COVID-19 vaccination rollout across Europe

Author Details
Author (Corporate)
Publication Date 2020-
Content Type , ,


Information Guide concerning the vaccination process carried out across Europe to address the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

Selection of Official Websites and Useful Resources (check the latter half of the page for further sources):

Further information:

COVID-19 vaccines aim at preventing the condition by triggering an immune response. Most of these vaccines trigger theses immune responses to a tiny fragment of SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus that causes COVID-19 disease. If a person who has received a vaccine is infected by the virus later on, the immune system recognises the virus. As it is already prepared to attack the virus, the person's immune system is able to protect them from the disease.

The European Union became responsible for ensuring the authorisation of COVID-19 vaccines in the EU and the wider European Economic Area (EEA). In June 2020, the Commission published the so-called EU Vaccination Strategy. The European Council and the Member States also mandated the Commission to organise the joint procurement of vaccines. On 15 October, a further EC Communication was published on key elements to be taken into account by Member States in their national vaccination strategies.

A number of contracts - also known as Advance Purchase Agreements (APAs) - were signed between the European Commission and different pharmaceutical companies to develop a varied portfolio of COVID-19 vaccines and other treatments. These included contracts for securing billions of vaccine doses produced by BioNTech-Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Sanofi-GSK; Johnson and Johnson; CureVac and Moderna. The first vaccine - produced by BioNTech-Pfizer - was formally authorised by the European Commission on 21 December 2020, following an assessment by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and consultation with the EU Member States. Vaccination started across the EU on 27 December 2020. The vaccine produced by Moderna was approved by the Commission on 6 January 2021.

In late January, reports emerged over delays in the production of some of the vaccines prompting a reaction from the European Commission. In particular, a row developed between the Commission and AstraZeneca over manufacturing capacity and the fulfilling of the contract signed between the two sides. This issue eventually got mixed with the provisions of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement and the implications for Northern Ireland, following the adoption by the European Commission of a measure to temporarily control vaccine exports. On 29 January, the European Commission also announced the approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine for use in the EU. The vaccine produced by Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) was approved by the EU authorities on 11 March.

Elsewhere in Europe, the British government secured similar purchase agreements with a number of pharmaceutical companies. The UK's medicines authority (MHRA) authorised the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on 1 December 2020, in what was considered to be an extremely fast authorisation process. The first person was vaccinated against the disease in the United Kingdom on 8 December. In Russia, the National Research Centre for Epidemiology and Microbiology developed its own vaccine against COVID-19 as an alternative to the effort undertaken by (mostly western) pharmaceutical companies.

As the production and distribution of vaccines became central issues of the vaccination rollout, some countries started looking for alternatives to address those challenges. Export authorisations for vaccines were extended in the EU on 11 March 2021. In the same month, several European countries decided to suspend the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to a number of cases displaying serious side effects. On 18 March, the EU's EMA reaffirmed that the benefits of using this vaccine outweigh the risks of side effects.

Amid ongoing tensions related to vaccine exports, uncertainty over vaccine side effects and shortage of provision, the European Commission published on 17 March its vision for a coordinated easing of restrictions in the EU - including the establishment of the so-called Digital Green Certificates.

