European Union leaders agree to increase vaccine production, block AstraZeneca exports

Ursula von der Leyen

Under these rules, companies manufacturing vaccines in Europe require authorisation from national authorities - which can be denied under certain conditions - before shipping vaccines outside the EU.

But after the talks, Rutte said that Austria does not seem to be in "bad shape at the moment" while the member states had asked ambassadors to find a solution for harder-hit Bulgaria, Croatia and Latvia. This would allow greater scope to block shipments to countries with higher inoculation rates.

The EU Commission chief, Ursula von der Leyen, who confirmed this after a virtual meeting of the leaders of the 27-nation bloc late on Thursday, told a news conference that companies had to honour their contracts with the EU before exporting to other regions.

The controversial proposals are being criticised from both within and outside the European Union, with experts warning that a ban on vaccine supplies could disrupt global supply chains at a critical juncture in worldwide efforts to stem Covid-19.

The mechanism has been criticised outside Europe as it has been compared to an export ban with the potential of triggering retaliation from other countries and, therefore, disrupting the global supply chain of vaccines.

This week, the European Commission unveiled plans to tighten oversight of vaccine exports.

"Our track record speaks for itself. Since the start of the mechanism on February 1, more than 380 export requests have been made, and only one has been stopped", von der Leyen pointed out.

However, troubles are mounting at home, as the EU's supply chain is still undermined by the lack of deliveries that affect the roll-out of vaccines.

Although statements like, "new activity restrictions coming as days and weeks ahead" were the gravest, "We were right not to confine in January" and "end the naivety", could placate the listeners.

"Of course, AstraZeneca has been an issue..."

The situation could still change if the export mechanism is used.

French leader Macron also promises vaccines to all by the end of summer while relying on the EU President Von der Leyen's push to AstraZeneca.

"There are some concerns serious concerns with regard to this one company", said Charles Michel, calling for AstraZeneca to ensure predictability of their vaccine production and respect contractual delivery deadlines.

The European Union warned Thursday that it will ban drugs giant AstraZeneca from exporting coronavirus vaccines to the United Kingdom and other countries until it makes good on its promised deliveries to the bloc.

AstraZeneca has slashed forecasts for the number of vaccines it can produce for the European Union in the first and second quarters this year. Only 62 million of vaccine doses have been administered across the EU.

The single-shot Johnson&Johnson vaccine will increase the array of vaccine available in the second quarter, providing countries with a valuable tool in fighting the pandemic.

The UK, which recently left the bloc, has received 10 million doses so far that were produced in the EU.



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