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EU considers blocking COVID-19 vaccine exports to the UK

EC president Ursula von der Leyen says she wants "to see reciprocity and proportionality in exports"

The European Commission’s president Ursula von der Leyen has warned that it 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.

“We are in the crisis of the century. We have to make sure Europeans are vaccinated as soon as possible. Human lives, civil liberties and our economy are dependant on the speed of vaccination moving forward,” she added.

The EC president also said that the bloc is waiting for doses of the AstraZeneca (AZ)/Oxford University vaccine, which are in the EU’s contract for potential deliveries, manufactured at sites in the UK.

According to The Guardian, most of the vaccines exported from the EU to the UK are the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine that is manufactured at the company’s European production sites.

"Let me be clear, we have not blocked the export of a single COVID-19 vaccine or vaccine components," UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the House of Commons last week.

However, ‘publicly available’ information indicates that COVID-19 vaccines are not being exported from the UK, according to the BBC.

"If the situation does not change, we will have to reflect on how to make exports to vaccine-producing countries dependant on their level of openness," said von der Leyen.

In response, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "The supply of vaccines from EU production facilities to the UK is fulfilling contractual responsibilities and we fully expect those contracts to be delivered.”

The EU has faced a number of problems during its COVID-19 vaccine roll-out, with supply issues previously being reported for both the Pfizer/BioNTech and the AZ/Oxford University vaccines.

The suspension of the AZ/Oxford vaccine by a number of EU countries, following reports of suspected blood clots in some who have received the vaccine, has hindered the EU's vaccination drive even further.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is due to make a statement today outlining its findings from an investigation into the AZ/Oxford vaccine and the associated blood clot reports.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

18th March 2021

From: Regulatory

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