Related Links
Commentary and Analysis
Politico: Coronavirus vaccination in Europe — by the numbers
Euro|topics, November 2020: Vaccines: the world between hope and scepticism
TIME, 02/12/2020: How the U.K. Approved Pfizer's COVID-19 Vaccine Faster Than the U.S. and Europe
Euro|topics, December 2020: Green light for vaccine: time to celebrate?
Euro|topics, January 2021: Is the EU's vaccination campaign taking too long?
Euro|topics, January 2021: Covid vaccine: what to do about the sceptics?
Politico, 14/01/2021: 8 reasons the UK leads Europe’s coronavirus vaccination race
The Guardian: Opinion, 19/01/2021: EU's Covid vaccination debacle is down to institutional inflexibility
Euro|topics, January 2021: Vaccination strategy: what is blocking progress?
ECFR: Article, 27/01/2021: The geopolitics of covid vaccines in Europe’s eastern neighbourhood
Politico, 27/01/2021: How Europe fell behind on vaccines
The Conversation, 28/01/2021: What is behind the EU’s dispute with AstraZeneca over COVID-19 vaccines?
EUObserver: Analysis, 28/01/2021: The EU's vaccine strategy - the key points
Opean Access Government: News, 28/01/2021: Is this a vaccine war or the first post-Brexit war?
Foreign Policy, 28/01/2021: Europe’s Vaccine Disaster Isn’t Lack of Supply
BBC News, 28/01/2021: Covid: Why is EU’s vaccine rollout so slow?
The Economist, 30/01/2021: Europe needs quicker vaccinations and more stimulus
EurActiv: Opinion, 30/01/2021: The COVID-19 vaccine is a global public good
Euro|topics, February 2021: Row with Astrazeneca: an incompetent EU?
UK House of Commons Library: Insights, 02/02/2021: Northern Ireland Protocol: Article 16 and EU vaccine export controls
Carnegie Europe: Strategic Europe, 02/02/2021: Why the EU’s Vaccine Strategy Will Pay Off in the End
New Statesman, 03/02/2021: Why pro-Europeans should be incensed about the EU’s vaccines debacle
The Conversation, 03/02/2021: COVID vaccines: is it legal for the EU to restrict exports?
The Economist, 03/02/2021: How Europe dodges responsibility for its vaccine fiasco
Euro|topics, February 2021: Vaccination: arguments for global fairness
Euro|topics, February 2021: What is taking so long with the vaccines?
Reuters, 05/02/2021: Countdown to 'catastrophe:' Inside Europe's fight for COVID shots
Euro|topics, February 2021: How to deal with vaccine shortfalls in Europe?
France24, 06/02/2021: How the EU’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout became an ‘advert for Brexit’
Euro|topics, February 2021: Privileges for the vaccinated?
Foreign Policy, 08/02/2021: Why Europe Is Falling Behind on Vaccines
UKiCE: Explainers, 09/02/2021: The EU Vaccine Programme
BBC News, 10/02/2021: Covid: How Serbia soared ahead in vaccination campaign
Corporate Europe Observatory, 11/02/2021: Vaccine scarcity: how the EU’s appeasement of Big Pharma damages COVID-19 response
CAPX, 11/02/2021: The EU is learning from Britain’s vaccine success
EurActiv, 12/02/2021: Russia’s vaccine and the political side-effects for Europe
EUObserver: Opinion, 16/02/2021: I love the EU - but the vaccine strategy is a fiasco
LSE: EUROPP Blog, 18/02/2021: The EU’s vaccine debacle has revealed its limitations as a strategic actor
The Guardian: Commentary, 24/02/2021: Why is the EU running into so many difficulties with its Covid vaccine campaign?
Deutsche Welle, 02/03/2021: EU vaccine passport: An ethical and legal minefield?
The Guardian: Analysis, 15/03/2021: Europe’s caution over Oxford vaccine about more than the science
BBC News: Explainers, 15/03/2021: Covid: What’s the problem with the EU vaccine rollout?
The BMJ: No. 372, 16/03/2021: Covid-19: EU looks to speed up vaccine rollout
Bruegel: Blog, 17/03/2021: An update: Vaccination in the EU
Foreign Policy, 17/03/2021: Once Again, Europe Is Sabotaging Its Own Vaccine Rollout
The Economist: Leaders, 18/03/2021: How Europe’s vaccine caution can cost lives

