Brussels backtracks on Covid-19 vaccine export ban threat, but says it wants a fairer arrangement on jab sharing

A top EU official has dismissed earlier talk of an EU export ban on Covid-19 vaccines, but claims Brussels wants to see other jab-producing nations sharing their shots with the 27-nation bloc, amid worsening tensions with London.

Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, and without mentioning the UK specifically, EU Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic said it was “unfair” that some countries had not exported a “single dose” to the EU.

Sefcovic said European countries have prevented only one of more than 300 vaccine shipments from leaving the bloc between the end of January and the middle of March, claiming this shows that they had been very open with their continental partners. He added that 41.5 million Covid-19 vaccine doses had been exported, while 70 million had been delivered to the 27 member states.

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“Is this supply to other countries proportional to the effort the European Union and the manufacturing sites in the European Union are making in comparison with how the vaccination rates are evolving across the EU member states?” the vice president asked, suggesting that the current arrangement could be more favorable to the EU.

Turning his attention to the vaccine manufacturers, Sefcovic questioned whether the EU was getting a “fair deal” from pharmaceutical companies. “We are not seeking an outright ban on vaccine exports, but we expect manufacturers to live up to their contractual obligations,” he stated. 

Sefcovic added that the EU would have to act on “all fronts” to help countries that were over-reliant on the supply of AstraZeneca.

The vice president’s comments come after EC President Ursula von der Leyen warned AstraZeneca on Saturday that the EU would consider a complete export ban on its Covid-19 vaccine if it doesn’t supply the bloc with the jabs before other nations.

“We have the option of prohibiting a planned export. That is the message to AstraZeneca,” the EU Commission president told German media. “You first fulfil your contract with Europe before you start delivering to other countries.”

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