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German minister angry at vaccine rollout, which EU chief defends

·1 min read

BERLIN, Feb 6 (Reuters) - German Finance Minister OlafScholz said on Saturday he was angry that more COVID-19 vaccineswere not ordered last year as EU chief executive Ursula von derLeyen renewed her defence of the European Commission's record onrolling them out.

EU countries have so far given first doses to just under 4%of their populations, compared with 11% for the United Statesand almost 17% for Britain, according to Our World in Data. Vonder Leyen has been under fire for the EU's slow rollout.

"I'm angry about some of the decisions that were taken lastyear," Scholz told BBC radio's Today programme. "I think therehad been the opportunity to order more of the vaccines."

Asked about von der Leyen's responsibility for the slowrollout, Scholz, speaking in English, replied: "I think it isnecessary that anyone learns the lesson, and this is also (true)for Europe. I think the European Union is strong."

Scholz, a Social Democrat, and von der Leyen, a ChristianDemocrat, served together in Germany's ruling coalition until2019, when she quit to take over as European Commissionpresident.

In an opinion piece to run in Sunday's FrankfurterAllgemeine Sonntagszeitung, von der Leyen said it was misleadingto say that sealing vaccine contracts earlier would have speededup their delivery.

"The bottleneck lies elsewhere. Producing a new vaccine isan incredibly complex business," she wrote, adding that "amongthe hundreds of components needed, important ingredients are inshort supply worldwide".

Describing the fight against the virus as "not a sprint, itis a marathon", von der Leyen added that "mutations worry us".

"We need to prepare today for a scenario in which the viruscan no longer be sufficiently suppressed with current vaccines,"she said.(Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Nick Macfie)