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EU leaders debate COVID-19 vaccine export measures during virtual summit

AstraZeneca urged to ‘honour’ contract with EU before exporting doses elsewhere

European Union leaders met yesterday to discuss possible COVID-19 vaccine export measures in a bid to bolster the bloc’s roll-out of jabs to its citizens.

During a press conference following the summit, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen focused on AstraZeneca (AZ), warning the company to ‘honour’ its contract with the EU before exporting vaccine doses to other countries, such as the UK.

“We have to and want to explain to our European citizens that they get their fair share,” von der Leyen said at the news conference.

She added: “The company (AZ) has to catch up, has to honour the contract it has with the European member states, before it can engage again in exporting vaccines.”

Although leaders did not support a complete ban of vaccine exports from the EU, they supported tightening export controls ‘in principle’, according to the BBC.

This includes including “the criteria of reciprocity and proportionality” as part of the EU’s vaccine export mechanism, said von der Leyen.

French president Emmanuel Macron said he fully supported the vaccine export controls, adding that “it’s the end of naivety. I support the fact that we must block all exports for as long as some drug companies don’t respect their commitments with Europeans”.

Other EU leaders were not as fully supportive of tighter export controls, with Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte warning of “broader consequences” if stricter export measures are applied.

In a response to accusations of ‘vaccine nationalism’, von der Leyen said yesterday that the EU has exported 77 million doses of vaccines to 33 countries since 1 December 2020.

She added that the EU is also a lead donor of vaccine doses to COVAX, the international vaccine-sharing initiative that mainly provides vaccines to low and middle income countries.

“That shows that Europe is the region that exports the most vaccines worldwide,” von der Leyen commented.

In defence of the vaccine export measures, she added: "I think that it was good to introduce the export authorisation mechanism, indeed, to create transparency. Because that proves that the European Union is the most open reliably exporting region in the world."

The summit comes amid a growing number of cases of COVID-19 on the continent, with Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel saying earlier this week that "case numbers are rising exponentially and intensive care beds are filling up again” and that the situation is "serious".

Article by
Lucy Parsons

26th March 2021

From: Regulatory

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