Brussels Threatens To Block Exports Of Covid Vaccines From EU To UK Amid Row Over AstraZeneca Supply
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has warned the EU is 'ready to use whatever tool we need' to secure their Covid vaccine supply including halting exports (Alamy)
The EU is threatening to block exports of vaccines to countries including the UK saying Europe must “get its fair share”.
Commission president Ursula von der Leyen accused manufacturer AstraZeneca of "underproducing and underdelivering", despite the fact many countries have currently suspended using that version of the jab.
She warned “we are ready to use whatever tool we need” to ensure member states get a reliable supply of doses as many of them are suffering through a new wave of coronavirus infections.
Highlighting that 41 million doses had been exported in six weeks from the EU to 33 different countries, including millions of the Pfizer version manufactured in Belgium and shipped to the UK, von der Leyen told a press conference in Brussels today: “Open roads run in both directions.
“This is why we need to ensure that there is reciprocity and proportionality. I want to be clear on reciprocity.
“If the situation does not change, we will have to reflect on how to make exports to vaccine-producing countries dependent on their level of openness.
“So we are exporting a lot to countries that are themselves producing vaccines and we think this is an invitation to be open so that we also see exports from those countries coming back to the European Union.
“The second point that is of importance for us – we will reflect on whether exports to countries who have higher vaccination rates than us are still proportionate.”
Her comments appeared to make a clear reference to the UK, which is also using millions of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine produced domestically, and has a far higher rate of vaccination than the EU.
She added: “In other words, we want reliable deliveries of vaccines, we want to increase in the contracts, we want to see reciprocity and proportionality in exports and we are ready to use whatever tool we need to deliver on that.
“This is about making sure that Europe gets its fair share.”
The European Commission president’s extraordinary intervention comes as a growing number of countries have suspended using the AstraZeneca vaccine over fears it is linked to blood clots.
But the Prime Minister has backed the version developed by Oxford University and the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical giant by revealing he will be taking their one when he gets his own jab “very, very shortly”.
At Prime Minister’s Questions this lunchtime, Boris Johnson was asked by Tory MP Steve Brine about the “disinformation and apparent abandonment of scientific evidence in certain EU member states around the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab”.
Johnson replied: "Perhaps the best thing I can say about the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine programme is that I finally got the news that I'm going to get my own jab very, very shortly, I'm pleased to discover.
"But it will certainly be Oxford/AstraZeneca that I will be having.”
Earlier today Professor Jeremy Brown from the UK's vaccination committee said people across Europe will die from Covid-19 as a direct consequence of the decision to halt the rollout of the AstraZeneca version.
He told Good Morning Britain the move by more than a dozen European countries was "not sensible" and was "not logical”, and could lead people in the UK to unnecessarily have less confidence in the jab.
“It is confusing to understand why so many countries have decided to stop using the vaccine,” he said
"Many of those countries are going through a third wave, and by stopping using the vaccine they're actually literally causing more problems.
"By not using the vaccine, this is going to directly lead to an increased incidence of Covid infection and people will die as a consequence of these decisions."Sweden and Latvia have followed Germany, France and Spain in temporarily suspending AstraZeneca jabs in light of a small number of reports of bleeding, blood clots and low blood platelet counts.
In Italy, which has also paused the rollout, health minister Roberto Speranza said he and others are waiting for a European Medicines Agency (EMA) report on Thursday to provide the "the clarifications and reassurances necessary" to re-start using the vaccine.
But Emer Cooke, the EMA's executive director, said at a briefing yesterday there was "no indication" the vaccine was the cause of the "very rare" reported blood clots.
"The number of thromboembolic events overall in vaccinated people seems not to be higher than that seen in the general population," she added, urging people to keep taking the vaccine.