Euronews: Tag: Coronavirus vaccine
Politico, 10/09/2020: Europe eyes loophole for early distribution of unlicensed coronavirus vaccine
BBC News, 11/11/2020: Coronavirus: EU buys 300m doses of BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine
Reuters, 19/11/2020: EU warns Hungary against use of Russia's COVID-19 vaccine
The Guardian, 23/11/2020: US, Germany and UK could start Covid vaccinations as early as December
BBC News, 08/12/2020: Covid-19 vaccine: First person receives Pfizer jab in UK
France24, 15/12/2020: First EU Covid-19 vaccinations likely before end of year, bloc’s commission chief says
Deutsche Welle, 22/12/2020: Coronavirus vaccines cross Europe as countries ready for rollout
France24, 26/12/2020: European Union begins coronavirus vaccine rollout as new strain spreads
BBC News, 27/12/2020: Covid: EU starts mass vaccination in 'touching moment of unity'
The Guardian, 27/12/2020: EU launches mass Covid-19 vaccination as new variant spreads
Reuters, 28/12/2020: EU's marathon COVID vaccination drive off to uneven start
BBC News, 06/01/2021: Coronavirus: Dutch shocked to be EU vaccination stragglers
The Local (Norway), 11/01/2021: What's the latest on Norway's Covid-19 vaccine rollout?
The Local (Norway), 16/01/2021: Norway warns of side effects of Covid-19 vaccine on elderly after deaths of frail patients
Associated Press, 17/01/2021: Vaccine skepticism hurts East European anti-virus efforts
VOA News, 19/01/2021: Serbia Becomes First European Country to Use Chinese COVID Vaccine for Mass Rollout
Reuters, 19/01/2021: European countries struggle to make most of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses
RTÉ News, 22/01/2021: AstraZeneca warns of limited vaccine supplies to Europe
France24, 23/01/2021: AstraZeneca says Covid-19 vaccine deliveries to Europe will be ‘lower than expected’
Reuters, 26/01/2021: Stick to your word, EU tells vaccine makers, as supply chains wobble
Reuters, 27/01/2021: EU demands AstraZeneca plan to break vaccine deadlock
TIME, 27/01/2021: Call Between AstraZeneca and E.U. To Go Ahead Amid Blame-Game Over Vaccine Supply
France 24, 27/01/2021: AstraZeneca vaccine row sets EU, UK on collision course
Politico, 27/01/2021: UK restricts COVID medicine exports amid AstraZeneca vaccine fight
RTÉ News, 27/01/2021: EU and AstraZeneca fail to make breakthrough, says EU
Deutsche Welle, 27/01/2021: Coronavirus: EU expresses dismay over AstraZeneca vaccine delays
The Guardian, 27/01/2021: Britain and EU clash over claims to UK-produced Covid vaccine
Politico, 28/01/2021: EU slams AstraZeneca but fails in push for vaccine
BBC News, 28/01/2021: Coronavirus: EU demands UK-made AstraZeneca vaccine doses
Associated Press, 28/01/2021: EU explores legal avenues amid AstraZeneca vaccine dispute
Politico, 28/01/2021: EU brandishes export ban to claim dibs on vaccines
EurActiv, 29/01/2021: Spain rallies behind EU vaccine strategy
The Guardian: Opinion, 31/01/2021: EU Covid incompetence leaves governments wanting vaccines, not excuses
The Guardian, 31/01/2021: 'The best advert for Brexit': European press reacts to EU Covid vaccine row
Politico, 31/01/2021: AstraZeneca to deliver 9M more coronavirus vaccine doses to EU
Bloomberg, 31/01/2021: Merkel to Convene Crisis Talks Amid Chaotic EU Vaccine Rollout
BBC News, 01/02/2021: Covid: EU and AstraZeneca in 'step forward' on vaccines
Associated Press, 01/02/2021: EU: AstraZeneca to supply 9 million more vaccine doses
Deutsche Welle, 01/02/2021: Coronavirus: BioNTech-Pfizer pledges 75 million more EU vaccines
The Local (Sweden), 02/02/2021: EU launches 'vaccine tracker' and shifts strategy away from AstraZeneca
The Guardian, 03/02/2021: EU leaders begin to feel heat over slow Covid vaccine rollout
The Local (Germany), 03/02/2021: 'We can work together': Germany moves to bring Russian vaccine into EU
Deutsche Welle, 05/02/2021: EU chief admits COVID vaccine blunders
The Moscow Times, 05/02/2021: Top EU Envoy ‘Hopes’ for Russian Vaccine’s Approval in Europe
Politico, 05/02/2021: Production snags likely to leave EU lagging in vaccinations for months to come
BBC News, 06/02/2021: Covid: Vaccine tensions stoke German criticism of EU's von der Leyen
Associated Press, 07/02/2021: UK vaccine gambles paid off, while EU caution slowed it down
Politico, 08/02/2021: French trust EU more than their government on coronavirus vaccine: poll
Associated Press, 17/02/2021: EU hails deals to get more vaccine shots, tackle variants
Euronews, 04/03/2021: EU first as Italy blocks export of 250,000 COVID vaccines to Australia
The Local (Italy), 04/03/2021: Italy blocks export of 250,000 AstraZeneca vaccine doses to Australia
The Guardian, 05/03/2021: Germany voices concern over Italy's block of vaccine export to Australia
BBC News, 05/03/2021: Covid: Italy 'blocks' AstraZeneca vaccine shipment to Australia
RTÉ News, 08/03/2021: EU chief warns bloc could halt further vaccine exports
Deutsche Welle, 08/03/2021: EU could block more vaccine exports, von der Leyen warns
EUObserver, 10/03/2021: EU blasts UK and Russia in 'vaccine propaganda' war
BBC News, 13/03/2021: EU closes ranks over Covid surge and vaccine delays
Reuters, 15/03/2021: WHO urges world not to halt vaccinations as AstraZeneca shot divides Europe
Politico, 16/03/2021: Politics threaten to cloud EU countries’ pause of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine
Deutsche Welle, 16/03/2021: COVID: BioNTech-Pfizer speeds up vaccine delivery to EU
EurActiv, 17/03/2021: Commission defends itself amid accusations of unfair vaccine distributions
Politico, 17/03/2021: Von der Leyen threatens to block vaccine exports unless EU ‘gets its fair share’
EurActiv, 17/03/2021: EU prepared to tighten COVID vaccine exports in veiled threat to UK
BBC News, 17/03/2021: AstraZeneca vaccine: Europe divided over suspensions as investigation continues
The Guardian, 17/03/2021: EU threatens to halt Covid vaccine exports to UK unless it gets ‘fair share’
Reuters, 17/03/2021: Political role under fire in European AstraZeneca vaccine suspensions
EurActiv, 17/03/2021: Australia urges EU to send 1 million COVID vaccines for Papua New Guinea
Associated Press, 17/03/2021: After vaccine freeze, European countries seek a quick thaw

