What follows the global pandemic? The global vaccine freakout. European politicians have their knickers in a twist about the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot.
The source of the panic was reports from Denmark and Norway that some people who received the British-made vaccine developed blood clots — though there is no evidence yet that the shot is at fault. Over a dozen European nations, including France, Germany, Ireland and Spain have temporarily suspended their use of Oxford-AstraZeneca, in what seems to be a team effort to mistake correlation for causation.
Sometimes the world cries out for American global leadership. The US is currently sitting on a stockpile of around 30 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. AstraZeneca has yet to apply for FDA approval for their shot. Joe Biden can show just how Special that Relationship is by getting the British shot approved here — and in turn prove to EU nations that there is nothing to worry about.
A key Biden campaign promise was to restore America’s relations with her European allies — the AstraZeneca skepticism mess offers the perfect opportunity to back Britain, who the President has favored less than other European nations so far. Approving the shot might even have the added bonus of smoothing over the early wrinkles appearing in the EU’s post-Brexit relationship with Britain. How’s that for global leadership?
Biden has claimed credit for expediting America’s mass vaccination program — he should speed up the FDA’s Phase III trial as well and get Oxford-AstraZeneca in Americans by the end of March.
In Europe, we are witnessing the credibility of institutions crumbling in real-time as continental technocrats spout the kind of anti-vaxx nonsense that you’d block your aunt on Facebook for. ‘We must always err on the side of caution, which is why it is sensible to press the pause button now as a precaution,’ said very un-chill Dutch health minister Hugo de Jonge.
Across the border in Belgium, de Jonge’s counterpart Frank Vandenbroucke disagrees completely: ‘When you know how the virus is making the rounds, it would be very imprudent to stop.’ The head of the European Medicines Agency is ‘firmly convinced’ that the benefits of the AstraZeneca shot outweigh the risks.
I’m half-British, so I have tons of friends and relatives who’ve had the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot and been absolutely fine. The UK has vaccinated 26 million people to the EU’s 50 million. But I’m also half-Irish, so I completely understand the reluctance to take Brits at their word. Obviously it is ridiculous to suggest Boris Johnson would stake the health of his country’s population on a shot that wasn’t safe — but Europeans have watched Britain make several high-stakes and (what they see as) logic-defying decisions in the past few years.
Europe urgently needs to be vaccinated — but the leadership to restore public trust clearly isn’t going to come from the European Union, after letting its member states founder throughout the rest of the pandemic.
In his long career, Joe Biden has got tons of foreign-policy decisions wrong. He can get one right now by leading Europe out of the darkness.