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EU-UK COVID-19 vaccine row continues as export ban discussion looms

EU officials are set to discuss imposing a vaccine export ban this week

The row between the UK and EU over COVID-19 vaccine supplies continues, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson set to to speak to EU leaders ahead of a virtual meeting on Thursday regarding imposing vaccine export bans.

Last week, the European Commission’s (EC) president Ursula von der Leyen 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, according to von der Leyen, which would allow the EU to take ‘exceptional measures’ to secure supplies of COVID-19 vaccines when ‘severe difficulties arise’ in the supply.

Following this, Johnson told reporters that he was “reassured by talking to EU partners over the last few months that they don't want to see blockades".

The Prime Minister also issued a stark warning regarding the rise in cases on the continent, commenting that “people in [the UK] should be under no illusions that previous experience has taught us that when a wave hits our friends, I'm afraid it washes up on our shores as well”.

"I expect we will feel those effects in due course. That's why we're getting on with our vaccination programme as fast as we can,” said Johnson.

The issues of vaccine supply have caused the spotlight to fall on AstraZeneca's (AZ) manufacturing plant in the Netherlands, which plans to produce doses of the company's Oxford University-partnered vaccine.

According to the BBC, AZ has not formally applied for permission to deliver any shipment ‘imminently’ from the Dutch plant, run by Halix and based in Leiden.

“You have a UK production line which is producing exclusively for the UK, and AstraZeneca is significantly behind its deliveries to the EU and therefore it’s normal that we expect the plants based in the EU to be delivering to the EU customers,” said an EC official.

EU officials have said that AZ informed Brussels that the UK is using a clause in its supply contract to prevent vaccine exports until the British market is ‘fully served’, according to Reuters.

“The Brits are insisting that the Halix plant in the Netherlands must deliver the drug substance produced there to them. That doesn’t work. What is produced in Halix has to go to the EU,” an EU official told Reuters.

In the UK, health services have vaccinated a total of 26.8 million people between 8 December and 19 March – half of all adults in the country.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

22nd March 2021

From: Regulatory

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