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European Union threatens to block AstraZeneca exports

Faced with the delay in vaccine deliveries AstraZeneca, “all the options are on the table,” warns the President of the European Commission.
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The EU is raising its tone. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen threatened, on Saturday March 20, to block exports of the AstraZeneca vaccine if the European Union did not receive its deliveries first. “We have the option to ban any planned export”Ursula von der Leyen warned in an interview with German media group Funke.

“This is our message to AstraZeneca: respect your contract with Europe before you start delivering to other countries.”

Ursula von der Leyen

to the German media group Funke

“All options are on the table”, added the former German Minister of Defense in a clear warning, stressing that European leaders would take stock of the issue of deliveries next week. The European Commission announced Thursday that it would activate a contractual procedure to resolve the conflict with the AstraZeneca laboratory, whose deliveries of anti-Covid vaccines are significantly lower than the figures initially planned.

This procedure is provided for in the vaccine supply contracts concluded by the EU. Each party has the opportunity to send a letter to the other party inviting them to participate in a dispute resolution procedure that will take place 20 days later between the executive leaders of the European Commission and the company.

The AstraZeneca laboratory must deliver in the second quarter 70 million doses of its anti-Covid vaccine – the use of which is suspended by several countries -, much less than the 180 million promised in the contract signed with the European Union. In the first quarter, the EU is expected to have received a total of some 30 million doses of AstraZeneca, against 90 million planned by the Swedish-British pharmaceutical group.

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While the American Pfizer has solved its vaccine production difficulties, “there is great suspicion in European circles (that the Astrazeneca group) has sold the same doses several times and is not able” consequently to ensure its deliveries to the EU, had underlined a senior European official.

The mechanism for banning the export of vaccines is firstly the responsibility of the Member State where it is produced and the Commission then gives the green light. This mechanism has only been used once, with Italy blocking the export of 250,000 doses of AstraZeneca to Australia, claiming a “persistent shortage” as well as “delays in deliveries”. The Twenty-Seven are not all in favor of an export ban, however, with countries like Holland and Belgium – where much of the AstraZeneca vaccine is produced – calling for caution.

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