PARIS — It’s said that the European Union grows stronger through crises. The bloc’s attempt at a coordinated vaccination program, less a rollout than a roller coaster, has tested that theory, and now the suspension of the AstraZeneca shots in many countries threatens to turn widespread disarray into an outright debacle.
“I feel like we are being used as guinea pigs,” said Khady Ballo, 21, a law student in the southern French town of Montpellier. “I would not get the AstraZeneca vaccine even if it is approved again.”
Although it seems likely that the European Medicines Agency, the 27-member union’s top drug regulator, will quickly pronounce the AstraZeneca vaccine safe, millions of Europeans have been shaken by the back-and-forth and will be more hesitant about vaccination.
“Before this, I was so pro-vaccines I would have dipped children into them,” said Maria Grazia Del Pero, 62, who works in tourism in Milan. But now, “I would not get AstraZeneca because that would be like playing Russian roulette.”
the sudden panic over the AstraZeneca shot, has left European governments on the defensive and Europeans reeling.
AstraZeneca said this week that a review of more than 17 million people who had received its vaccine found that they were actually less likely than the general population to develop dangerous clots.
European countries, led by France and Germany, have been torn between a strong desire to avoid what they call “vaccination nationalism,” and the realization that the European Union was not fully prepared for an operation on this scale. If integration of the bloc’s health policy has been fast-forwarded, with possible long-term benefits, lives have also been lost.
The sight of Britain powering ahead with vaccinations — more than 26 million doses have been given, more than three times the number in France — has been particularly galling, given its recent exit from the union. Some Europeans understandably ask why.