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22nd Mar 2021

EU ‘set to block AstraZeneca exports to UK’ as vaccine row intensifies

Claudia McInerney

Ursula von der Leyen says the EU may ‘forbid’ AstraZeneca vaccine exports

The European Union has threatened to stop exports of Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine to the UK, it has been reported.

This weekend, the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that the EU could use its power to “forbid” exports of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to the UK.

Von der Leyen added: “That is the message to AstraZeneca.”

The warning comes after the mounting frustration in Europe that the EU is not receiving the supplies it expected from the British-Swedish vaccine manufacturer, AstraZeneca.

EU leaders are set to meet on Thursday to discuss the potential export ban of the vaccine to the UK.

A senior official told Bloomberg news agency that any vaccines produced in factories in Europe “will for now be reserved for local deliveries,” the Independent reported.

Speaking at the Commission’s response to Covid-19 in Brussels, Von der Leyen praised Biontech Pfizer and Moderna for delivering on their contracts.

However, she said: “We also know that AstraZeneca has unfortunately under-produced and under-delivered.”

She said that the “epidemiological situation” is “getting worse”, before adding “we know that we need to accelerate vaccination rates.”

“This is why we need to ensure that there is reciprocity and proportionality,” she added.

“We will reflect on whether exports to countries who have higher vaccination rates than us are still proportionate.”

When asked what message the UK would like to give the EU in response to the proposed vaccine halts, the Health Minister Helen Whately told Sky News: “One thing I think we can do is remind the EU of the commitments they’ve made.

“Particularly Ursula von der Leyen, the EU president, made a commitment to the prime minister that the EU wouldn’t block companies from fulfilling their contractual obligations to supply vaccinations – and the EU must absolutely stand by that commitment.”

She added that “vaccine nationalism” does not “do anybody any good.”

The dispute comes as countries in Europe are preparing for a third wave of the virus, whilst the UK has now vaccinated half of all adults.