The United Kingdom still leads over the European Union in terms of coronavirus vaccine doses administered per capita, but this gap is narrowing, as the initial problems encountered by the EU—namely delays in contract negotiations and issues of supply—have been largely resolved. Nevertheless, public discourse is still dissecting the benefits and drawbacks of the centralised EU scheme, whereby member states ceded responsibility to the EU for procuring vaccines. In the latest research by Redfield & Wilton Strategies, we asked the publics in France, Germany, Italy, and Spain to reflect on the relation between the EU and COVID-19 vaccine procurement.
Respondents in France, Germany, and Italy are fairly split on whether being part of the EU’s vaccine procurement programme helped or hindered the vaccination effort in their respective countries. In Spain, however, a majority (51%) says that this joint effort has helped vaccine efforts in Spain.
Meanwhile, pluralities in France (35%) and Italy (35%) say that being part of the EU neither helped nor hindered vaccine efforts in their countries, as do 37% of German respondents. In Germany, a marginally greater proportion (38%) say being in the EU hindered Germany’s vaccine efforts, whereas only 11% say it helped. In Italy, these proportions are largely reversed, with 34% feeling that Italy’s vaccine efforts were helped by being in the EU’s programme and 19% feeling they were hindered. Similarly, in France, 26% of respondents say that France’s vaccine efforts were helped by being in the EU’s programme, and 19% say they have been hindered.
These findings—of conspicuously more positive views toward the EU’s vaccine programme among Spaniards—corroborate our previous research suggesting that pro-EU sentiment is comparatively higher in Spain than in these other European nations.
There is greater consensus on how the UK’s independence from the EU has affected its own vaccination programme: pluralities in each of the four nations feel that being outside the EU has neither helped nor hindered the United Kingdom with its vaccine rollout. This opinion is held by 39% of Germans, 41% of Spaniards, 41% of Italians, and 39% of French respondents.
However, in each country, respondents who feel the UK’s vaccine rollout has been affected by the UK being outside of the EU tend to think it has been positively affected. Around a quarter of the German (28%), French (26%), and Spanish (24%) publics think the UK’s vaccine rollout has been helped by being outside of the EU. Conversely, those who think the UK’s vaccine rollout has been hindered by being outside of the EU make up only a small proportion of each sample (13% in Germany, 11% in France, and 19% in Spain). Italians appear more divided, with 33% thinking being outside the EU has helped the UK’s vaccine rollout, and 13% thinking it has hindered the rollout.
Despite this general ambivalence about whether the UK’s independence from the EU has aided its vaccination programme, it appears that many Europeans are convinced of the benefits of national independence when it comes to pandemic management. A majority (62%) of Germans, and pluralities of Italian (43%) and French (49%) respondents, say that their countries should seek to procure new vaccines for future diseases independently. Again, Spain is here the exception: a majority (52%) of Spaniards think that Spain should procure new vaccines for future diseases through the European Union. Nevertheless, a sizable portion—34%—of those surveyed say Spain should procure vaccines independently in future.
Italians are again the most divided on this question, with as many as 40% of respondents saying Italy should procure new vaccines for future diseases through the EU. Meanwhile, only 28% of French and 22% of German respondents think the same for their respective countries.
Overall, our research suggests that the French, German, Italian, and Spanish publics are somewhat divided when it comes to views on the EU’s role in COVID-19 vaccination programmes. With the exception of Spain—where pro-EU views appear to be in the majority—these European nations are split on whether being in the EU’s procurement scheme has had a positive or negative effect on their respective national vaccine efforts. Yet, although pluralities across these four countries think the UK’s independence from the EU has not affected its vaccine rollout, we nevertheless observe moderate levels of support for the procurement of future vaccines independently from the European bloc.