The European Union's executive arm, the EU Commission, called on member states Tuesday to speed up their COVID-19 vaccination programs, saying nations should have at least 80% of their priority populations – front-line workers and people over 80 – vaccinated by March.
At a news conference in Brussels, Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas said the goal is to have 70% of the EU's adult population immunized by summer.
The EU has sealed six vaccine contracts for more than 2 billion doses, with Moderna, AstraZeneca-Oxford, Sanofi-GSK, Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, Pfizer-BioNTech and CureVac.
But only the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have been approved for use so far in the bloc, enough to vaccinate 380 million people, more than 80% of the bloc's population.
Compared with Britain, the United States and United Arab Emirates, the EU as a whole got a late start with its vaccination programs, and individual nations lagged behind that as well.
In a statement from her Twitter account Tuesday, EU Commission Chair Ursula Von der Leyen said meeting the 70% vaccination goal by summer could be "a turning point in our fight against the virus."
According to Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, 400,000 EU citizens have died from COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.
The European Commission has been weighing a Greek proposal to issue vaccination certificates to help get travelers to their vacation destinations more quickly and avoid another disastrous summer for Europe's tourism sector.
Kyriakides said the commission is working with member states to allow a vaccination certificates program to be quickly implemented across the bloc.