Is the EU going to take some of the UK’s Covid vaccine supply? EU jab row intensifies

EU ‘between a rock and a hard place’ on rollout says Stubb

A row over the supply of coronavirus vaccines to the EU is getting steadily more intense as the bloc has begun to demand some of the UK’s stock to make up for shortfalls on the continent. The EU’s vaccination plans are nearing crisis point following the suspension of administering inoculations as the bloc moves to conserve stocks.

The UK has raced ahead the rest of Europe with millions of people receiving jabs, but the bloc has fallen significantly behind thanks to issues with supply from AstraZeneca manufacturers on the continent.

One EU official has said the pharmaceutical giant is now planning to deliver only a quarter of the previously planned number of doses in the first three months – 25 percent of 100 million doses by the end of March.

The company has cited problems in its Belgian plant for the disruption, but details have not been released.

Now, the EU is moving to relinquish stock from other countries – namely the UK – to bolster its own numbers.

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Can the EU take the UK’s vaccine supply?

The European Commission has announced plans to give national regulators across Europe the power to reject export requests.

One EU official said: “There is a possibility in certain circumstances not to allow the export to come forward.

“Indeed, that would be the final option.”

AstraZeneca has confirmed it will fulfil its UK order quota – two million doses per day – without delay, leaving EU officials in hot water.

A mere two percent of the adult population across EU member states has received a jab, compared to 11 percent across the UK.

Peter Liese, a German MEP in Angela Merkel’s CDU party, said: “If the only solution is to have a reduction of the delivery to the UK, and that would bring more vaccine to the EU, that is only fair.”

AstraZeneca has said it is contractually obliged to fulfil its contract with the UK before diverting doses from its British plants to the EU, so whether the UK will lose some of its vaccine supply to the EU is yet to be seen.

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The Cabinet Office minister, Michael Gove, said the UK would only help the EU with doses if there were spare vials.

He said: “We will want to talk to and with our friends in Europe to see how we can help.

“But the really important thing is to make sure our own vaccination programme proceeds precisely as planned.”

Kate Bingham, former chair of the Vaccine Taskforce, said the UK had got ahead in its vaccination supply by starting production early.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I’m not going to get into the details of the contacts but one of the things the CEO of AZ (AstraZeneca) did not mention is that we actually started scaling up manufacture of the Oxford vaccine from February.

“So, yes, we signed the contract, or agreed terms with AZ, in May, but actually the work to scale up the manufacturing started months before that, and it is that early work that was done by the industry – voluntarily, not based on contracts or requirements but a voluntary coalition of the different companies.

“That is what has ultimately made the difference as to why we are so far ahead on manufacturing.”

Asked about AstraZeneca’s dispute with the EU, Ms Bingham said: “We are interdependent and I don’t think that the idea that there are going to be trade barriers is something that we should be considering.”

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