The French President said Europe was “a bit of a diesel” which “starts slowly but goes far”. Mr Macron was speaking on Greek television after being forced to cancel his scheduled participation in ceremonies in Athens to mark the bicentenary of the country’s demand for independence as a third wave of the pandemic sweeps across Europe.
He said: “We weren’t quick enough, not strong enough on this.
“This is quite true and we thought that the vaccine would take time to take off and so we probably dreamed less of the stars than others.
“And I think that must be a lesson for us. We were wrong to lack ambition, we should have said: ‘It is possible and we are going.’ We are perhaps too rational.”
Asked about the chaotic start to the EU’s vaccination campaign, he admitted not having “thought it would go so quickly”.
He said: “The Americans said in the summer of 2020: ‘let’s go, let’s go’.
“And so they have more vaccines. They had more ambition than us. And the money we gave for aid and accompanying measures, they invested it in vaccines and research.
“But we are catching up. We’re a bit of a diesel. We can no longer talk much about these engines, but they start slowly and go a long way.
“The EU has ordered 2.5 billion doses, so plenty for us, for solidarity, and to plan for the future.
“By the second half of the year, we will be the place that will produce the most vaccines in the world.”
READ MORE: France warns it won’t be ‘blackmailed’ into sending jabs to UK
Brussels has blamed massive shortfalls of AstraZeneca doses for the slow roll-out of vaccines across the bloc, while BioNTech/Pfizer said it had plans to sharply increase its deliveries in the second quarter.
European Internal Markets Commissioner Thierry Breton said vaccines produced by AstraZeneca within the bloc would stay there until the company returns to fulfilling its delivery commitments.
His comments echoed those of Commission President Ursula von der Leyen after a video conference summit of EU leaders yesterday.
He said Europe should be the world leader in producing coronavirus vaccines by the end of the year with 52 factories taking part in the process across the continent.
And he said Europe should have vaccinated enough people in the summer, possibly around mid-July, to achieve a “global immunity” level.
(Additional reporting by Maria Ortega)