Pfizer: Press Release, 21/12/2020: Pfizer and Biontech receive authorization in the European Union for COVID-19 vaccine
EU EMA: News, 21/12/2020: EMA recommends first COVID-19 vaccine for authorisation in the EU
EU ECDC: News, 21/12/2020: First COVID-19 vaccine authorised for use in the European Union
EU EMA: News, 06/01/2021: EMA recommends COVID-19 Vaccine Moderna for authorisation in the EU
European Commission: Press Release, 08/01/2021: Commission proposes to purchase up to 300 million additional doses of BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine
European Commission: Questions and Answers: COVID-19 vaccination in the EU (8 January 2021)
European Commission: Statement by President von der Leyen on additional doses of BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine (8 January 2021)
European Parliament: Press Release, 12/01/2021: COVID-19 vaccines: MEPs call for more clarity and transparency
European Parliament: Headlines, 19/01/2021: Covid-19 vaccinations: more solidarity and transparency needed
European Commission: Press statement by Commissioner Kyriakides on vaccine deliveries and on the vaccine export transparency scheme (25 January 2021)
European Commission: Remarks by Commissioner Stella Kyriakides on vaccines (27 January 2021)
European Commission: Press Release, 29/01/2021: Vaccines: contract between European Commission and AstraZeneca now published
European Commission: Press Release, 29/01/2021: European Commission authorises third safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19
European Commission: Read-out of the videoconference between President von der Leyen and CEOs of pharmaceutical companies (31 January 2021)
European Parliament: Press Release, 05/02/2021: MEPs urge EU countries to be transparent about their COVID-19 vaccine supplies
European Commission: Speech by President von der Leyen at the European Parliament Plenary on the state of play of the EU's COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy (10 February 2021)
European Commission: Remarks by Commissioner Stella Kyriakides in the Plenary of the European Parliament on the EU Vaccine Strategy (10 February 2021)
European Parliament: Press Release, 10/02/2021: COVID-19 vaccination: MEPs call for EU and global solidarity
EU EMA: News, 11/03/2021: EMA recommends COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen for authorisation in the EU
European Commission: Press Release, 11/03/2021: European Commission authorises fourth safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19
European Commission: Statement of the European Commission on the methodology used to determine the allocation of doses of vaccines under the Advance Purchase Agreements (13 March 2021)
EU EMA: News, 18/03/2021: COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca: benefits still outweigh the risks despite possible link to rare blood clots with low blood platelets
European Commission: Statement following the European Medicines Agency review of the COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca (18 March 2021)

ESO Records
Coronavirus Global Response Initiative

Subject Categories
Subject Tags ,
Countries / Regions
International Organisations