EU’s mask slips as VDL risks blockading UK vaccine supplies – ‘Brussels means business’

Vaccine row: Commentator says EU is ‘playing tit-for-tat’

The European Commission President said pharma firms must honour their commitments after the bloc pumped in billions to fund research and development of the first coronavirus vaccines. She announced plans for a “vaccine export transparency mechanism” to monitor drug giants sales to non-EU countries amid anger at the slow rollout of jabs across the bloc. Speaking at a virtual Davos event, Mrs von der Leyen said: “The European Union, and others, helped with money…large sums were invested to build research capacities and productions facilities early. Europe invested billions to help develop the world’s first COVID-19 vaccines, to create a truly global common good.

“And now the companies are must deliver. They must honour their obligations. This is why we will set up a vaccine export transparency mechanism. Europe is determined to contribute to this global common good but it also means business.”

Her intervention comes after EU health boss Stella Kyriakides announced controls on firms wanting to export doses out of the bloc.

Manufacturers will have to provide “early notification” to the European Commission if they plan to sell abroad.

Ms Kyriakides added that if firms failed to comply, “the EU will take any action required to protect its citizens and rights”.

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Brussels has been widely criticised for its joint vaccine scheme, which is lagging behind the likes of Britain, Israel and the United States.

It is understood that the crackdown on vaccine manufacturers was sparked after UK-based AstraZeneca said it would slash the number of vaccines sent to EU member states.

In a series of crisis meetings, Mrs von der Leyen accused CEO Pascal Soriot of breaching “contractural arrangements” to supply up to 400 million doses to EU capitals.

AstraZeneca, the maker of the Oxford-developed jab, did not announce similar plans for Britain, which paid almost double the price per dose paid by Brussels.

The EU’s drugs watchdog is set to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine by Friday – a month later than it was authorised by the UK.

The Anglo-Swiss firm said it could only deliver around 30 million jabs to the EU due to production hiccups.

The Commission said the late-night talks “resulted in dissatisfaction with the lack of clarity and insufficient explanations”.

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AstraZeneca has blamed production hiccups for its need to cut the number of doses being sent to EU states.

Germany is supporting EU-wide restrictions on exports of coronavirus vaccines being exported outside of Europe.

Health Minister Jens Spahn said: “It makes sense that we have an export restriction.

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“That means that vaccines that leave the European Union need a permit so that we can, first of all, know what is being manufactured in Europe, what is leaving Europe, where it is leaving Europe and whether it is then also a fair distribution.”

AstraZeneca’s jab is being manufactured in the Netherlands, Germany, and Britain.

Pfizer’s alternative, which is also crucial in the UK’s vaccination drive, is being produced in Belgium.

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