The European Commission presented new plans on Wednesday to restrict the export of Covid-19 vaccines from the 27-member bloc
LONDON — The European Commission presented new plans on Wednesday to restrict the export of Covid-19 vaccines from the 27-member bloc.
Officials are concerned that pharmaceutical firms will miss delivery targets in the coming months. And the commission, the EU’s executive arm, wants to ensure that member states will receive all the shots that have been promised for the second quarter.
These vaccines will be critical in order to reach its target of vaccinating 70% of the EU’s adult population by the end of the summer.
“While our Member States are facing the third wave of the pandemic and not every company is delivering on its contract, the EU is the only major OECD producer that continues to export vaccines at large scale to dozens of countries. But open roads should run in both directions,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement.
The proposals build on the mechanisms already in place, and will introduce two changes where EU member states will look at “reciprocity” and “proportionality” with their exports.
They will now consider whether the destination country restricts its own vaccine exports, or raw materials, and whether the destination country is ahead or behind the EU with its vaccine rollout.
This tougher position from Brussels comes after it suffered setbacks in the number of vaccines delivered by AstraZeneca. Earlier this year, the Anglo-Swedish firm said it could only deliver 30 million doses of its vaccine, developed alongside Oxford University, in the first quarter instead of around 90 million doses.
And, more recently, the pharma giant also cut delivery expectations for the second quarter to less than half of what the bloc was initially expecting.
The AstraZeneca shot is important for the wider rollout in the European Union, because some countries favor it due to it being cheaper and requiring less stringent maintenance conditions, compared with others.
A EU official, who did not want to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, said at a briefing Wednesday that the new proposal “is not an export ban.” “There is a continued shortfall in the production of vaccines and there is also … a not-fair-enough balance when it comes to distribution,” the official said, adding that the idea is to overcome this gap and make vaccine supply more balanced.
Von der Leyen already suggested last week that the EU should consider tougher vaccine controls. She claimed at the time that while the EU had exported 41 million doses of Covid-19 shots since January to 33 countries worldwide, some nations were not showing the same level of reciprocity.
Data from the commission shows that from the exports so far, the U.K. has received the most, more than 10 million doses; followed by Canada, which has received 6.6 million; and then Japan with 5.4 million.