EU chief Von der Leyen threatens to halt exports of AstraZeneca jab

EU chief Von der Leyen threatens to halt exports of AstraZeneca jab
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20 March 2021
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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has threatened to stop exports of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine if promised deliveries don't arrive first. 

In an escalation of the row, Von der Leyen has said Anglo-Swedish pharma giant AstraZeneca had delivered only 30 percent of the 90 million vaccine doses it had promised for the first quarter of the year.

"We have the option of banning a planned export. That's the message to AstraZeneca – you fulfil your contract with Europe first before you start delivering to other countries," Von der Leyen told Germany's Funke media group.

The warning comes as the EU struggles to speed up its inoculation campaign, just as many member states face a third coronavirus wave and renewed curbs on public life.

 

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The company has blamed production delays at its EU plants, but European officials are furious that AstraZeneca has been able to deliver its UK contract while falling short on the continent.

 

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had his first dose of the AstraZeneca jab – but many Europeans are still to be vaccinated. /Frank Augstein/AFP

 

In the interview with German newspapers, Von der Leyen reiterated that the EU's contract with AstraZeneca states that vaccines destined for the bloc would be produced in both EU and UK plants.

"But we haven't received anything from the Brits, although we are delivering to them," she said, adding that the European Commission had sent a "formal letter" to the company to complain.

EU-based manufacturers have shipped 41 million vaccine doses to 33 countries since early February, Von der Leyen said, making the bloc one of the world's biggest export regions for COVID-19 vaccines.

"I can't explain to European citizens why we are exporting millions of vaccine doses to countries that are producing vaccines themselves and aren't sending us anything back," she said.

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