UK may stop shipping vaccines to the EU warns expert
Brussels has already tightened the rules on shot deliveries beyond its borders in a move which would give it greater scope to block shipments to countries with higher inoculation rates such as Britain, or which are not sharing doses that they produce. The spectre of export restrictions has sparked many concerns, given the global nature of vaccine production, in which shots have hundreds of ingredients sourced in dozens of countries.
Should it really come to export restrictions, that would be a ‘lose-lose’ situation for everyone
And pharma companies fear blocking the supply of vaccines or raw materials could disrupt pandemic-fighting efforts as the world struggles to contain a third wave of infections.
Pfizer boss Sabine Bruckner said: “We have observed these recent developments with concern.
“Our executive leadership has been in direct contact with the European Union.
“Our position has been laid out, we are very critical, we can’t support it at all.
“Should it really come to export restrictions, that would be a ‘lose-lose’ situation for everyone, also for the members of the European Union.”
EU boss Ursula von der Leyen
The new rules set out by the European Commission, which oversees EU trade policy, expand existing measures aimed at ensuring planned exports by manufacturers do not threaten the bloc’s supply.
They add 17 previously exempt countries including Israel, Norway and Switzerland to the list of countries for which exports of EU-produced vaccines require licences.
Ms Bruckner’s warning came after a Swiss vaccine summit at which Health Minister Alain Berset predicted his country would receive 10.5 million vaccines from suppliers including Pfizer and Moderna by July, enough to vaccinate everybody in Switzerland who wants a shot.
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New EU rules could disrupt vaccine exports to the UK
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EU leaders met today to try to find a common path out of the pandemic as infections continue to surge in many of their countries.
With distribution of shots uneven across the bloc and member states divided over whether to take a tougher line on vaccine exports, Emmanuel Macron voiced frustration over national inoculation programmes that are running far behind Britain and the US.
He said: “We didn’t shoot for the stars. That should be a lesson for all of us. We were wrong to lack ambition, to lack the madness, I would say, to say: It’s possible, let’s do it.”
By March 23, Britain had administered nearly 46 vaccines for every 100 people, compared with under 14 per 100 in the 27-nation bloc it left last year, according to figures compiled by website Our World In Data.
Europe’s shambolic rollout has been beset with delays and led to a row with the UK, which has imported 21 million doses made in the EU.
Britain says it did a better job negotiating with manufacturers and arranging supply chains but the EU says it should share more, notably to help make up a massive shortfall in contracted deliveries of AstraZeneca shots.
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Global vaccination figures
Global coronavirus cases
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, under pressure at home after making a U-turn on plans for an extended Easter holiday to break a third wave of Covid-19, defended the EU’s decision to procure vaccines jointly for all member states.
She said: “Now that we see that even small differences in the distribution of vaccines cause big discussions, I would not like to imagine if some member states had vaccines and others did not.
“That would shake the internal market to its core.”
Several EU countries have complained that vaccines are not being distributed equitably, which Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz warned could cause the bloc great harm if it was not rectified.