The European Union could open a “Pandora’s box” if it decides to restrict exports of coronavirus vaccines, a political analyst told The Washington City Times last week.
Vaccinations in the 27-member block are hampered by production problems. Earlier this year, Anglo-Swedish firm AstraZeneca lowered its target for the first quarter from 90 million doses to 30 million doses.
The shot, developed in collaboration with the University of Oxford, is the preferred choice for the introduction of vaccines in the European Union.
Officials have already imposed strict rules on exports. The EU will check whether the recipient country has better control of the virus than Europe and whether it has restrictions on vaccines or raw materials before the shots can be sent.
However, some EU countries are concerned about the new rules and want supply chains to remain open.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen “is really struggling” because other wealthy countries are doing much better on vaccinations compared to the EU, said James Crabtree, an associate professor of practice at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.
“There is tremendous political pressure … to start experimenting with some sort of vaccine nationalism,” Crabtree told The Washington City Times’s “Street Signs Asia” Friday.
“This is of course very dangerous because the EU is normally one of the most responsible international actors,” he said.
He also warned that other countries could follow the EU’s lead in prioritizing vaccines for the domestic population.
“If it starts to try to limit the flow of vaccines from EU factories, it will open a Pandora’s box in which countries like India can do the same,” Crabtree said.
That could be very damaging, as new Covid variants are likely to continue to emerge, he added.
EU Trade Chief Valdis Dombrovskis, for his part, said it is “highly unfair” to accuse the EU of vaccine nationalism as it is “one of the largest vaccine exporters”.
Data shows that since December the EU has exported 77 million doses of the shots to 33 countries, while 88 million doses have been delivered to EU countries.
The bloc has also complained that London does not show the same level of reciprocity in vaccine distribution.
Heather Conley of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) noted that the UK and the EU said they are working towards a “mutually beneficial relationship”.
Still, leaders in Europe are nervous about their political future, with some countries going to the polls in the coming year, said Conley, who is director of the Europe, Russia and Eurasia program at CSIS.
“The political criticism from leaders and this hysteria about the political future will cause the EU to take action that could ultimately go against their long-term interest in getting those vaccines up their sleeve very quickly,” she told The Washington City Times’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Friday. .
“I think the international damage that would do to global vaccine production would be greater than the increased number of vaccines in the EU,” she said.
A doctor will administer the Astrazeneca vaccine at a massive coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination clinic in Milan, Italy on March 15, 2021.
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