In a fresh spat over the COVID-19 vaccines, the European Union on Saturday threatened to block the shipment of millions of doses outside EU if AstraZeneca did not ramp up the supply for the bloc amid fears of the third pandemic wave. “We have the possibility to ban planned exports. This is a message to AstraZeneca: You fulfil your part of the deal toward Europe before you start to deliver to other countries,” President of European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said at a presser. Further, she reminded the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company that before its delivery to other countries, the firm had the obligation to fulfil the demands of Europe.
Separately, in a statement to German newspapers, the European Commission president stated that she will forbid planned exports this coming week in order to send a “strong message” to AstraZeneca that it had to abide by the contract with Europe to supply COVID-19 vaccines. Von Der Leyen reminded the company of ‘principle of reciprocity’, saying the signed deal outlines how many million doses the firm had to ship to the EU before it started dispatching vials to “other countries”. She told German broadcaster Funke, that the EU hadn’t received any vaccine doses from the UK, while the EU has been actively supplying doses to the brits. She stated that a formal reminder was sent to the company, a move backed by German and French political members.
The EU has been exporting vaccines in support of global cooperation.— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) March 17, 2021
But open roads run in both directions.
If needed we’ll reflect on how to adjust our exports based on reciprocity and, in the case of countries with higher vaccination rates than us, proportionality.
However, in response to EU’s threats of blocking vaccines, a senior UK government official told reporters that any such move from the EU's side will be deemed ‘illegal’, adding that the UK’s contract with AstraZeneca is “rock solid”. The official argued that Britain “helped develop the jab” and was receiving the exact amount of shipment that it had paid for. Meanwhile, in a press address, UK’s Defence Secretary Ben Wallace warned the European Union of any such step, saying the measure will have ‘consequences’. Wallace told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge that if the EU violated contracts and undertakings and blocked the vaccine shipment to the UK, it will prove to be “very damaging” for the bloc which prides itself on “rule of law.” The measure will be “counterproductive”, he added, saying that the 'world is watching'.