.

Officials in Italy, Austria and Bulgaria were also starting to signal some public resistance to the British vaccine, and France’s Health Minister Oliver Veran got the jab live on television to drum up support.

The EU has already paid for those “several hundred thousand” vials of unused vaccines, which are presently sitting in Germany, where people don’t want them because the German Government, to avoid embarrassment, foolishly slandered the Astrazeneca vaccine. So why can’t Ireland take them off their hands?

That’s a common sense solution, especially if you’re one of these people who’s a big believer in EU unity, and all that stuff. The efficient thing to do would be to redistribute Astrazeneca to countries where there’s a demand for it – like Ireland – and let the Germans wait for Pfizer, or some other product.

Won’t happen, of course. The last thing the Irish Government wants right now is enough vaccines. They’d have no excuses then, would they?

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