European Commission Chief Ursula Von Der Leyen, on March 25, warned that the EU will ban drug firms from exporting COVID-19 vaccines to the UK and other countries until they make good on their promised deliveries to the bloc. The ban is expected to hit Britain first, which is already contesting with the bloc for the supply of AstraZeneca vaccines. The Anglo Swedish pharmaceutical had promised the EU to supply 90 million doses in the first quarter of 2021. However, its supply is hindered by one of its factories in the Netherlands, which the UK claims to be part of its vaccine supply chain.
"I think it is clear that first of all the company (AstraZeneca) has to catch up, has to honour the contract it has with the European member states before it can engage again in exporting vaccines," von der Leyen told a news conference highlighting the contract with the Uk based pharmaceutical.
Leyen's remarks came in the aftermath of a video summit that saw the presence of all 27 leaders of the bloc. Amidst, fear of a halt in immunisation, several leaders reckoned that the embargo should be the last resort if negotiations come up short. However, von der Leyen backed by French President Emmanuel Macron remained firm on their stance. "I support the idea that we should block all possible exports for as long as the labs don't respect their commitments to Europeans," he said.
The decision also gained the support of Italy’s newly appointed Premier Mario Draghi who said that EU countries cannot remain “helpless” in front of the failure of some pharmaceutical companies that are not honouring commitments. He said that European citizens feel like they are being “deceived” by some drugmakers, as reported by the Associated Press. Despite the threat of economic setback due to the ban of vaccines from factories in the Netherlands, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told reporters that he would enforce any decision made by the EU. As per the official data, the bloc has exported a total of 77 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine while only 62 million doses have been administered across the bloc.
Image Credits: Associated Press
(With inputs from Associated Press)