EU threatens to block or restrict vaccine exports as row explodes over supply

The EU has threatened to slap tight controls on exports of a key Covid vaccine after a row exploded over supply.

Brussels issued the grim warning last night after AstraZeneca said it would supply “considerably fewer doses” of its UK-manufactured jab than first agreed.

Health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said the EU “will take any action required to protect its citizens and rights”.

And she declared an “export transparency mechanism” will be installed “as soon as possible”.

New export controls could block or restrict the supply of the Pfizer jab to Britain – because it is manufactured in Belgium.

European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides speaks to the media
European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides speaks to the media

The EU’s comments sparked alarm and fury among UK Tory MPs.

Eurosceptic David Jones told the Telegraph: “Frankly it seems like a rather childish and spiteful way to behave.”

And UK Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi told Times Radio: “Vaccine nationalism is the wrong way to go.

“No one is safe until we’re all safe.”

He added: “We need to work together rather than begin to muse policies of vaccine nationalism.”

The row comes as the UK steams ahead with its vaccination programme with more than 6.5million first doses given.

In the last month, the UK has refused to publish figures on its supply – partly due to fears other countries could object.

The EU’s comments appear to suggest it could force those figures to be disclosed.

Ms Kyriakides said: ”In the future, all companies producing vaccines against Covid-19 in the EU will have to provide early notification whenever they want to export vaccines to third countries.”

Mr Zahawi today insisted he was “confident” the Pfizer supply would continue to the UK.

Asked if the EU could stop Pfizer vials leaving its borders, Mr Zahawi told Sky News: “No, I’m confident that the Pfizer vaccine will be delivered.

“Pfizer have made sure that they have always delivered for us, they will continue to do so.

Nadhim Zahawi today insisted he was “confident” the Pfizer supply would continue to the UK
Nadhim Zahawi today insisted he was “confident” the Pfizer supply would continue to the UK

“They have made a very important announcement on the equitable supply of the whole world, including the European Union, and I’m sure they will deliver for the European Union, the United Kingdom and for the rest of the world.

“We have got 367 million vaccines that we have ordered from seven different suppliers, so I’m confident we will meet our target and continue to vaccinate the whole of the adult population by the autumn.”

AstraZeneca, which developed its shot with Oxford University, told the EU on Friday it could not meet agreed supply targets up to the end of March.

“Initial volumes will be lower than originally anticipated due to reduced yields at a manufacturing site within our European supply chain,” AstraZeneca said on Friday.

An EU official told Reuters they were expecting a 60% cut to 31 million doses from AstraZeneca.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had a call with AstraZeneca’s chief Pascal Soriot to remind him of the firm’s commitments.

News also emerged on Monday that the company faces wider supply problems.

Australia’s Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters AstraZeneca had advised the country it had experienced “a significant supply shock”, which would cut supplies in March below what was agreed. He did not provide figures.

Thailand’s Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said AstraZeneca would be supplying 150,000 doses instead of the 200,000 planned, and far less than the 1 million shots the country had initially requested.

AstraZeneca declined to comment on global supply issues.

A UK government spokeswoman said: “We remain in close contact with all of our vaccine suppliers.

“Our vaccine supply and scheduled deliveries will fully support offering the first dose to all four priority groups by February 15.”


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