Leaders of the European Union backed in principle of imposing tougher controls on exports of Covid-19 vaccines, stopping short of imposing a complete ban on export of the vaccines. This move came after a drawn-out row with the Anglo-Swedish manufacturer of the vaccine AstraZeneca.
The importance of the global supply chains necessary for production of vaccines was emphasised by the EU leaders in a post-summit statement.
Elements of the AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccination are manufactured in a number of EU states.
Before exporting its Covid-19 doses, AstraZeneca must “catch up” on deliveries to the EU, said the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. This marked “the end of naivety” from the EU, the French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters.
The program of roll out of the vaccines against Covid-19 in the EU has been sluggish and pharmaceutical companies – specifically AstraZeneca, has been blamed for the chaos and for not being able to deliver vaccine doses that had been promised.
Allegations against it of failing to honour its contract have been denied by AstraZeneca.
Only about 30 million AstraZeneca doses by the end of March is expected to be received by the EU which would be less than one third of what the EU was expecting to get.
“I think it is clear that first of all the company has to catch up,” von der Leyen told a news conference after the virtual leaders’ summit. “[It] has to honour the contract it has with European member states before it can engage again in exporting vaccines,” she said. “We want to explain to our European citizens that they [can] get their fair share.”
After introducing export controls on jabs produced within the bloc, accusations of so-called vaccine nationalism have been brought by the EU against the United Kingdom and the World Health Organization (WHO).
But “blockades” were not “sensible”, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned in response to the EU statements. UK’s vaccination drive would be threatened by a ban, he said and added that the roll out of the vaccine in the UK has been more successful than the vaccine programmes started in EU member countries.
Jabs produced for BioNTech/Pfizer in Belgium could also get blocked by a ban that extended beyond AstraZeneca’s disputed supply, Johnson also warned.
EU “shouldn’t be paying the price” for the UK’s vaccination policy, France’s foreign minister said on Friday. “One can’t play with blackmail, having given a lot of first jabs and then run into problems with the second,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told France Info radio.
EU was the “region that exports most vaccines worldwide”, von der Leyen said on Thursday and called on other countries to “match our openness”.
However it was just a day ago that the UK and the EU issued a joint statement in which both the parties promised to work together over Covid-19 vaccination after the two sides have been fighting over the vaccine made jointly by Oxford-AstraZeneca.
(Adapted from Standard.co.uk)