A nurse administers a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine at the Woluwe-Saint-Pierre vaccination center in Brussels, Belgium.
Jean-Christophe Guillaume | Getty Images News | Getty Images
LONDON – The European Commission on Wednesday presented new plans to limit exports of Covid-19 vaccines from the 27-member bloc.
Officials are concerned that drug companies will miss delivery targets in the coming months. And the commission, the EU’s executive arm, wants to make sure member states get all the photos promised for the second quarter.
These vaccines will be key to vaccinating 70% of the EU adult population by the end of the summer.
This tougher position from Brussels comes after it faced setbacks in the number of vaccines supplied by AstraZeneca. Earlier this year, the Anglo-Swedish company said it could deliver just 30 million doses of its vaccine, developed in conjunction with Oxford University, in the first quarter, instead of about 90 million doses.
And more recently, the pharmaceutical giant has also lowered second-quarter delivery expectations to less than half of what the bloc initially expected.
The AstraZeneca inclusion is important for the wider rollout in the European Union as some countries prefer it because it is cheaper and requires less stringent maintenance terms compared to others.
An EU official, who did not want to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, said during a briefing Wednesday that the new proposal is “not an export ban.” “There is a persistent shortage in vaccine production and there is also … an unfair enough balance when it comes to distribution,” said the official, adding that the goal is to close this gap and increase the increase the supply of vaccines. balanced.
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, suggested last week that the EU should consider stricter vaccine controls. She claimed at the time that although the EU had exported 41 million doses of Covid-19 shots to 33 countries around the world since January, some countries did not show the same level of reciprocity.
‘Not against the UK’
The renewed attitude in Brussels could become a problem for the UK, which has so far been the largest recipient of coronavirus shots in the EU, and where vaccination coverage is well above that of the EU.
“It’s not against the UK, but to make sure AstraZeneca lives up to its commitments with the European Union,” Arancha Gonzalez, Spain’s foreign minister, told The Washington City Times’s “Squawk Box Europe” on Wednesday.
“The export restrictions that we have prepared for were never intended against countries. They were intended to ensure that pharmaceutical companies would honor their commitments, with the contracts they entered into with the European Commission,” she added.
This is not the first time that the EU has proposed legislation to restrict exports of Covid-19 vaccines. The commission announced at the end of January that member states could prevent shots from leaving the bloc when pharmaceutical companies fail to deliver and when the vaccines were on their way to countries not considered vulnerable by the EU.
However, this legislation will expire at the end of March and the committee believes it should be ramped up for another six weeks.
The latest proposal will be discussed by the 27 heads of state at an EU summit on Thursday.
Earlier this week, Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin warned of a tougher vaccine export policy, saying it could undermine supplies of raw materials for vaccine production in the EU. “I am very much against it. I think it would be a very retrograde step,” Martin told RTE radio.