VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria will provide the Czech Republic with 30,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz's office said on Friday in what it called a display of solidarity after it felt the European Union did not do enough to help its neighbour.
After days of negotiations, EU ambassadors on Thursday agreed to change the bloc's vaccine distribution system for 10 million BioNTech-Pfizer doses due to be delivered in the second quarter, so needier countries could receive more.
Of those 10 million doses, 2.85 million so-called "solidarity vaccines" will be shared between five countries - Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia and Slovakia.
Czech media reported that the country would see a net loss of 70,000 vaccine doses due to the new distribution system after opposing the plan that would have provided more.
Austria said on Thursday night it was "incomprehensible" that its neighbour the Czech Republic, which has been hit hard by the more dangerous British variant of virus, was not given more doses. On Friday it followed up on a pledge to act alone.
"We will...support the Czech Republic bilaterally with 30,000 doses of vaccine and believe it is very positive that we have also heard that other European countries are prepared to do the same," a statement by Kurz's office said.
"We do not want to accept that one of our neighbouring countries is left behind," it added.
Kurz is under fire from the opposition for Austria's failure to order as many vaccine doses as it was entitled to under the EU scheme. It failed in a bid to obtain more doses than its regular per-capita share on Thursday.
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, who earlier in the day said he would fight the EU plan and called it a scandal, thanked the Austrian Chancellor for the extra doses.
"We are very grateful for this generous help, especially from friends who are also in need of more vaccines, but they understand how difficult is our situation," Babis said on Twitter. "This is real solidarity!"
Babis, who also told news website Seznam Zpravy this could push the Czechs to consider using Russia's Sputnik vaccine, said on Twitter Slovenia would donate 10,000 doses as well.
(Reporting by Francois Murphy, additional reporting by Michael Kahn in Prague; Editing by Mark Heinrich, Kirsten Donovan and Marguerita Choy)