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Europe's week: AstraZeneca vaccine doubts and Rutte's decisive victory

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Europe's week: AstraZeneca vaccine doubts and Rutte's decisive victory
Copyright  PIROSCHKA VAN DE WOUW/AFP
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The European vaccination campaign's already slow start suffered a new blow this week.

A majority of EU countries temporarily suspended or limited the use of the AstraZeneca coronavirus jab, after reports of possible side-effects, including cases of blood clots in people that received the shot.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) did eventually conclude that the inoculation is "safe and effective", but that didn't mean every member state reinstated its use, including Finland, which suspended use of the jab, despite the regulator's advice.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen made it clear that things would only get worse without vaccinations.

"If we have a look at the epidemiological situation, it is getting worse. It is worrisome. We see the variants, mainly B117 (first detected in the UK). We see the crest of a third wave forming in member states and we know that we need to accelerate the vaccination rates," von der Leyen explained.

The EMA and the World Health Organization both said vaccination campaigns must continue and that the benefits of the vaccinations far outweigh potential risks.

But the Commission believes that despite the temporary pause of AstraZeneca jabs, the overall vaccination objectives remain unchanged, as other vaccine makers have announced they would step up their deliveries.

”I can say that we are on target and our target for 300 million doses by the end of June and to have 70 per cent of the adult population in Europe vaccinated by the end of the summer - these targets are within reach," Margaritis Schinas, Commission Vice President told Euronews.

Brussels also laid out its plans for a vaccination certificate, officially known as a Digital Green Certificate, that will facilitate travel within the EU and hopefully save the summer holiday season.

Rutte set for a historic fourth term

Just north of the Belgian capital, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte managed to win a mandate for a historic fourth term this week. It would make him the country's longest-serving prime minister, after already having been in office for over a decade.

"I note that the result of this election is that Dutch voters gave my party an overwhelming vote of confidence," Rutte said as exit polls were released.

Turnout was at 82.6 per cent, according to exit polls, a considerably high level given the ongoing pandemic.

Brexit legal action

Brussels also launched legal action against the UK after the British government decided to delay the implementation of checks on certain goods crossing the Irish Sea, coming just three months after the deal was signed.

A spokesperson for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the move to delay bringing in border check between the UK and Northern Ireland for food, parcels and pets is part of the process of implementing a legal treaty and not something that should warrant legal action.

The Irish weren't necessarily seeing it like this, however, with Neale Richmond a spokesman for Tánaiste Leo Varadkar's Fine Gael party telling Euronews that the British actions were unhelpful.

"Unilateral action and saying it should just be scrapped is not going to achieve anything. What we are most afraid of in Ireland is a destabilising situation. Brexit is the big destabiliser and now the British government action of the last work night is merely making that even more difficult," Richmond said.