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EU, UK working towards a ‘win-win’ situation to expand COVID-19 vaccine supplies

EU leaders are set to meet today to discuss proposed vaccine export plans

The European Commission (EC) and the UK issued a joint statement yesterday, announcing that they are working towards a ‘win-win’ situation over COVID-19 vaccine supply issues.

The EC and UK have been in discussions over what can be done to ensure a ‘reciprocally beneficial relationship’ between them regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine supplies.

The statement added: 'In the end, openness and global co-operation of all countries will be key to finally [overcome] this pandemic and ensure better preparation for meeting future challenges.'

The announcement comes ahead of a virtual summit taking place today, which will see EU leaders meet to discuss potential plans to tighten vaccine exports to countries with higher vaccination rates.

The EU’s COVID-19 vaccine roll-out has been slower than it has in the UK, with many EU countries currently facing growing infections, hospitalisations and deaths.

"The revision of the export transparency mechanism comes when the situation is alarming in many member states,” said Stella Kyriakides, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety.

With regards to the proposed export controls’ specific effect on the UK’s supplies, Kyriakides said "we're dealing with a pandemic and this is not seeking to punish any countries”.

The proposed export plans were announced by the EC’s president Ursula von der Leyen last week, who warned that the EU may halt exports to countries with ‘higher vaccination rates’ if supplies to the EU do not increase.

Von der Leyen added that she wants “to see reciprocity and proportionality in exports, and we are ready to use whatever tool we need to deliver on that”.

This could involve triggering article 122 of the EU treaty, which would allow the EU to take ‘exceptional measures’ to secure supplies of COVID-19 vaccines when ‘severe difficulties arise’ in the supply.

The EU will not introduce outright bans, according to the BBC, but will instead assess if vaccine manufacturers are fulfilling their contracts with the EU.

Media reports have linked AstraZeneca (AZ) with the EU’s vaccine supply issues, with the EC having requested that the Italian police inspect one of the company’s manufacturing sites in Anagi this week.

In response, the pharma company said that 13 million doses of its vaccine were waiting for quality control release at the Anagi plant, to be dispatched to the vaccines-sharing mechanism COVAX.

AZ said the vaccine was made outside the EU and brought to the Italian plant to for fill-finish. Another 16 million doses waiting for quality control release are to be dispatched to the EU.

The company added that around ten million doses are set to go to EU countries during the last week of March, with the balance to be delivered in April as the doses are approved for release.

‘It is incorrect to describe this as a stockpile. The process of manufacturing vaccines is very complex and time consuming. In particular, vaccine doses must wait for quality control clearance after the filling of vials is completed,” the company commented.

AZ has cut its target and now plans to supply the EU with 100 million doses by the end of June. This is a reduction on the 300 million doses detailed in its contract with the EU, according to Reuters.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

25th March 2021

From: Regulatory

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